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Can I have a bit of a rant? Legal, Long and complicated (I think) Support/Advice welcome.

(16 Posts)
sparklefrog Mon 22-Jun-09 20:17:57

I am a single mum to a DD, 10 months, and DS 17.

DS doesn't live at home. (Long story in itself)

I started full time work in October 2008, before I got pg.
After only one day at work, I developed severe tinnitus, due to the constant drone of the air con unit in the dept I was working in. I could barely hear my supervisor above the din.
I have otosclerosis and am profoundly deaf in one ear already, although I have had a stapedectomy in the other ear. I have generally avoided noisy area's before I started this job, and have never suffered from tinnitus before this.

Due to already being profoundly deaf, I went to see my GP after one day at work, because the tinnitus was so bad. sad and I was v. concerned.

GP signed me off sick, but explained that this was a health and safety issue at work, and I should get it sorted with them. I have tried to, but employer wont budge.
Employer refuses to provide me with ear defenders (which would cost employer £25/£26) and insists I am sick, so puts me on sick pay. In December 2008, Dr refuses to give me any further sick notes, on the grounds that it is unethical since I am not too sick to work in her opinion. I have relayed this information to my employer too.
She refers me to my ENT consultant, employer arranges meetings with managers (who offered me a compromise agreement, and when I refused, asked me to think very carefully about this, since they were contemplating sacking me if I didn't accept their compromise agreement)and occupational health, but still wont provide me with ear defenders.

I consult solicitors, who agree to take my case on, and are funded by my household insurance, so have to stop if they believe I am more likely to lose the case than win it.

The disability law society tell me I have a very good case, and that my employer are blatantly going against the DDA.

Employer continued paying me equivalent to sick pay even when Dr didn't give me any more sick notes, until May 2008, after 26 weeks had passed.

From then on, I had no income at all, and almost lost my home. I had to go onto benefits.

I became pregnant in Nov 2008, and had my DD in August 2009. I was not entitled to any maternity pay, since I hadn't earnt enough. Fair enough. I have offered to even sweep the car park at work, but they say No.

My tribunal final hearing is now scheduled for October, but in the meantime, I have not been able to go back to work because my employer has still not provided 'reasonable adjustments' to allow me to do my job, as far as I know. They have not said they have sorted reasonable adjustments yet anyway.

I now have a letter asking me to go in for a meeting to discuss my return to work, and a request that I have a consultation with occupational health again.

I now no longer have a car, and live in a rural area, where public transport is difficult, as well as no childcare arranged, since I still dont know if they have made reasonable adjustments, and tbh, I will be approx £30 a week worse off if I return to work after childcare and travelling expenses. I am getting no maintenance from selfish XP, and don't really want to go back, but my solicitor has advised me NOT to resign.

I am not the most organised of people and I found this job to be the most unfriendly place ever, so much so that I was in tears by lunch on my first day because I have no idea what I am doing and no one speaks to anyone or helps anyone, they just listen to the radio, and work.
I wanted to run away on my first day tbh.

What would you do?
I really am getting worked up at the thought of going back. It feels like I am going to prison. sad Now my own mother is telling me I am all doom and gloom about it, and being sarcastic and nasty, which I really don't need, telling me I am probably not going to cope because I am so disorganised and have spent my life having children rather than living by the clock. shock

My mother can be the most sarcastic, cutting person ever, and is quite toxic. I feel awful now.

Can anyone offer me any advice or support?

risingstar Mon 22-Jun-09 22:19:27

can you not look for another job? speak to your solicitor but i think that you could claim breach of trust and get employment elsewhere pending the outcome of the hearing-surely you don't want to go back and work there?
did you really only work one day?

i really really think it is time to move on- take some more advice from your solicitor and put your plan together to find a more suitable job or training- not all employers are like this.

sparklefrog Mon 22-Jun-09 23:15:10

'breach of trust'?

my solicitor hasn't mentioned that to me at all.
What does that mean?

I don't want to go back there if I am totally honest. I am dreading it.

Apparently the company is having severe financial difficulties right now too, and as such, have reduced everyone's full time working hrs down from 5 days per week to 3/4 days per week.

I have not been paid for so long by this employer, and when I was begging them to put me in a more suitable role or provide the necessary ear defenders, they didn't appear to give a shit. I even broke down in a meeting crying because I was so worried I was going to lose my home.

Throughout alot of these meetings, I was heavily pregnant, and the stress was incredible. I didn't enjoy my pregnancy at all, because all I could think about was that I didn't have the things I needed for the baby, and wasn't even sure I was going to be able to put a roof over my DD's head.

Now my rent is being paid in full, since I am on benefit, and tbh, I am worried about going back to work for a company that flout the law so blatantly, are having such severe difficulties financially. I feel I am putting myself in quite an insecure position.

flowerybeanbag Tue 23-Jun-09 09:50:11

I expect your solicitor is saying don't resign as he/she is concerned about the impact that will have on your compensation when it comes to the tribunal hearing.

However some things are more important imo. You already have a very good case for disability discrimination by the sounds of things, and what's more, you have significant actual financial loss as a result of that discrimination. You may get a bit less compensation if you resign, but set that against your stress levels and your sanity and it's no contest as far as I'm concerned.

Your company are still refusing to make reasonable adjustments, meaning you are unable to go back to work. I think you should talk to your solicitor about resigning and claiming constructive dismissal - ie your employers actions have forced you to resign. Have a read about it here.

Constructive dismissal is a form of unfair dismissal, and compensation for that is based purely on financial loss as a result of the dismissal. So if you get a new job shortly, compensation for that would be minimal if any, but given you already have a good case for compensation for discrimination, and given the fact that the idea of going back is causing you so much stress anyway, I really think it's worth considering.

It would enable you to resign without 'giving in'. Talk to your solicitor about it.

sparklefrog Tue 23-Jun-09 10:55:35

Thank you so much for your good advice. I have been advised to go to the meeting tomorrow, to see what they say. They may have made 'reasonable adjustments' for when I am supposed to return, and my solicitor wants me to see if they have done that.

The meeting is tomorrow afternoon, so I will keep you posted as to what they say.

I feel ill at the thought of going back tbh.

I think resigning may be the way to go for me. Not sure my solicitor will understand though. sad

flowerybeanbag Tue 23-Jun-09 11:04:07

Best of luck with the meeting. I think it's fair enough to see what happens as a result of the meeting and then make a decision.

Don't worry about your solicitor - it's you whose having to live with it. He or she is there to act on your behalf and take instruction from you as to what to do. As part of that obviously he/she will and should give you advice as to what they consider the best course of action, but the decision is yours to make alone and must always be the best one for you and your family.

flowerybeanbag Tue 23-Jun-09 11:08:30

who's

sparklefrog Tue 23-Jun-09 11:15:27

Thanks so much flowerybeanbag. I hope you are floating around tomorrow so I can update on the meeting.

I keep telling myself that they didn't make the 'reasonable adjustments' from Oct 07 up until my maternity leave started in July 08, so the likelihood is they still haven't made them.

Their defence at the moment is that they still believe I was too 'sick' to work, and that I don't have a disability. I have got to see an unbiased ENT consultant for a full medical report to clarify whether I have a disability or whether my tinnitus/hearing loss is a 'sickness'.

Surely if they suddenly come up with ear defenders, wouldn't that suggest they are admitting that I do have a disability?

Or am i reading too much into it?

Squiffy Tue 23-Jun-09 11:22:19

Just go along to the meeting to hear what they say and try to stay calm. You do not need to make any promises or threats to them, just listen. they have called the meeting and presumably they will fill you in on whether they have made any adjustments. IF not then you can tell them that the position doesn't seem to have changed - you don;t need to say much more than that really. And if they have called you in to discuss some kind of copmpromise agreement then all you have to do is tell them you will get back to them once you have thought it over. And if they start to issue their own threats and ultimatums just remember every single point they come up with could potentially strengthen your case.

When you look at it in this way and break everythign down to it's components, there is nothing really they can say that is sufficient to justify your being apprehensive or fearful about the meeting. The only thing that might be interesting is if they tell you that they have fixed everything and now expect you to come back to work Monday (or something like that). That could be just a genuine desire on their part to fix things, or it oculd be a tactic like a game of chess to try to force your hand, so again, if you are not sure what to say, then thank them for the information and tell them you will come back to them shortly. You have an obligation to be polite and seek to find a solution to the problem in hand, and to be open to reasonable suggestions. But that doesn't mean you need to spill out all your concerns again, nor get upset, nor tell them what has been happening with your solicitor. You really have nothing to fear; they appear to have been very remiss in all of this and they are on the defensive; the more information they give you, the stronger your own position.

I also think that enough time has passed to look at the constructive dismissal route.

flowerybeanbag Tue 23-Jun-09 11:23:24

I will be around tomorrow yes

It sounds pretty clear to me that it is a disability and clearly your solicitor and other experts think so as well. To quote from the Equality Human Rights website, 'The Disability Discrimination Act says a disabled person is someone with ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.'

Although an independent ENT consultant's opinion is obviously relevant, if the fact is that this condition has had a substantial and long term adverse effect as described above, then it ought to be classified as a disability, simple as that, and reasonable adjustment made where possible. Whether a doctor would call it an illness or not isn't really the key, the key is to what extent it has had a negative long term impact. Lots of conditions that end up being disabling start off with a couple of weeks off sick, and escalate.

On whether making an adjustment now would be admitting that, well yes I guess it might. By making an adjustment now you could argue that they are acknowledging that you need one to be made, one that they could have made previously. I expect they are bearing that problem in mind as they consider what to do.

On that basis I agree that it's probably unlikely that they will just make the adjustment now without accepting some liability for previous actions and attempting to come to some sort of settlement. That might happen, I don't know.

sparklefrog Wed 24-Jun-09 19:19:31

Well, here's my update.

I was offered 3 positions, including the one I was doing originally. I have not made any decisions yet.

I am finally to be provided with ear defenders. OH sorted it out and agreed straight away, so I have no idea what connotations that may mean for my tribunal case now. Apparently, the ear defenders are going to be ordered and posted to my home address so I have an opportunity to get used to them before returning to work.

They have also agreed (verbally) to allow me to return to work part time. I explained I would like a minimum of 16hrs a week (since I will be entitled to WTC then) and they said that was ok. Only downside is I have to choose to work 7.30am to 11.30am/8am to 12noon. (I am dreading the early start's)

I live approx 16 miles away from work, and my CM lives approx 7 miles in opp direction.

I will be working for approx £12 a week (been on entitledto.com)

How does the fact they have now easily agreed to provide ear defenders look to you?
(I haven't managed to speak to my solicitor yet.)I was astonished at how readily they agreed to supplying me with ear defenders tbh. I have waited almost 2 yrs for them to provide me with these bloody ear defenders, and have lost all that income, and they just said 'ok , no problem' today.
It is rather frustrating. Why oh why couldn't they do this almost 2 yrs ago???

Now, I have 3 weeks to buy a car. I really don't want to be dealing with public transport as well as the early mornings.

flowerybeanbag Thu 25-Jun-09 09:10:58

I think you could certainly say that their decision to suddenly give you ear defenders now is conceding that they are a reasonable adjustment that you do require in order to work, and something they could have provided much earlier.

It will affect your tribunal case in that you will no longer be able to claim for ongoing financial loss, but you have 2 years of discrimination and financial loss 'under your belt' anyway so it certainly doesn't mean you have to drop your case imo.

What do you feel you want to do now?

sparklefrog Thu 25-Jun-09 11:19:35

I feel that I want to give it a go. grin

I'm not looking forward to the early morning starts, but I am looking forward to going to work every day, for a few hrs.

I think I will see how it goes, they have said they will do all they can to help me fit in, so I am not feeling as anxious about it as I was, which is good. grin

I don't think I will be much better off financially, especially after the 1st 4 weeks, but I am hoping if I enjoy it, I will be better off mentally, from having a work/life balance.

I am happy that they readily agreed to 4 hrs per day, I think even if I am having a bad day, I can cope with that.

I guess I have anxiety problems (which I have told them about) and tend to shrink into the background to avoid attention. I wish I was more confident, but I don't really know how to work on that. I feel intimidated easily by people, especially my supervisors, it's irrational really, I know, and must be frustrating for other people, but I am not sure how to combat it.

I suppose I just think if I put my head down, and get on with my work, and do everything that is asked of me, I wont attract any negative attention. That's what I find the hardest.

Now I've written all this, I feel I have come across as pathetic, and tbh, it feels pretty pathetic when I am in my comfort zone at home, but I don't want to be that way, so I am going to give it a go.

Work have not mentioned why they didn't provide ear defenders before, in fact, they skirted round that altogether, so I am not sure what will happen next regarding my case. I don't even know if I can have the time off for the hearing. hmm

I have phoned my solicitor to update her, but she was not available. She should be hopefully be ringing me back today at some point.

If I totally hate it though, and feel I am about to burst into tears, what do I do?

It would be helpful to know what to do if I felt like running out the door again. I hope I wont feel like that again. This is the only job I have ever felt THAT bad in, but I worry if I leave, even though I have no intention of coming back, because it is so horrible, and I feel I can't breathe, I'll get into trouble.

I end up acting like a 2yr old. angry

Does anyone else have these problems? I feel like I am the only one. blush

flowerybeanbag Thu 25-Jun-09 19:38:50

I don't think you come across as pathetic at all. You are self-aware - you have identified exactly what the problem is and exactly how you behave in certain situations which is all a tremendous step towards dealing with it.

I think the first four lines of your last post show an excellent and very positive attitude, which is no small thing given everything that's happened.

If you totally hate it you can leave. You are not trapped there, you are giving it a go and in many ways it's astonishing (in a good way) that you are prepared to do that, so don't put yourself down.

Give it a go, see how things pan out and if it's really not working, just resign. You have a good case for your tribunal given their past behaviour anyway so both going back to work and/or leaving will not detract from that, so you don't need to worry about that.

You have correctly identified that going back to work may well help you mentally and emotionally. This is a good opportunity to test that out without the pressure of finding and learning a new job.

smittenkitten Thu 25-Jun-09 19:52:25

i think you should bring the DDA claim while you are in employment - it really strengthens your hand (having been an employer in this situation). they may well offer you a higher settlement to resign and then you get compensated for leaving a job you don't like!

sparklefrog Thu 25-Jun-09 23:18:09

Thanks so much for the great advice!!

Thanks also FBB for the kind words. grin

I am actually starting to look forward to it now. I am just going to take a deep breath, and see how it goes. grin

I spoke to my solicitor today. She is a little wary of my employers motives, since they so readily agreed and after so long. I think she is confused, understandably.

She says she will be much happier once my employer has put their offer in writing, including the reasonable adjustments they are prepared to make, and once employer has put in writing their offer, my solicitor will be contacting employer's solicitors to attempt to reach a settlement, since she thinks it definitely shows they should have provided me with the ear defenders for me to carry out my job, and she said it would be 'silly' of my employer to take it all the way to tribunal then without at least trying to settle out of court.

I will do my absolute best to remain in the job for as long as possible, since I do enjoy working, and I will be better off in so many ways if I can make it work.

I now have just over 2 weeks to get organised. My ironing pile is a year old. grin. I want to be ready on my first day.

I will keep you posted as to what happens next.

Thanks so much for the support on here. It is invaluable. I can't thank you all enough. grin

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