Why should anybody have to justify their illness or disability?
I am currently trying to battle exactly this and I will not pretend that it has been an easy ride. Most of my energy in the last month, has been put into trying to express and define my daily struggles in writing in a professional manner. I am left feeling slightly let down that my employer, who was once very accommodating to my needs; has now given me a stage one formal warning for my
absence relating to my MS.
Unfortunately this is not the first time that this has happened to me, the last time ending in a formal dismissal from my workplace. Having just being diagnosed with MS, this may have been one of the biggest challenges I have faced so far in my MS journey. I was in MS limbo land and unemployed; needless to say the stress caused `Bella the MS bitch` to give me grief (brilliant – not!).
The one saving grace with this experience, was that I wouldn`t let the `big dogs` get the best of me ever again. Just because I have this chronic illness, disability, pain in the backside (whatever you want to call it!); this does not define me as a person. I refuse to be bullied out of working or being independent in any situation. If anything, each time it just makes me stronger and in my opinion they have lost out!
Here are some of the tips that I have learned along my way:
For every appointment, prescription, symptom or clinic letter you get; KEEP IT DOCUMENTED! I now have a lovely `MS folder` with all of my medical history for me to refer back to if I ever need to. When you have been told various scientific jargon from your consultant that you know damn well you will never remember, you now have it to digest and deconstruct at your own convenience.
Join a Union
I cannot stress how important this is! When in employment, your voice maybe overshadowed by people who have zero understanding of disabilities or illnesses that you are dealing with. Had I been part of a trade union in my previous job, I would have won my battle with them. At that time I was not a member and did not have the support that I needed. Trying to go through an employment tribunal was very stressful and was causing my health to worsen so I gave up the battle to get my voice heard. Having learned from this, I am now a member of Unison who have been brilliant to me. Their knowledge on equality law and employment adjustments that should be made for me is amazing. They are the booming voice that make companies think twice before doing something unlawful and just plain stupid! Sometimes just knowing you’re right is not enough in the big wide world, so having back up is so important.
Seek advice from Occupational Health
If you have an HR department or Occupational Health, then request for a medical assessment be carried out. This can be helpful to give your employer a better idea of how to introduce `Reasonable Adjustments` to the workplace to ensure that you are being looked after and can continue to stay in employment. From specialist equipment, extra screen breaks or flexible working patterns; these can be introduced to help make your working life a little less stressful!
Know your own worth
Being a disabled employee should not have any bearing on your ability to contribute new ideas or strategies to help your company progress (even disabled has `able` in the word!). If a company is not willing to keep you in employment due to your disability, then they are simply not worth working for. Don`t waste your time, tears or health on it and move onto bigger and better opportunities.
Always remember if you are unsure as to which companies adopt a positive attitude to disabled employees, the `Two Ticks` disability symbol is something to keep an eye out for. This is a symbol awarded to employers who are committed to doing all that they can to help disabled employees thrive and stay in employment. Find out more information here: www.pluss.org.uk
What companies have made adjustments to help your disability or illness? Let me know in the comments 🙂