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Author Topic: Flexible working advice please.. desperate!  (Read 1567 times)
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Sar-Lou90
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« on: December 11, 2017, 10:43:52 AM »

Hi. I was diagnosed with M.E about 5 years ago now but have been suffering for 10. I work full time in a demanding office role for a retail company and having just managed to avoid redundancy, I am now stepping into a new position within the same company. The new role will be much more demanding and will have me under a different line manager. This year i have gone through a long term relationship break up, and make-up. I have moved house 2 times, my other half has lost several jobs due to redundnacy issues and this has left us in total financial chaos (We have actually cancelled Xmas in our household this year and I did not celebrate my birthday in November due to lack of money). My father was also arrested a sent to Prison this year for some deeply harrowing and traumatic crimes. I am not coping well and as you all know stress is a huge trigger for my M.E. My current manager has ALWAYS been sympathetic and supportive of my health and personal issues but my new line manager is much more hard faced and does not believe this condition is "real". My GP keeps telling me i need to accept his letter to be signed off sick but I do not feel that would benefit me long term, and given our financial struggles I cannot afford to risk losing my job. Has anyone ever had to request reduced hours, or flexible working hours with the aid of a note from a GP? My doctors said flexible working might be an option, as my new role means I do have the ability to work from home if it was necessary. Reduced hours is another one, however that would mean a loss in wages which I really can;t do right now. I really need some advice here. Can my GP write a letter to state that working from home some days of the week would be helpful to me, or even that it would be essential for my health and well being? I do not drive (Never learned as my M.E was so bad i could not change gears, now looking to learn in an automatic) and live in North Devon so i use the bus service to commute to work everyday. It's just shy of an hours journey there and back daily, and it makes my day even longer. By the time I get home i am too exhausted to even make or eat dinner. I live on toast and my other half does his own. I cannot keep living like this, I need time to heal emotionally from the events of this year and to give my body a chance to rest. I need a longer term fix rather than being signed off sick in the short term. Any advice AT ALL would be so appreciated. My new manager is a bit of a tyrant and i am so worried about asking for flexible working....     
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roger
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« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2017, 12:02:35 PM »

Sar-Lou, and welcome.

Six words really stand out from your post - 'I cannot go on living like this'. You're right, you can't, and if you do you'll simply go further downhill until you can't do ANY of the things you're now doing - all the stress you've been though, a demanding full time job that's about to become even more demanding, two hours a day on a bus, a rubbish diet. All of these things are the very things that will lead to that downhill slide if you have CFS/ME.

So you have a decision to make - to decide what your priorities are - continue what you're doing, which will have only one outcome, or have a sustained period away from work during which you can work on recovering your health, and by sustained, I mean as long as it takes.

Sorry if all that sounds harsh, but I'm afraid it's reality.

Best wishes, and please think seriously about this - it's REALLY important if you're to stand any chance of recovery.

Roger.
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Sar-Lou90
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« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2017, 02:02:16 PM »

Thank you for replying Roger. And no, not taken harshly at all. I completely understand and appreciate everything you have said. I just feel given the current state of my finances (I have been teetering on the edge of losing my house due to late rent payments for a couple of months now) not being in employment is just not an option for me. I feel afraid to ask my employer about the possibility of flexible working from home some days. I feel afraid to tell anyone I work for that i am struggling. I feel afraid to admit to my employer that my capabilities may well not be where they think I need to be at this point. I feel like a burden if i am honest.. And i could be judging my new manager too harshly too early without really getting to know her, but from what I have seen she doesn't posses any kind of empathy or sympathy to other people's struggles.. She's incredibly hard-faced and does not believe in letting any personal issues become a part of the workplace. Hence why I am too scared to open my mouth. I've been sat at my desk all day fighting back tears as I just feel so low and exhausted. I hide in the toilets at work to cry and then come back and try to act normal...
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roger
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« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2017, 02:50:25 PM »

Hi again, Sar-Lou,

But how long can you continue going to the loo to cry?

I really do sympathise, but however I look at it, I can see no way that you can continue as you are. At this stage I'd suggest you research 'sickness rights' - here might be a good place to start - it's from the employer POV - https://www.masonbullock.co.uk/sickness-dismissal/.

You've been diagnosed with a genuine debilitating illness and you're GP has offered to sign you off work. If only for a short period, there's no way you could be sacked for doing that. Then you'd have a reason to talk to you employer (the HR dept rarher than your manager if they have one), about the options for shorter hours or working partly from home.

But whatever you do, you cannot thrive by continuing with the current situation. Does your other half work? If so, maybe there's a way to adjust your lifestyles to reduce costs, enabling you to work shorter hours. Nobody likes to adjust their living standards downwards, but sometimes it's really necessary and I see you as a case in point.
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treepixie
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« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2017, 07:34:53 PM »

do you have  occupational health where you work, my manger was unsympathetic and would not let me work from home, until I saw occupational health and they told him  it would be beneficial to me to work from home 2 days a week, until then I don't think he realised what ME does to you, I'm like you I have to work full time as I can't afford not to.
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treepixie
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« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2017, 07:36:00 PM »

Also forgot to add does your company have a flexible working policy?
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neptuno
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« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2017, 05:04:33 PM »

Sar-Lou
You’re between a rock and a hard place.
I speak from experience when I say that if you keep driving yourself like this you will eventually become so ill that you will be forced to take sick leave. Your GP is advising you to rest NOW before you burn yourself out.....
Take action now and listen to your body.
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agapanthus
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« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2017, 10:02:05 AM »

I would agree with what others have said about taking some time off sick so that at least you can begin to address the issues.

Assuming that you have an official diagnosis of CFS/ME via a GP or specialist then you do then have some protection under the Equality Act. Not JUST to ask for flexible working but under the Equality Act then you can ask for 'reasonable adjustments' to your working conditions. This obviously has to be up for discussion but as Treepixie has said, if there is Occupational Health or even if there isn't your manager still has to observe employment law. If you take some time off sick then it would be even easier for your GP to help you with regard to a fit note when you return (they can specify then on that note what you are able to deal with re working).

I would advise getting some advice re ACAS who have a free helpline. http://www.acas.org.uk/?articleid=3282        The Acas Helpline number is 0300 123 1100
They can advise you how the Equality Act applies to you.

Also this is a very useful booklet produced by an ME support organisation on working with ME/CFS
https://www.actionforme.org.uk/uploads/pdfs/me-and-work-2016.pdf

https://www.actionforme.org.uk/living-with-me/managing-work/your-rights-and-entitlements/
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Anne56
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« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2018, 12:42:41 PM »

Hi Sar-Lou,

You have been given good advice from others. I agree with Roger, you cannot continue like this. Six years ago I was in a smimilar position to you except I lived on my own. Here's what I learned:

1) accept that you cannot continue like this

2) get all the info you can find. Actionforme have some great leaflets on their website that you can download. There's one for your employer which explains how ME/CFS affects us.

3) ask to see Occupational Health. Take the info with you in case they are not aware of ME/CFS. I did this and they were very supportive and recommended flexible working hours but my employer couldn't accommodate me and eventually they terminated my employment as I was on sick leave for about 18 months. Two years later I managed to get Ill health retirement which means I get my pension early but still have to live on benefits.

4) You are classed as having a disability so your employer needs to make 'reasonable adjustments' so you can stay in work. Mine, did what they could. Looking back I think they could have done more but I was too ill to fight for it.

5) get advice on what financial help you may be entitled to.

6) I went to the Jobcentre when I was on sick leave and spoke to the Disability Advisor.  I have no time for the DWP but in this case they were helpful. They put me in touch with a lady who supported me and went to meetings with my employer when I was too ill to attend.

Your health is your priority and you have been through so much stress recently. You need to take a break, no matter what. That will give you time to gain some strength and put things in place to go back to work armed with the information and support that you are entitled to and so desperately need.

Good luck.

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