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I work at a primary school since Sep 2011 as a school accounts officer also responsible for all attendance & pupil welfare. I’ve been off work since 14th July 2014 initially due to injuries following a car accident. However around Oct 2014 I developed severe hand pain keeping me at night. A scan revealed swelling in all the tendons in my hands. I was referred to a rheumatologist by my hand consultant (note I started having problems with my hands before the car accident). The doctor thought I may have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) . I also have carpal tunnel symptoms. I was started on a disease modifying drug on 22nd Dec 2014 & take approximately 12+ weeks t start working. They also suppress the immune system. I was sent a letter inviting me to a meeting on 9.3.15 by my headteacher Helen Swain (HS). I was allowed to take my son Jon with me. At the meeting I said that my son would be taking notes for me because of my hands. He was told that he was not allowed to do this (not reasonable adjustment allowed) and that notes would be made by HS and Bernadette McHugh (BM) HR consultant and a copy would be sent to me so that I would have the opportunity to make any comments & for all of us to then agree on a final copy. At the meeting my headteacher was hostile and aggressive & I was told the purpose of the meeting was to discuss my absence, its impact on the school and to warn me that my employment was at risk. I was asked to give an update on my medical condition. Gave update & explained my consultant said that once the drugs take effect he is confident that I will be able to remain in work. I also asked hospital about helping with occupational health assessment but they do not. HS then referred to a report written by Dr Jukes the occupational health (OH) doctor for the council. “If Julie is diagnosed with RA then quite clearly this would fall under the Equality Act. As such an employer needs to make reasonable adjustments where possible in order to help her remain healthy & well within the workplace. . If Julie starts on medication to treat RA, this will affect her immune system. It will therefore be advisable that she does not continue in her role as a first aider, as reducing contact with the children would significantly reduce the chances of picking up illnesses and infections”. HS said to make the above mentioned adjustment to my duties she was going to speak to the governors as she would need to reduce my hours and grade to cover the cost of employing someone (as not enough money in the budget) to cover this aspect of my job. HS said that she would get back to me once she has spoken to the governors to let me know by how many hours my job will be reduced by and what my new grade will be but that it will probably be one grade below what I’m currently on. The meeting proceeded with HS constantly putting obstacles in the way and giving reasons (some false) as to why it would be difficult to return to work. During the end of the meeting HS did not want to make any reasonable adjustments that I requested e.g. I asked if I have any flare ups in the future & need any short breaks could I have them and that I understood I would make up the time. I was told that another member of staff had the same condition & like her I would be expected to come into work just like anyone else and why should I be any different. After the meeting I received a letter by HS titled “Outcome of Case Conference” she states that I have received extensive medical advice & agreed to inform her of the outcome of my appointment with my consultant on 31st March. Both not true. HS says in her letter that if I do not return to work on 20th April she will refer the matter to the Governors for a view on my future employment & says that I apparently stated that I understood the procedure. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE PROCEDURE. It has not been explained to me. From the meeting we had I was told that I would simply be dismissed. This letter was received without the notes being sent to me which I chased HR for them & received the meeting notes by email 50 minutes later. The notes are not an accurate reflection of what happened. I have since emailed HS to ask about the outcome of her meeting with the governors & about the notes. She now says that there was no meeting ever planned & is now waiting to hear back from the OH doctor. She is refusing to answer any more of my questions. In the meantime the OH administrator has messed up & not sent out the latest OH report. I do not want to go back to this job. I have requested the email for the chair of governors but my school are refusing to give this to me. They say I must give them a letter to pass on to him. I spoke to my GP who has given me a fit note to return for 2 hrs a day for 2 months. They do not have this yet. I don’t know what to do now? Also if I leave and find out later that what is happening to my hands is as a result of my job can I still make a claim?
Thank you for your reply. I'm still not clear as to how to proceed with my expected return to work this Monday. I was thinking of writing a without prejudice letter and handing this in on Monday. I want to say that as I was not treated properly during the absence meeting as I was bullied and harassed throughout and no simple reasonable adjustment allowed that I no longer wish to stay employed as I do not trust them anymore. I would like to ask for a written reference and perhaps some compensation as no alternative employment was discussed or looked at and as leaving will break my service with the local authorities I would like compensation. Do you think this is a good idea even if now they are trying to put adjustments in place only because I complained during the meeting and my headteacher has obviously been told by HR that she overstepped the mark during the meeting which the HR consultant has tried to soften with her inaccurate notes of the meeting? I was told about writing a without prejudice letter the other day and It was suggested that I also see my GP and get a fit note to return to work so as to prevent being dismissed on medical grounds. My GP has given me a fit note to work for 2 hours a day for the next two months. I have not given this to my employer yet. Should I hand this certificate in with a without prejudice letter on Monday? If I do not return on Monday but do this instead can they still dismiss me?
Do you think I have a case to take to tribunal for what happened at the meeting? As much as my employers have tried to cover what happened up my headteacher has also spoken to the council doctor and confirmed with her that she cannot make a reasonable adjustment for me with regards ***** ***** the small first aiding element of my job and would need to look at reducing my hours and pay.
Please I need clarity on how to proceed. Thank you Julie