National Migraine Centre
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Employer Forcing Lower Hours

Hi all, I'm looking for a bit of advice for my partner. She works for the NHS as an healthcare assistant in a general admissions ward in a large district hospital.

Since she was young, she has always suffered from migraines. She regularly sees her GP who keeps trailing her with different medication. So far, beta blockers haven't worked, but iron supplements when she's having an attack seems to calm it down. Only thing Gp can see is that her iron levels are low.

Anyway, as a result of this, she has had to have time off work now and then because she's had an attack and can't physical work. Her employer is now trying to force her to take reduced hours which is going to put is in finicial hardship. Where does she stand with this?

It's worth noting that she hasn't had a massive migraine in a couple of months since she's been taking iron supplements.

13 Replies

He jipper2434... what reason have they given her? Are they reducing a lot of peoples hrs or just hers?

They can't force her to reduce her hours and if they pursue her to reduce because of her sick absence she should seek advice. Employers need to be very careful with discrimination laws.

migraine is actually classed as a disability.

I would ask for the reasons in writing.

Good luck 😆


Hi Cally, her ward sister (manager) specially stated that it was due to the amount of sickness she has had. She's the only person in her team being affected with loss of hours.

She did let me know that they've moved her onto stage 3 of the sickness monitoring system they have, but I was always under the impression that as its classed as a disability under the DDA, that instances of sickness due to migraines should be classed as a different type of sickness rather than general sickness (of that makes sense)


Yeah some companies record it differently but there are quite a lit of people losing their jobs due to migraine it's just not right.

Reducing hours won't help as you can't put migraine into a timeframe, their sporadic in nature!!

She should speak to her union rep and get advice on where she stands.

I work in the financial sector and my migraines are not recorded within the stages of health and wellbeing.

It's difficult trying to function normally when you look like nothings wrong with you! !!

Good luck 😆


The NHS are appalling when it comes to sick leave and supporting staff with health problems.

If she hasn't already she needs to go and see occupational health. If she has a union then they will be useful for support. As a disability it should be taken out of the staged sickness system, but suspect they won't without a fight.

Also ask the GP if she can be referred to a migraine specialist centre - sounds like she's tried everything he/she has suggested and so it's worth getting specialist support. And a proper specialist diagnosis helps the case for being classed as a disability.

The migraine trust does some good leaflets on migraine as a disability as well.

She could even try seeing her MP - if they have a particular interest in disability rights they might help.


Under no circumstances reduce your hours unless it is what you want. If your job is very stressful it might be for the best, but that decision must be made by you for yourself and not be pushed into it by your manager.

Have a look at your hospital's sickness policy (it will be available on your local staffnet). It will state something like the workplace has a responsibility to support you and be flexible. If you are a union member ask for help from them. If not you will need to represent yourself to hospital management. This is not as scary as it sounds. Your hospital will have policies in place to protect you. Send an email to your bosses boss saying you feel bullied and harassed into reducing your hours and it is causing you a lot of stress and anxiety. Copy you boss into this if you can bear to. Ask to be referred to occupational health if you haven't already. Ask to speak to someone from HR. Stand up for yourself and don't accept this treatment

There will be a bullying and harassment policy, also policies against discrimination of disabled people.

Try not to worry your position is a very strong one. This manager may be under a lot of pressure herself, and struggling with the strain. I'm sure she will stop bullying and harassing you ( yes this IS what she is doing) once you challenge her behaviour.


Absolutely agree 😆


Thanks for all your responses. I'll get her to look into it. I know she's on stage 3 sickness monitoring at the moment but I know she's dropped an email to her Union to ask for help.


If she is a union member she should ask to have her her union rep present for a meeting with her boss and someone from HR. The stress of this situation could easily be making her condition worse.

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PS Her health board's sickness absence policy is probably available online for you to have a look. Not sure what 'level 3' monitoring means. Might be a local thing, but probably intended to sound scary. As long as she obeys the rules regarding phoning in, sick notes etc keeping in contact with Occ health and line manager there is no way anyone can reduce her hours unless she agrees to it.



I used to work in the NHS and I also suffered severe migraine. To cut a long story short the NHS Trust that I worked for had a sickness policy of 7 days a year - after which you would be monitored (although this did not seem to apply equally for all employees!). I breached this policy in 2003 with a sickness absence of 12 days & the next 3 years of my employment were awful.

In 2006, my management team/HRmoved to terminate my contract on grounds of incapability but my contract of employment was upheld by Higher management. Why? Simply - the Trust had not followed policy and procedures. It had not recognised migraine as a 'disability' in my situation and the adjustments that I had requested had not been implemented.

I ended up resigning from this employment anyway because I had list faith in my employers. That was my decision and I stand by it. The NHS failed me as an employee and it shouldn't have.

My strongest advice to any NHS employee with migraine is get hold of the sickness policies and equality law policy. Make an appointment with Occupational health and ask them if they consider migraine a disability (my OH department was ran by a nurse and she did not consider it to be one - however further review by a doctor when the Trust moved for dismissal clarified that my migraine did fall into the 'disability' category).

See your GP and get their opinion. Get referred to a neurologist if your migraines are problematic - that way you have evidence.

Join a Union and get them on board from the offset. Keep notes and records of all interactions with management/HR.

Even though Trust policy usually states legal representation cannot be with you at meetings - you can still contact a lawyer/solicitor who knows about employment law for advice. An employee does not have to be dismissed

From employment before getting legal advice. There is a process to be followed in employment law and you don't have to wait until you are dismissed to know about it! had some information on this

This is also useful:

The migraine Trust website is also good for info on employment.

ither advice; Dusabily leave does have to be recorded separately from 'normal' sick leave. It should not be used for promotion/pay/sickness calculations.

A reasonable adjustment also for 'migraine' is time of. A recognition of the fact that the condition by nature causes sick days and if a Trust has (for example) a 7 day policy for 'normal' people they put an extra 7 days (example) on for a migraine sufferer before the 'trigger' point is reached. (Obviously if this is a good employer and disability leave is granted this would not be necessary).

Also bear in mind that not all migraine sufferers will be considered to have 'an impairment', A person who suffers them 4to5 times a year and takes no medication is less likely to be considered as having an impairment. A person who needs to take preventative medication and still suffers migraines 3 a month is highly likely to be considered as having an impairment.

I hope some of this helps. Good luck,

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So I've found a copy of the sickness policy, and it does state that the NHS trust does hold the right to either permentally / temp reduce her working hours, at stage 3 of the sickness policy. Is this legal?


No because if she sees occupational health and they agree that the migraines are a disability this cannot be implemented. I am a health visitor/midwife in the NHS and work full time. I have had migraines since I was 7 - I am now 47!! My trust took me to level 3 two years ago. I did get a large amount of migraines a month (20 plus) but if I took my triptan medication they would go in a couple of hours. I did manage to carry on working when I had one if I took my medication but I was not on form and often sick in the sluice!!!! I always tried not to go off sick and tried to keep my actual days off to a minimum. My occupational health recognised it as a disability and my sickness record was wiped and they had to allow for the fact that you cannot predict a migraine in terms of frequency and intensity.

I have just recently started going to the national migraine centre in London after 40yrs of suffering and they are amazing!!! I strongly recommend your wife goes there.


I'm actually suing an employer at the moment for, amongst other things, disability discrimination. They've been truly spiteful towards me because they are unable to see that they MUST make reasonable adjustments for my migraines and treat me fairly and equitably as a person with a long term condition, (disability).

They have tried EVERYTHING to get rid of me, including trumping up ridiculous excuses, which are becoming more and more ridiculous as time passes. They would be laughable if their implications weren't so serious. However, they have now refused to give me hours for such a long time that I can now sue for unlawful/unfair dismissal as well.

Their ignorance of the law and spitefulness continues and we have an Employment Tribunal teleconference soon, something that I'm, likely, to have to do myself...

With that little lot in mind, (!), I would very strongly indeed suggest you contact ACAS

and EASS

I've found both helpful. EASS are good as it's a freefone line and they're sympathetic.

I'd also echo what others have said and ensure you get EVERYTHING in writing, and agree to NOTHING, even verbally, until you have consulted someone about your legal position.

If you don't have a union rep, try your home contents insurance as, sometimes, they have a legal advice line.

If you don't have that I would recommend Which? Legal

Although they cannot take up your case, they can advise you on it so you can ensure you're well versed in your rights. It costs £88 per year, which sounds a lot but is helluva lot cheaper than legal fees - £88 is about 40 minutes worth!

Very best of luck - and I hope that you get this sorted sooner rather than the protracted later that my case has turned into...


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