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Return to work nightmare

(18 Posts)
down2earth Mon 12-May-08 16:01:36

This is my 2nd return to work - 1st went smoothly. This time things have gone horribly wrong.

Prior to going on leave (end of July) I confirmed my date of return as 31 March and agreed it with my boss. He also gave me an appraisal with a level 2 rating (based on 1 to 5 scale).

My boss subsequently left the company and was replaced in January.

My new boss telephoned me in January to advise me of my bonus - I was disappointed with the amount and queried my performance rating to find out it had been downgraded from a 2 to a 3. I made a fuss and the level 2 was upheld but I was told it had not impacted my bonus or the fact that I had been awarded no share options (despite receiving them every year prior). This was clearly not the case as I consulted several colleagues who confirmed they had received a formulaic 20% or 40% bonus for a level 3 / 2 rating respectively. I didn't want to make a fuss as I wanted to get off on the right foot with the new boss - this was more about principal than cash and as the level 2 had been upheld I wrote an e-mail saying that I would agree to disagree (and set out the reasons I felt they were being unfair).

I went in to meet my new boss in February. He was quite aggressive towards me with his first statement being "you work a 4 day week - how does that fit in with long distance travel". He said that he was considering changes in the department and wanted me to think about things so I could be involved in the decision making process on my return. I wrote an e-mail (luckily) the following day thanking him for the meeting and saying I was looking forward to returning to my role.

The next I heard from him was the Friday evening before my return to work on the Monday. He called me to say that I was to go in and do a different role on Monday and that my maternity cover (who is on secondment contract from another department and has a job to go back to should he want to) would continue in my role. He stressed that the new role also reported to him and was equivalent. He couldn't describe the role very well at all but suggested I talk about it on the Monday with one of his other direct reports - (my boss was going on holiday).

I got very stressed over the weekend and wrote an e-mail stating my concerns and my distress at not being called in to discuss this earlier. He lied and said he had told me all about it at our february meeting so I resent him the e-mail I had written him following our meeting which clearly showed I was expecting to return to my job. However, I said I was still prepared to go in and look at what was on offer.

I arrived on Monday to find out that my whole team had been told that this was a done deal and that it had been discussed for some weeks with my cover. Nevertheless I spoke to a colleague about the proposed role - he was extremely nice but when I explained my background he was shocked as it is completely unsuited to the role. In addition I asked why the job wasn't to report to him instead of our boss as it seemed to fit his area and he didn't understand - over time he thought it would need to report to him.

I rang my boss on his holiday and told him I thought that the role was completely unsuitable and that I was hacked off and uncomfortable as I was sat next to the person doing my job. He said if I was hacked off I should go home and wait for him to get back from holiday when he would think of something else for me to do!

I went home and started a formal sex discrimination grievance (now 6 weeks in). I was called in to present my case to an independent hearing manager after 3 weeks. It is now 3 weeks later and I haven't had any minutes yet (despite asking). They have asked me to go back in next week for another meeting - I have no idea if they want more information or will have reached a decision.

This continues to give me sleeples nights and I wanted to know:

Is it normal for this sort of thing to take so long? - I understand there is a 3 month time limit for filing a legal case - has the clock started ticking?

I felt that I had strong cause for my grievance but over time am starting to panic that I've made a big mistake (although I felt I had little choice)- am I insane?

I think their options are:

To reject my grievance - at which point I have to appeal,

To offer me reinstatement (which I think would be untenable given there has been a complete breakdown in trust and confidence between myself and my boss and has become even more difficult as my time out of the office increases)

To offer a termination package.

If they offer a package do I need to have an idea of what I would expect before I go into the meeting or would I be given time to seek advise. Ultimately I want to work but I'm scared that it will be very difficult to walk into an equivalent role 4 days a week.

I'd really appreciate any help or advice any-one can give - I'm sorry to have written such a novel!

mistlethrush Mon 12-May-08 16:05:55

Can't offer any advice, but just wanted to say that it sounds totally out of order (and illegal) what has happened to you and to wish you luck

thelittlestbadger Mon 12-May-08 16:11:08

Can't offer any practical help but would bump for Flowery. I think the date for bringing proceedings starts at the date of dismissal or resignation if claiming for constructive dismissal so I would be tempted to go and see a solicitor or union rep asap to get a case filed within the time limit.

nervousal Mon 12-May-08 16:14:23

CAn't give much advice - but I think the clock only starts ticking once you have exhausted internal grievance procedures.

BUMP FOR FLOWERY

Chequers Mon 12-May-08 18:40:01

Message withdrawn

mistlethrush Mon 12-May-08 22:22:54

I hope that Flowery turns up to help soon...

mollymawk Mon 12-May-08 22:27:22

No specific advice but this all sounds very dodgy and probably illegal. I hope someone knowledgeable comes along with advice.

MumtoBen Mon 12-May-08 22:34:52

I am not an expert but I am going through a grievance process at the moment. Mumsnetters have given me some great advice.

I have found the following websites useful.

Employment tribunals - www.employmenttribunals.gov.uk/

Acas
www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1461

Direct Gov
www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/DiscriminationAtWork/index.htm

I too have questioned myself as to whether what has happened to me is actually real as I cannot actually believe this is happening to me. But unfortunately it is.

I have legal cover on my home insurance cover and there is a helpline who have been really helpful. Might be worth checking this out.

Are you a member of a union?

Hopefully flowery will turn up soon.

Blueskythinker Mon 12-May-08 22:49:26

No expert, but pretty sure this is illegal. What line of work is it?

flowerybeanbag Mon 12-May-08 22:52:49

I'm here, have read it, off to bed now but will be back tomorrow morning with some thoughts.

down2earth Tue 13-May-08 07:55:46

Thanks for all the support - it's making me feel a lot better. I do have cover under household policy but they won't provide advice until I have finished going through the internal process and I'm worried I may have made a complete mess of things by then!

flowerybeanbag Tue 13-May-08 10:50:10

downtoearth it does sound you have been treated very badly. I would say the issue about the bonus is pretty clear sex discrimination, and I do think you should have pursued that a bit stronger at the time, although I understand your reasons for not doing so.

In terms of the new role, you say you consider it to be unsuitable, but you don't actually say why, what's wrong with it, iyswim, so I wouldn't like to comment on that. You should be put back into your previous role if possible, but if not, it's fine to put you back into a similar job on no less favourable terms and conditions. Would you not consider this new job similar?

In terms of time limits, you do have to put in a grievance before bringing a tribunal claim (if that's what you want to do), but the time limit is extended in those circumstances, and if the grievance is taking too long and it's no fault of your own, and you have chased your employer for a resolution, then you can put your claim in. So given you have made every effort to do so, if you feel you want to take this to a tribunal, then you should consider doing so now and taking legal advice accordingly. The time limits for sex discrimination start ticking immediately the event happens, so too late for the bonus issue, but if something is part of a pattern or series of events, it can be included. Have you included the bonus stuff in your grievance?

I'm not sure whether I'm reading this right, but it sounds as though you heard from your boss on the Friday evening that you were in fact going back to a different role, you went in on the Monday, decided the role was not suitable, phoned your boss on holiday who said he'd sort it out when he got back from holiday, and you went home and started a grievance claiming sex discrimination, is that right? Did you speak to anyone else first, your boss's line manager or anything?

If I've misunderstood or you did speak to someone else, I apologise, but I have to say my advice at that point would have been to speak to someone (other than a colleague) about it first.

Having said that, you've put in the grievance now, so obviously continue to pursue it.

You mention the three options you feel your employer has are rejecting your grievance, reinstatement (I presume you mean to your old job as opposed to your new one?), or a 'termination package'. I don't think that's really a option for them at the moment to be honest. I think at the moment it's about hearing your grievance, and taking it from there. They have offered you what they (presumably) consider to be a suitable job.

You mention about your time away from the office - are you not working at the moment at all? I do feel there is probably more to it, as, on the face of what you've said, your contact with your new boss has been extremely limited, he said he would address the situation on his return from holiday, which it sounds like you didn't give him the opportunity to do, and you haven't been working with him at all since. I am not in any way condoning his behaviour, but purely on the basis of that, I'm not sure whether you could claim a 'complete breakdown of trust and confidence' in your relationship - not sure about that.

What have you actually asked for in your grievance? Have you claimed that you should have returned to your old job? What are you actually asking them to do about this? if you really feel you cannot work for this person are you requesting they find you alternative employment working for someone else?

It's a bit difficult to comment as there's a lot to this and must be more background but I hope this is a bit helpful.

Have a look at the Equality Human Rights website
here about sex discrimination at work, here about how to use your rights and here about going to a tribunal.

Do come back if you feel you can clarify a bit more or if you have more questions, or you can email me flowery dot beanbag at ntlworld dot com

down2earth Tue 13-May-08 16:31:08

Thanks so much Flowery - I have sent an e-mail to your address with more information to clarify (not comfortable with some of it being in the public domain)and will now look at the e-mail links!

LittleWeePickle Wed 28-May-08 15:53:12

Hi Downy -

From previous experience of a rather nasty manager at work I would like to advise you to record any meetings you may have with him. If he says you verbally agreed to certain things you will have evidence to back any claim.

Many MP3 players, and also mobile phones have this facility.

Good luck!

Pickle

LittleWeePickle Wed 28-May-08 15:56:11

Oh, and get a good employment law solicitor to double check everything for you. Your employer needn't know about this at this stage, so don't worry about it fanning the flames by bringing in an army...
Pickle

down2earth Thu 30-Jul-09 12:24:05

Over a year on and everything looks a lot brighter!

I thought it may be useful to let you know the final outcome. The company found in my favour on all parts of my grievance (right to return to my role, downgrading of my appraisal / reduction in bonus, and a general culture of discrimination against women in the department). At this point I started to feel like a normal human being again!

They offered me the job back but I argued that the unreasonable behaviour of my boss made it impossible to return, they agreed this was acceptable (to my surprise). They couldn't find a suitable alternative but kept asking for more time to find one.

The process dragged on so, to speed it up, my lawyer suggested filing for tribunal - I never intended to go down that route,as all I wanted to do was get back to work, and I informed the company I was only doing it to avoid being time barred should they not find a satisfactory solution.

They offered me a compromise agreement, and more than doubled the offer the day before they had to submit their response to my tribunal papers!

This all ended in August and in September I was rehired by the boss who left during my mat leave at the firm he had moved to. The culture is far nicer and the people are great. I have now started mat leave for the third (and final) time. I have arranged to return to work early next year and hope it goes smoothly this time!

In the end things couldn't have worked out better - I have a new kitchen, bathroom and a loft conversion courtesy of the first firm and am loving my new role - thank you all for your support last year, particularly flowery - I hope this brings hope to anyone in a similar situation now

flowerybeanbag Thu 30-Jul-09 15:51:58

That's absolutely fantastic down2earth, I'm so pleased it ended so well for you, and I hope your employers have learned something from their mistakes as well.

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