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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 46792
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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I have been working long shifts which involves early starts

Resolved Question:

I have been working long shifts which involves early starts and evening finishes for almost 2 years. I work longer hours over fewer days. The start and finish times are fixed as it involves starting and finishing during the unsociable hours period. A few weeks ago I was in an informal meeting about timekeeping issues. I have sometimes been a few minutes late and know from previous experience that the timekeeping is usually worse during the winter months. I also had a relative in hospital during part of the winter period this year and last year.

I acknowledged in the meeting that there had been a relapse, but as they acknowledged that they were aware of background issues, I did not link any events to the relative being in hospital. The background issues are ongoing even when the relative is not in hospital. I have been given the option of doing more regular, shorter (standard) days, but anticipate that I will have less time for myself if I have to work more weekdays to achieve the same number of hours. Although I have not been diagnosed, I think I may be suffering from a sleep disorder called Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) which tends to be worse in the winter months when there is less daylight and the condition is probably exacerbated by other events causing me to feel more tired and less responsive to alarms going off in the morning. This is probably where I am relapsing.

As I was unaccompanied in the meeting, I did not mention at the time that I thought I had a sleep disorder. I have since been to see my General Practitioner, but did not succeed in getting a referral to a specialist and was just advised on how to avoid drinking caffeine and the use of computers if I found it difficult to get to sleep due to an overactive mind. The GP said that prescribing sleeping tablets will just make things worse. The GP said that I could consider working standard days, but I want to exhaust all avenues in diagnosing my condition before changing my shift pattern.

I have since spoken to a different manager who was willing to refer me to the company’s own health practitioner. However, I am now in a dilemma whether to go ahead with this referral as I believe the health practitioner works for the employer and not the employee. Someone has already tried to damage my reputation by telling the other manager that I don’t look 100% (I won’t use the exact quote), but when I commence my shift I usually get straight on with my work. All I really want is to explain that I may have a sleep disorder and want to get it diagnosed for employment purposes. However, I believe that I may have to undergo a full health assessment and if I explain about my family situation, they may say negative things about my wellbeing and suggest that I come off my shift. If I need referring to a sleep specialist, would they speak to my GP? My intention in agreeing to see a health practitioner was assisting the employer to carry out a duty of care.

If I did not go ahead with a health assessment, my only other option would be for me to invest privately in a light therapy box which helps people with circadian rhythm disorders to regulate their sleep/wake cycle.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.

Ben Jones :

What do you hope to achieve please?

Customer:

I would like to maintain my current working pattern if possible and want my employers to understand that I was not initially aware of underlying reasons for lateness, however, if I know how to remedy the problem with or without professional help I can reduce the likelihood of this happening in the future. I initially thought it was due to family events. I am willing to get a formal diagnosis to show that it is not just laziness on my part. If I have tried all methods of remedying the situation and episodes of lateness still occur and I am not given the option of changing my start/finish times during unsociable hours, or when I have family issues, then in the long term I can then consider changing to standard working days where there is more flexibility to start or finish later than the standard times, but I would be working more days.

Ben Jones :

Apologies for the slight delay, the system did not inform me that you had replied and I only saw your response by accident just now.


 


If you believe that you have a sleep disorder which may be affecting your work or have other adverse effects on your ability to successfully carry out your work, then you should advise your employer of tis and also agree to conduct whatever appropriate tests may be required to determine whether you suffer from this or not. Whilst you may be reluctant to use your employer’s OH specialist, they are after all professionals who have a duty to act in your best interest and provide an honest opinion. However, if you find that their findings disagree with those of your own specialist, then you may ask for a third opinion from a truly independent party, although it may come down to you having to meet the costs of such examinations.


 


The key here is that the sleep disorder you may be suffering from could amount to a disability in law (this could be any medical condition as long as it is long-term and has a serious adverse effect on your day to day activities). Therefore, to be afforded the necessary protection under law, where you get protection against discrimination, you must enable the employer to gather sufficient details about this to be able to determine what is wrong with you and how they can help. This can only really be done by obtaining medical reports or diagnoses from qualified professionals. In addition, the employer would have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to assist you in the workplace if the condition affects you, and in your case this could mean being more flexible with working times, providing specialist equipment and so on. But get the formal medical reports in before you do that as it will strengthen your case.


 


Hope this clarifies your position? If you could please let me know that would be great, thank you

Customer:

Apologies for the delay. Today was a work day so had to retire before I got your response. I was hoping you would say something along these lines. I want to avoid the risk of having another relapse before being armoured with more information about a potential disability, however trivial it may seem to the employers. I believe there is a connection between this disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Winter Depression.

Customer:

My fear of OH specialists is historical as I know of someone who was forced to take ill health retirement in the late 1990's after a prolonged period of sickness absence caused by stress at work. I'm a bit younger than that person and I'm sure my circumstances are totally different. 'llI now proceed to give a rating.

Customer:

I'll now proceed to give a rating.

Customer:

Sorry, system won't let me until you return. Have to retire. Check in tommorrow.

Ben Jones :

Apologies for that, there is a bug in the system which we sometimes get and it prevents you from posting your rating. Instead, you can just type your selection on here (e.g. OK, Good, Excellent) then we will process it manually later. Thank you

Customer:

Rating - Excellent.

Ben Jones :

many thanks

Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 46792
Experience: Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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