In the red zone and under pressure to... - Asthma UK communi...

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In the red zone and under pressure to be at work


I have been in my red zone for the last few days thanks to a colleague who passed on her cold which of course caused my asthma to flare up.

Thanks to my new asthma nurse I now have abx and steroids on standby at home which I started taking when peak flow dropped. I have a three monthly review with her later today for which I am very grateful as I have spent most of the night coughing despite following my action plan.

Despite the fact that I can't hold a conversation with my patients I am under pressure from the management to be at work in an NHS hospital as otherwise another absence - all of which have been asthma related - will trigger a formal interview and if I am off again within a 6 month period I could be dismissed! I have been in touch with my nursing union the RCN for advice and support but in the meantime I just have to carry on working.

Are other folks under the same sort of pressure? Is there any legal way in which asthma as a long term condition can be recognised as such and more leniency shown in terms of time off sick in cases like this?

I hope this makes sense - my brain is rather addled and I will be getting up in 40 minutes to go to work after 2 hours' sleep zzz...

Hope someone can offer help!


20 Replies
EmmaF91Community Ambassador

Hi Flossie

Sorry to hear that you’re not well atm and that you feel you can’t take the time to recover cause work isn’t supportive.

As asthma is a long-term health condition it can be classed as a disability and so you should be protected under the disability act. By ‘forcing’ you into work when from the sounds of it you should be in a&e they are putting you at risk. They have the responsibility to make a reasonable adjustment, such as allowing more ‘sick days’ (however these may be unpaid). If you’ve been triggered at work from things that they can change then it’s worth mentioning them!

If they take you to a formal interview ask for a union representative to be with you. Point out that if you stay at work when ill and had collapsed because of your asthma than they are the ones at fault, so you’d be within your rights to sue them (esp if they’re telling you to ignore medical advice!)

As an osteopath I have the pressure of patients relying on me but being self-employed it’s hard to take the time off (no patients = no income!), however I know I can’t treat if I’m sicker than my patients! I also faced issues at uni and had to go to panel as they kept suspending me because I have asthma (seriously! 🙄). I won my appeal but got well versed in the discrimination laws to help myself (everyone was telling me to sue them!) 😅

Look after yourself and good luck with everything x

flossiew in reply to EmmaF91

Thanks EmmaF91 - Sounds like you have had a lot of hassle to deal with! Glad you managed to get things sorted with your uni and that you are now well-versed in relevant info 😊 I have been in touch with the RCN as unfortunately I had to admit defeat and go home sick this morning so awaiting the high jump when I return to work but I care for my patients and didn't want to jeopardise their health - also I couldn't string a couple of sentences together without coughing and that is of no use is any workplace setting! I hope you keep well and manage to avoid any nasty lures xx

flossiew in reply to flossiew

*lurgies* stupid spell checker!!!

I agree with everything Emma has said above!

They should adjust your sick day policy so that ones related to your asthma don’t count towards formal interviews etc - once this flare is over try and get an appointment with occupational health at your hospital. I’m a medical student and have found the department at my hospital to be really helpful in terms of sorting out adjustments and discussing potential future ones for when I qualify :)

And definitely make sure you have a union rep with you if they decide to push it to the interview stage!

I know it’s really difficult when you have patients you want to look after but if you’re stuck in the red zone and struggling to speak you really should not be at work and as Emma said, should quite possibly be in a&e! 😞 I know I’ve turned up to placement a few times like that and have pretty much been manhandled into a wheelchair and taken to a&e by the team I’m with each time I’ve done it so it really isn’t worth pushing it.

I hope you feel better soon and good luck with it all x

flossiew in reply to Js706

Hi Js706 - I used to love all the wee medical students coming onto the wards when I was a nurse many years ago so all the best in your career 😊 I did go to work this morning but I was coughing so much and unable to talk for long I decided to go home sick. The RCN have been very good in the past and trust they will turn up trumps again when I go for my formal interview. Glad to hear though that you have had a much more positive experience of support from your colleagues - hope you stay well xx

Js706 in reply to flossiew

Haha thanks! 😁 sorry you ended up having to head home but sounds like it was probably the right decision! And hopefully the RCN will be helpful again.

Well, they’re helpful at the moment while I’m training and they don’t officially need me for anything (I’m probably more a nuisance than anything right now!) but I imagine that will quite possibly change after qualifying 😂

flossiew in reply to Js706

I hope that once you qualify your colleagues will still take care of you!! All the best 😊

Hi I went through all this when I worked at the DWP itself. The upshot is if you have been there for 2 years you have full rights. Your employer should be sending you to occupational health though they don't have to follow their recommendations.

You should also be getting some reasonable adjustments such as more sick leave, extra breaks, or others. Bear in mind though that these are all subject to 'business needs' and they employer hasn't to do anything which they say they can't do.

I was in the same situation as you and was on a final written warning when I got a severe chest infection which returned 2 weeks later. I ended up off work another couple of days and was dismissed. They don't sack you on the grounds of sickness but on not fulfilling your work contract by not being at work.

Work with your union and if they do sack you check they have followed the correct procedures as you could be reinstated on a technicality, but your union will be able to help with this.

As long as your employer has followed the law to the letter then you would be unlikely to win a case against them under employment law. My employer threatened that if I did go to tribunal and lose they would pursue costs against me so I couldn't take the risks. As my legal aid person told me they would be employing London solicitors on £300 plus per hour. They had the money to do this but I didn't of course.

Having said all that good luck. Oh one last thought did you want to ask for medical retirement? That might be possible. x

flossiew in reply to hypercat54

Hi hypercat 54 - so sorry to hear about what happened to you... I do hope you're settled in a new post now.

I know it's a hassle for my employer when I'm off sick as they have to find cover for the clinics I help to run - I hadn't thought about seeking medical retirement though. May be something I need to look into as I had to go off sick this morning despite turning up to work. Not being able to talk without coughing was the deciding factor! Now catching up on my zzz's from last night. Hope you're doing well xxx

Hello fellow NHS employee! I’m currently off sick following a hospital admission a few weeks ago. I’m also feeling the pressure to return to work despite being barely able to get out of bed with my slow recovery. I’ve no real advise other than sympathy as I have not found nhs supportive of those with disabilities. I have another disability which requires some minimal reasonable adjustments to manage but my manager has been incredibly difficult to the point where I became so stressed that it is most likely the direct cause of my asthma instability and didn’t follow the appropriate processes on my return to work from previous sick leave.

Agree RCN are absolutely great with sick leave support so keep them at hand for meetings as they will fight the points on employment legislation for you in meetings so it takes some of the pressure off you.

flossiew in reply to Dogruff

Hello Dogruff!!!

You have my sympathy - the NHS are great at caring for the patients but sadly the same can't be said for the way some hospitals treat their staff.

Sorry your recovery has been slow - as you say when your line manager isn't supportive it adds to the stress which doesn't help.

I have had two lengthy absences of about three weeks' duration since January which's why they are gearing up to throw the proverbial book at me.

I went into work this morning but had to go home as I couldn't talk without coughing. Ho hum...

Anyway, I trust you will soon be on the road to recovery and that you find your work situation more helpful and accommodating than previously.

Ttfn fellow NHS employee and take care - don't rush back!!!

Same to you! I’m currently looking into other jobs at present. While they will most likely try throw formal procedure at me again I have ground to argue against plus they should not have put me on the previous one as they hadn’t adhered to the reasonable adjustments.

flossiew in reply to Dogruff

I hope a more suitable post and amenable line manager turns up soon for you! All the best 😊

I'm so sorry you're under this stress. You've had great advice above, the only thing I can add is the law is now the Equality Act 2010 if you wanted to do some reading yourself.

I used to work for the NHS (senior public health practitioner) and found them very good with sickness absence, telling me not to rush back to work. It's so silly making people come in when they are so poorly as it takes longer to recover, and causes extra stress!

Thanks AimeeCardiff - as I'm off sick I will look into the Act you mentioned. It would be good to be well prepared for whatever comes next!

Anyone who has an Occupational Health Department should use it. Whether that is a self referral or the employer has to refer you the important thing is to seek their advice.

Long term health conditions like Asthma are covered under the Equality Act 2010. There is a document called “A workers guide to evidence under the Equality Act 2010 Edition 5” by Tamara Lewis that is worth looking at.

It may be worth seeking the advice of Asthma U.K.

Are you under a consultant or nurse specialist? What medication are you on? What kind of ward are you on?

Thanks for your message and your post. Re the dept I work on- I'm no longer ward based as long days etc were too much to cope with so am now in radiology dept as an HCA. Work much lighter as a result which's a big relief!

flossiew in reply to flossiew

I will get in touch with occupational health when I'm more able to hold a conversation! I hope you got the reply I sent to your message btw... 😕 Thanks for your help and advice

Unfortunately there are a lot of managers in our trust that are completely in the dark about Equality Act. I’ve quoted it directly at managers before and they will argue with complete and utter belief that they are in the right. I’ve found it really unsettling the lack of knowledge in our managers. I have had contact with HR about this and they are approaching one particular management team about their lack of knowledge.

Sadly, I do reckon it’s going to be a very difficult few weeks under the current management I am with however, there is a very strong potential job after coming up in the last 24hrs.its a highly specialised area and A lack of people with the right skill set and experience for it but it just happens to be something I am experienced and skilled in. It will mean no shift work at all.

flossiew in reply to Dogruff

I am delighted to hear your news re your new career! And no longer having to do shift work will make such a difference to quality of life etc - wishing you all the very best 😊 And in the meantime am going to be brushing up on the various Acts that you and others have mentioned 😄

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