After reading several posts referring to the involvement of occupational Health (OCHY) on here and other sites. Their involvement, support, actual and potential and other member's experiences, I thought it may be time to share my own.
After many years spent as a career high achiever in a very aggressive private sector industry, fumbling my way forward making light of and in the main ignoring all but the most debilitating of my ever worsening symptoms, I finally succumbed to the fact that I could no longer sustain my career at the level that it was and that I could no longer provide my employer with the (added value) yes I know that term is straight out of a manager manual, but that really was the way that i thought (brainwashed) at the time. I decided that I needed to step down and look again at what I was going to do for the rest of my working days. After several months in which I was really quite ill, I got the offer of working in the public sector, for a local Government department, all was good, or so it seemed as this represented a major step off the accelerator, certainly in my stress levels if nothing else, and I settled down into the nice warm, cuddly, caring, relaxed environment that public sector employment so obviously (and yes I can confirm it to be so) is. Until that is, after around 18 months I started to flare, and be poorly again. I had until then amazed my manager and my colleagues by my drive and attendance, yes I even managed to travel 25 miles to work and still managed to do a 16 hour day without missing a beat even on the occasion that I destroyed my Achilles Tendon and ended up in a support boot for 6 months, so the hint when I started to take time off for what they saw as minor problems should have been that I was indeed really quite poorly.
Let me quickly diversify here. What ever I have got, regardless of whatever symptoms have, do, or will in the future plague me. No matter what (if any) label is finally put on it/them, on reflection the nature of my symptoms has over the years displayed the most troublesome traits of the 'superbugs' about which we are now so often referred to. I say that because no matter what corrective and avoidance action that I have been prescribed or autonomously taken, be that drugs, lifestyle, exercise,diet, or several intrusive operations, my symptoms have adapted, changed and come back again aver more chronically. I have had Gastro specialists chase hydradenitis like abscesses around my body for 20 years, cutting and draining for fun to the point that they then lay me open and strip away glands and nerves, to be told 'thats it you will get now more of them.' Only for the next one to appear at a new location on my body, to the point that now we have moved gradually from perianal, to my armpits! At which point even though I have to say they were much more comfortable when they were on my ass than now, but I have given up fighting and chasing them, and so I self care with a scalpel.
Enough of that! But no OCHY, got involved very quickly and to be fair during my first lengthy they appeared to be very supportive, indeed they (appeared) to negotiate my ability (and right) to work from home. And then undertake a very long and supported return to work. Events since then however have left me much more skeptical as to their actual tangible functionality as opposed to their perceived input and effectiveness. After I returned I had suggested that to enable me to function properly I needed to be able to sometimes spend long periods on my feet and that because I required constant access to my PC then a movable work station that i could elevate would come in useful, this needed to be proposed through OCHY, and after several weeks I was granted this and I was provided a tradesman to construct a bespoke work station.....Bingo! The £1850 was deducted from my next pay packet! The justification for this (and one with which OCHY, concurred) was that because my condition had not been diagnosed and therefor could not be recognised as a disability my request was one of personal convenience! Following that was a period that I was visiting day clinics and because of my treatment and the distances traveled it was impractical for me to work for a couple of days at a time, however my ability to perform my function was not effected in any way, and most of my roll was procurement and logistic communication that was easily fulfilled with access to a PC. I therefor requested once again through OCHY, that I be provided a laptop, even on loan only for the time that I had to spend away from my workplace. The initial answer was that I was either fit to work, and therefor should attend, or I wasn't and should be on the sick. To be fair (although it wasn't a great ask) OCHY, managed to point out the holes in the theory and so at length my employer conceded the ground and begrudgingly agreed to supply my a laptop and remote access on the condition that I paid for the laptop and the access because of the clause they found in my application for the mobile work station. To my amazement OCHY, concurred with my employer, needless to say I didn't forfeit any more of my salary.
And then to the current, and my major concern with the (support?) OCHY, have and continue to provide me. I have been unable to work for the past 18 months. In that i mean that it has, and continues to be impossible for me to commit to travelling 100 miles per day and fulfilling a full day's work for 5 days per week at my employer's place of business. Most days, apart from at the very beginning, and most intense period of my flare I would and am capable of contributing positively for part of if not most of the day. However it very quickly became apparent that it is unlikely that I will ever be in a position to perform and travel as before. With that in mind my initial proposal was for me to undertake to work remotely in the main and to travel to their place of business when it was possible for me to do so. This was turned down almost before OCHY, had finished presenting the case even though at this point my line-manager had given the proposal his full support. It took several weeks (if not months) for my employer, when eventually pressed (by myself on behalf of my OCHY, who had become ominous by her absence) to formulate a reason for their stance. Which was that the nature of the position was not in their opinion sustainable without persistent presence in the workplace. A reasonable stance you would have thought, had it not been for the fact that the previous year my department had returned the best figures on record and the highest proportion of productivity and savings of any comparable council in the UK, and all made possible because I had worked remotely and had been capable of being much more objective and capable of directing my staff more effectively. (I know that because that is what it says on my appraisal of that year.) Either way OCHY, could foresee any elbow room and so as time wore on my employer moved towards disciplinary proceedings, at which point OCHY, requested full access to my medical records, which I willingly provided. So in December, I was invited to a level 4 (proposal to terminate on medical grounds) disciplinary hearing, this was facilitated at my home due to my inability to travel and was attended by HR, my line-manager, and my union rep, not my OCHY, instead a report from her in which she stated of her frustration and inability to offer me any practicable support because of the nature of my symptoms and the lack of a formal diagnosis. My line manager explained the reasons for his change of position as being that the position in question had changed and because of certain demands on the department would in future require full on-site attendance and was in his view now not possible to fulfill he demands of the position remotely. This and the realisation that my employer had involved an external consultant to take care of some other procurement issues within the organisation, and that he had been directed to oversee the financials of my departmental activities and so my employer was taking the opportunity to turn my roll into little more than a supervisory storeman roll, gave me very little ground to maneuver on and I had little option but to accept that it was highly unlikely that i would in the future be able to fulfill the new requirements of the roll as set before me, however we mutually agreed that the best solution for all would be for me to be retired on medical grounds. HR left the meeting with the commitment to pursue this possibility with OCHY, and that i would hear details in due course.
All seemed to be going smoothly over the next few weeks despite little contact from OCHY, or for that matter HR. The only questions seemed to be at which level of retirement I was going to be qualified, and OCHY's frustration that a formal diagnosis would make things so much easier for them. At the beginning of March, I was informed that I was just awaiting a consultation with one of their Doctors and for their recommendation. At the end of March, I received a letter from HR, informing me that OCHY, could not support retirement on medical grounds and I was invited to a termination of contract hearing to be held on May 28th. I contacted OCHY, and her stance was that and I quote, ' due to the lack of historic medical evidence, they could not support my claim and therefor could not recommend I take part in a consultation.' When I pointed out that I had over 20 years of medical history as highlighted by the medical evidence they had requested access to, her reply was that it had been her opinion and that of HR, that it would not have been in my interest to proceed to request the evidence in the light of the lack of formal diagnosis. Needless top say, I went 'radio rental'! But resigned to accept my fate.
That is until a week or so before my date to appear, I contacted HR, to let them know that I didn't feel that I was fit enough to attend, but that I would not challenge their right to proceed without me, when HR, stated that it was a great pity that there was no history of my suffering and that they hadn't been aware of it at an earlier date! The whole landscape changed at the drop of a hat when I pointed out that not only did I have an extended and extensive medical history, but I had highlighted my medical record and history at my interview for the position, that it had indeed been noted and that I had a hard copy of my interview notes. With immediate effect my dismissal has been postponed, and the position of HR, has been withheld until all of the medical history has been reviewed and recommendation of a suitably qualified medical expert has been sought.
Sorry for the extended rant, but my view of OCHY, is that they are merely the warm soft glove of an ever more radical and fierce managerial arm. They are the fence of compassion behind which a much more malevolent force hides.
My photo is supposed to represent the art of reflection behind which all enlightened realisation lies.