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Formal absence management procedure with disability - help!

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by FrauleinGM, Nov 20, 2019.

  1. FrauleinGM

    FrauleinGM New commenter

    Good evening all
    I am new here and in desperate need of advice.
    A couple of months ago I got diagnosed with a heart condition (a type of arrythmia). It occurs very randomly and the episodes can last from a few minutes to an hour. I've ended up in hospital a couple of times and it's all been very frightening. I was quick to tell my school about it as was worried about t happening while I'm teaching. They seemed good about it initially and I reciprocated by keeping them updated on the medical developments etc. Since September I've had quite a few episodes, medical appointments and various medicines I've been tried on. My recent cardiologist appointment confirmed that the condition isn't being controlled very well by medication and as such I'm recommended for a surgery (catheter ablation) that will likely take place before the summer holidays and should fix the problem for good.

    I've had a total of 11 days absence since September, all due to the heart problem (which I believe amounts to a disability).When the episodes do happen they are pretty frightening and i am left completely exhausted. My most recent absence was 4 days last week (due to another episode and then attending hospital appointments). I met with my line manager and HR on my return, explained that I was being recommended for the surgery and that this should fix it and I also asked whether it would be possible for them to make some adjustments, such as moving a couple of my lessons so that I can start a little later as a lot of my arrythmia attacks are triggered by tiredness and sleep deprivation. HR said they would talk to SLT and get back to me and it was great to have me back etc.

    This was 2 days ago. Then at lunch today I got an email from HR saying due to my continuing absences and the impact on students they are invoking a formal absence management procedure and I am to come for a formal meeting in a couple of weeks time. None of this was mentioned on Monday so I've had a bit of a meltdown and haven't been able to think about anything else since. I am terrified of what's going to happen. I have no control of when these episodes happen. I've always made sure I set cover work, communicate with school etc. I now feel like they want to punish me for having a heart condition :(
    I was wondering if anyone has any experience of absence management with a condition that qualifies as a disability?
    Can they try to get rid of me?
    Does the fact that I have this possible surgical resolution scheduled change much?
    Should they be giving me the adjustments I have asked for?
    Should I be worried? I am thinking about contacting my union and taking a rep with me to the meeting.
    Will this show up on my future reference when I apply elsewhere?

    It's all been a massive shock to me and I didn't see it coming. :( I've had some issues with SLT in the past (not due to my actions) and have minimal trust in them. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
  2. ThereAreBunniesInMyHead

    ThereAreBunniesInMyHead Occasional commenter

    I've been in a similar situation with a chronic joint condition. I took my regional union rep to the meeting with me along with a load of paperwork about my condition printed off the internet, showing its impact / side effects (as they had zero clue). The union rep was great and told them the condition was basically a disability, and demanded I be referred to Occupational Health. I got an appointment with them and the doctor I saw wrote a very detailed letter to my school confirming my condition met the definition of a disability under employment law, and recommending some adjustments which the school made I think through fear of union reprisals if they didn't. Deffo take your union rep.
  3. amysdad

    amysdad Established commenter

    Thinking about your union rep? If it's an illness that is a registered disability, then definitely take your union rep.
    agathamorse likes this.
  4. Weald56

    Weald56 Established commenter

    Union ASAP!
    agathamorse and jlishman2158 like this.
  5. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    The formal procedure is in fact necessary.
    Given that you have already discussed your condition with them and asked for changes,they need to formalise the thing to make those changes correctly. If they did not do this, they could be open to accusations of unfairness, discrimination, improper use of staff time and,worst of all, making your condition worse.
    So formalising is good for you. You will have the opportunity to state exactly what you have told us on here, and-this is important-request an assesssment by Occupational Health. This assessment is the ticket to starting the work adjustments you have requested.
    Whilst others have suggested you need representation in this meeting and to some extent I do agree, you should also remember that the meeting is a chance for you to have what you say put on record and therefore to work in your favour in terms of getting you better.

    You possibly got this feeling from the tone of their communication-
    but you mustnt. The meeting is a forum for you to achieve your requests.
    Do consult your union even so-I am pretty sure they will say the same thing. Before doing so,get a copy of your school absence policy.
    Stay strong, keep rested, don't be anxious about this.

    The one issue I do have is the mention of impact on the kids, and it is possibly this which has made you worried, because it has made you feel guilty. This was tactless, although it has to be said is a legitimate factor in how they consider meeting your needs. This could feasibly mean taking on additional staff, covering your classes, changing your classes altogether, putting you on cover. They are not trying to punish you-it sounds like you are doing that to yourself through intrinsic commitment to doing well. It's a great trait, but you need to step back and heal.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  6. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    Whether it counts as a disability or not I can't be sure. I don't think it is defined by the name of the condition, but by its effects. See https://www.gov.uk/definition-of-disability-under-equality-act-2010 . But apart from sympathy, the only sensible advice we can give has already been given - you need to get your union to advise you.
    jlishman2158 likes this.
  7. 1970devon

    1970devon Occasional commenter

    Sorry to hear about your health concerns. I hope the way your school behave IS supportive and that this is just a first stage meeting? Although union representation at that stage isn't essential I would suggest taking if you can. OH referral / support is also essential.

    Unfortunately I was dismissed from my long term teaching role through the formal absence procedure instigated by a new head. I have a recognised disability and wrongly assumed I was protected and that my sick pay was also protected. I have since taken an out of court settlement with support of union solicitor. I did involve the union at regional level but not soon enough and they didnt take may case seriously enough due to the rep's prior relationship with my head. So mine was a catalogue of errors which I'm sure yours won't be! Your priority must be your health. Good luck x
    agathamorse likes this.
  8. shevington

    shevington Occasional commenter

    You need to speak to your Regional Centre about this matter. The school rep will have had no experience in dealing with such matters. Remember many schools are just being has a business and do note care about their staff. Please ring the Union Regional if you have not already done so.
    agathamorse likes this.
  9. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Over 2 weeks since September is a lot, so it makes sense to have a formal meeting and discuss it.
    SLT probably said something about moving lessons would cause timetable hassles, so how necessary is it? Or that adjustments for people to get up late need to be checked out and formalised.
    Excellent idea.
    If only because

    It could be a terrible situation about to get worse. Or it could be a sensible and reasonable SLT following correct procedures. Talk to your union and don't panic yet.
  10. FrauleinGM

    FrauleinGM New commenter

    Dear all, thank you so much for your advice and your replies.
    The formal procedure being invoked and the way it was communicated stressed me out so much that I had to see my dr again who has signed me off for a week with both my heart condition and stress and told me to have a good rest and focus on my mental health over the next few days. She also suggested that I get an OH referral and meeting which I have now requested that HR organise.
    I've contacted the union today and they will hopefully sort out representation for me for my meeting. I am a bit worried that bringing a rep from outside the school may seem a bit combative to the school but I am genuinely worried about not being able to put my case forward/defend myself suitably otherwise.
    This will be a stage 1 meeting. I am not sure what they hope to achieve - HR mentioned things like monitoring and 'targets' but I really struggle to see how setting an attendance target is a reasonable step when I have no control over the condition.
    I am very much hoping that OH will be reasonable and helpful (I have no previous dealing with them). I very much want to stay in my job but could do with support until the heart problem is resolved.
    I am trying to disconnect for a few days - I've told HR I won't be checking school email (I still set cover for all classes etc). I am very worried about the meeting but trying not to panic as you've advised.
    I do find it sad and disappointing though that so many people, myself included, struggle to have a better relationship with their employer. I maybe wouldn't e so worried right now i it weren't for the fact that over the last 1.5 year I've been bullied in my school (it resulted in me filing a formal grievance - that person has now left) and have been constantly disbelieved and undermined by the management - including thins like accepting a new role and then being told by the SLT that they don't think I'll be able to do well in the role BEFORE I have even started it (and indeed on the last day of school year before summer hols). So you can see why I am not exactly feeling trusting and confident here....
    agathamorse and Piranha like this.
  11. catbanj

    catbanj Occasional commenter

    I know it is easy to say and hard to do but you have got to look after yourself first. Everything else is secondary to your good health. That means your GP is right- they have signed you off to give you breathing space so take it .

    Have a good weekend

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