Potential dismissal

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I am reaching out to seek your advice and support regarding a situation I am facing at my workplace.

For the past seven years, I have dedicated myself to serving a prominent retail company, fulfilling my duties as a manager with diligence and commitment. However, my journey has been marred by significant health challenges, beginning with a diagnosis of breast cancer in February 2022, followed by hyperplasia in November of the same year.

Despite undergoing a lumpectomy, radiotherapy, and laparoscopy, I was determined to resume my responsibilities at work. In October 2022, I returned to my role. In December 2022 I was denied a request for Christmas Eve off. Following my intervention with HR, the decision was overturned, leading to a noticeable shift in my manager's behavior towards me. Subsequently, I faced unwarranted criticism regarding my productivity, despite my performance being adversely affected by factors beyond my control.

Moreover, I was blindsided by the revelation that I was no longer considered for the program, a course that promised advancement opportunities within the company. This news came as a blow, especially considering my unwavering dedication to my role and my aspirations for career progression.

In March 2023, I took the step of submitting a grievance letter detailing not only my manager's unprofessional conduct but also her consistent disregard for company policies. However, the grievance process was deeply flawed, characterized by inaccuracies, undue delays, and a blatant disregard for my rights as an employee.

Despite the company's acknowledgment of mistreatment and the promise of corrective measures, the resolution offered fell short of addressing the systemic issues at play. Relocation was proposed as a solution, accompanied by assurances of managerial training. However, the underlying issues remained unaddressed, leaving me feeling isolated and unsupported.

I initially tendered my resignation at the end of March 2023. However, during the subsequent grievance hearing, I was persuaded to take a career break instead. Regrettably, I succumbed to this suggestion, which resulted in an unplanned hiatus from work lasting six months.

During this period of absence, I had anticipated a reprieve to focus on my well-being and recuperation. However, the reality proved far more challenging. The extended break took a significant toll on my mental health, exacerbating feelings of isolation an uncertainty.

As I grappled with my decision to return to work at the beginning of October I was met with further obstacles and unreasonable demands. The prospect of relocating to a location over an hour and a half away from my home was untenable, yet the company seemed insistent on enforcing this arrangement.

Compounding my distress, my access to essential communication channels and support networks, including the cancer group I relied on, was inexplicably revoked. This deliberate isolation only served to exacerbate my sense of alienation and despair.

Now, as I face the prospect of returning to work under increasingly hostile conditions, I am at a loss for how to proceed. My mental and physical well-being are under threat, exacerbated by the demands of a shift pattern that disregards my ongoing medical treatment.

I am torn between resigning and waiting to be dismissed, which could have lasting repercussions for my professional reputation. Any insights, guidance, or words of wisdom would be immensely appreciated.

  • #Celine

    Hello Celine

    My name is Stacey, and I am an adviser in the Work Support team.

    I am sorry to hear about the difficulties you have been having at work.  As a cancer diagnosis is classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (DDA Act in Northern Ireland) your employer should not treat you less favourably than others and should take your recovery from your treatment into consideration when looking at your performance at work. Also, it could be seen as discriminatory to not put you forward for promotion because of your employer’s awareness of your cancer treatment.  You don’t say if you learned the reason for not getting the promotion was.

    However, you raised a grievance (in line with company policy) and they have been seen to consider any changes, You don’t say how the changes don’t address your concerns.  If you going to work in another branch  I assume you would have a new manager. I believe this must be due to travelling a greater distance and being offered an unfavourable shift pattern. If this is not having a positive effect upon your recovery I suggest asking for some changes as a reasonable adjustment. You could accompany your request with a letter from  clinician and you could also ask for a referral to Occupational Health.

    I am not clear about the time between October 2023 and April 2024. This would be after your return from your ‘career break’ (which I hope was not a break in your contract). Have you had time off sick or have you been working in your original branch?  I know that you are currently worried about returning to the new location.

    If you feel strongly that they have discriminated against you by not providing reasonable adjustments that you feel they could have offered you, the next step would be to contact ACAS. Here is a booklet about your rights at work when affected by cancer:   “Your Rights at Work’”

    Here also is information about ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service). ACAS gives employees and employers free impartial advice on workplace rights, rules and best practice.

    In the case of a workplace dispute ACAS offers an Early Conciliation Service where they attempt to conciliate between both parties to reach an agreement. Talks are offered to try and make a legal agreement without going to an Employment Tribunal. A claim should be submitted to a tribunal within 3 months less 1 day from the date of dismissal or act of grievance/complaint.

    They offer on-line advice and also contactable on the ACAS helpline:0300 123 1100 (Monday – Friday 8-6pm). Their services and support can also be accessed on: www.acas.org.uk

    If an agreement is not reached, the claimant will be given a certificate called an ET1 form which they will use if deciding to make a tribunal claim. Here is a link to further information about Employment Tribunals:

    https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/problems-at-work/employment-tribunals/understanding-employment-tribunals/

    You mention resigning which would be a last option for you. We would encourage to try to resolve the matter whilst still remaining an employee, if possible, even if it means that you have to take time off as you are unfit to work. If you resign and then wanted to take action against the company for example for discrimination under  ‘constructive dismissal’, it  could be more difficult to present to a tribunal rather than being dismissed unfairly due to failure to provide reasonable adjustments (for example) to someone with a disability.

    I hope you manage to resolve your situation Celine, but if you need further help and advice, please contact us again. The contact details are given below.  In addition, if you are a union member, I would advise to reach out to them for support. I would also suggest it may be beneficial to seek legal advice in this matter too.

    Kind regards

    Stacey

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    Stacey

    Work Support Adviser

    Remember, you can also speak with the Macmillan Support Line team of experts. Phone free on 0808 808 0000 (7 days a week, 8am – 8pm) or by email.