Unsupportive Employer!


I've never posted on here before, but have read several posts and found them really helpful. On this occasion its me who could do with a little help or advice from other RA sufferers in the same position.

I have had RA for 3 years now, work full time as a higher level teaching assistant in a primary school, and was finding this increasingly difficult due to having to change classes every half day to teach a different year group. It all came to a head on 8th October when I collapsed in school and was taken to hospital in an ambulance. Pure exhaustion! On returning to work a couple of days later I approached the Head Teacher for support, asking if she could consider the option of me reducing my hours to part time maybe 3 days. On hearing this she attacked me with words telling me I wasn't the same person she had interviewed, and that I wasn't good at behaviour management! instead of her offering me support this is what I was faced with. I came out of the meeting feeling utterly distraught and this had a massive impact on my confidence and self worth! I had never been approached previously regarding my performance at work!

The following day my doctor signed me off work initially for 6 weeks, but this has been ongoing and I am still signed off now. I have become severely depressed and anxious, and having a lot of numbness in my right arm (this is under investigation by my Rheumatologist and I have just had an MRI scan). I'm currently on a CBT programme and taking anti depressants, but im finding it really difficult to go out of the house, and totally avoid any social situations. I haven't even been in a shop since October!!

I have my union involved who are very supportive, and my school referred me to their Occupational Health. Even though I am still signed off until at least end Of January I was called to a meeting in school yesterday. This was between the Head, HR, myself and the union rep, and I found this so difficult. I had to take Diazepam to get me through the meeting, but it was awful and I am absolutely sure that the Head Teacher is trying to get rid of me. She is saying that they can only make adjustments for me in the short term, but cant accommodate me in the long term?!!! I have another meeting with them next week to discuss further but The Head was talking about Disciplinary action due to my absences and the effect it was having on the school. (I have worked in school for 10 years now and my performance or attendance have NEVER been an issue previously).

I really don't know where to go with this, I don't have the energy to fight my case, I am physically sick with worry and just want to be left alone to get better. My husband wants me to hand in my notice, but my Union Rep says I shouldn't do this as it wont look good if I apply for another job!

I feel so ill, so very low and depressed about the whole situation, and really don't know where I should go from here. Can any of you wonderful people out there help me?

Thanking you in anticipation,

Maxine X

38 Replies

  • Hi Maxine. I managed to work after being diagnosed with ra, i worked from home for a wheelchair company cutting out & sewing the upolstery for the chairs. Every time my meds were changed i would explain i dont know how i will feel on them but i will do my best. No problem they said, until my quantity & quality started dropping. I worked selfemployed for them i had to go in every afternoon to use the embroidary machine. One afternoon i was working away when my works manager shouted across the room, Alison do this againg its rubbish. The embroidary was slightly lower on the one side you could only tell close up. I carried on until one day my neck & shoulder were really painful. I havnt worked since 2012. I dont get any money as i was awarded after a tribunal the working group esa group.

    please dont hand in your notice it makes it look like your head has won. Find the stregthen to fight it. Im sure your union will be very helpful. Keep intouch i cant advice you but i can listen (well read) to you. Good luck xx Alison

  • Hi again. I have just read another post same as your problem. Claire from nras as suggested ordering 2 copies of book they do think it was called i want to work a copy for you & one for your employer Have a look on the nras site i am sure they can help. Xx Alison

  • Many thanks for your help and support, its very much appreciated!


  • you are having a dreadful time this condition is very difficult to cope with .I would stick it out thing are way out of order shame on them ,I wish you well don't give in.

  • Many thanks for your support x

  • Hi Maxine,

    Sorry that you are having to deal with this disease and now not having support at work - how awful for you. Please give our Helpline team a call on 0800 298 7650. We also have a section on our website that might help nras.org.uk/work . You'll see there that there's a booklet that you can give your employer to help them understand RA better.

    Best of luck,

    Ruth Grosart

    NRAS Digital Media Manager & HU Admin

  • Thank you so much Ruth, I have got a copy of both the booklets and will take the Employers copy along to the meeting next week and find great pleasure when i hand it to the Head Teacher! Hopefully she may learn something!!

    I will also give the Helpline a call tomorrow if I feel strong enough to discuss my situation, if not I will email.

    Many thanks Maxine x

  • You're welcome Maxine, I do hope it helps. My colleagues on the helpline will look forward to hearing from you, don't be afraid to call as they are all very lovely :)

  • Hi Maxine,

    I definitely feel for you in this plight as it is so simmilar to my current situation.

    Firstly the depression WILL ease over time so keep breathing and letting go of that which is not yours (i.e. the anger and frustration of others at not having the employee they once had because you and your situation has changed... How they adjust is their problem you've enough on your plate already - I'll just pause here and listen to my own advice!)

    Re any dispute going on keep notes, ask for copies of any notes that they have made at the meetings, try to respond but not react to employer's comments- again I pause to listen to my own advice!

    I am currently seeking advice from Citazens Advice Bureau and have a meeting next week so that they can guide me further re my rights and any benefits I may be able to tap into if forced out of teaching. Also if no reasonable adjustments are made you can make a claim in the employment tribunal court but you must start the claim within 3 months of being forced out... Look up Gaynor Meikle V Notts council 2004 and this might give you some idea of what course of action can be taken if your employer doesn't see sense re 'reasonable adjustments' - alas such a course of action will take nerve, patience, and some money up front to instigate the claim - get Union and any other advice if things look like they are going to come to that.

    In the meantime surround yourself with a few good friends and compassionate family members to help you through this tremendously difficult time.... I am also finding some mindful meditation practice is helping to keep me grounded at those darker 'despairing' times.

    Good luck


  • Hi,

    Thank you so much for your reply. I also feel for you if you are in a similar situation to me. I just read your reply to my husband and was crying while I was reading it, its as though its me writing it and I feel so glad i'm not on my own. Although I wouldn't wish this feeling on my worst enemy, it gives me strength knowing that others have been, and are currently going through the same!

    I have taken all your brilliant advice and will definitely act upon it!

    Please keep in touch and thanks again!

    Maxine x

  • I'm on a CBT programme at the moment which is currently getting me working towards being in social situations, but I will definitely give the mindful meditation practice a go (where will I find details of this please) ?

    Thank you Maxine x

  • Hiya Maxine. I'm so sorry you've had RD to contend with & all the rubbish & thoughtlessness in your work as well. I don't have any advice I'm afraid, no experiences I can share but just wished you to know you're welcomed here & I'm pleased you found the wherewithal to join us. You're safe here! Even if we have no personal experience we are aware of how things can be living with RD & how misunderstood the disease often is. I hope you receive some helpful advice from members who have been faced with similar problems but meantime do please take up Ruth's suggestion & give the helpline a ring. It's a freephone number, don't worry they'll have heard similar before & sure they'll have some excellent publications to suggest for you. If you prefer to write rather than speak to someone you could email them on helpline@nras.org.uk.

    I hope you get some replies from people who have been in the same position & look forward to seeing more posts from you whether it's for some more help or you replying & helping others. :)

    Love your profile pic! What breed is he/she?

  • Thank you so much for your kind and caring comments. It helps a lot knowing that there is support out there, and I only wish I had come on here sooner!

    I'm taking everyone's advice on board and going to act on it! I am not going to be bullied any more. I will get through this, and with all of your support I will hopefully soon be strong enough to fight my case!

    Ahh my profile picture is my Poppy, she's a working cocker.....don't know what I would have done these last 3 months without my dogs! I also have a black Labrador Retriever....absolutely love my dogs to bits.

    Love Maxine x

  • You're not the first to say that, including me only I found it whilst was living abroad, couldn't join & then when I came back to the UK I couldn't find it! Eventually did, it turned out the site had changed & I just didn't recognise it. Anyway, we can give plenty of support, you won't be lacking there Maxine! Between us we're a wealth of personal knowledge & with the help & support of the NRAS girls too I don't think there'll be anything you'll find we haven't covered lol!

    Love Poppy! Kind & soppy face. A Lab too! They can be such a comfort can't they, especially when you feel low. We have 3, Freya (Pointer/Lab first cross) is my profile pic. Daft as a brush but so loyal. Wouldn't be without them. :)

  • Love Freya, such a loyal face.....yes they are an immense comfort! x

  • Hi Maxine,

    There's nothing like a good cryfest to release the inner tensions especially if there is a loved one there to hold you and the space around :)

    Re mindfulness try looking at the local buddhist centre as they usually do weekly drop in mindfulness sessions and they are for the general public so only briefly touch on the 'religious' aspects.

    It might be a good idea for hubby to join in as well if he is up for it as he will also be under a lot of emotional strain watching you going through all that you are at the moment and knowing that he can support you with all his loving heart but not 'walk' even a tinsy-winy bit of your difficult path for you... That's hard, very hard to live with day after day!

    Also there is a good centre in Manchester if you are up that way and they specialise in meditation and health issues -there's an associated book called 'mindfulness for health' with a CD of different meditations in which I am currently working through. When first diagnosed with depression I did a lot of work with a book called 'The mindful way through depression' which also has a CD in it. Both books are usually on the shelf in a sizeable WH Smiths, Waterstones etc.

    If you're in the Midlands I can recommend 'The Happy Buddha' at New Town Lynford and I've done several workshops with him and he runs a monthly 'drop-in session... If you're not in the Midlands and are still struggling to get out try an app called Buddify which I use regularly at home and it's a good, relatively cheap way to try this meditation thing out before linking with a group.

    If that's not viable find somewhere to sit or lie down for 3-5 minutes and just breath and focus on the sensation of your breathing, the way your tummy goes in and out with each breath. Don't try and alter or control each breath just be aware of your breathing and every time a thought enters your mind acknowledge it, even give it a label if it helps (I.e. worrying, planning, doubting, catastrophising etc) and then let the though pass on by without attaching meaning or judgement to it and after your set time (start with one minute if need be) thank yourself for giving you time to just to be (rather than doing - physically and/or mentally).

    Keep breathing girl and know that there are many of us here for you and yours to tap into when you feel the need.

    All the best


  • Thank you so much for that Ali....so much support!!! X

  • I haven't had to cope with this situation myself, but I can offer my support. There has been a wealth of brilliant advice from others, I do hope that you can find the strength to fight your corner, this sort of bullying is despicable. You know that you are not alone now, this forum is a great place for help and advice, we all know the effects of this wretched disease.

    Good luck, hope your meeting next week goes well. M x

  • I too am a HLTA in a primary school. I had problems when my school had a new head teacher. Like you I didn't know what to do was getting pushed to do more and more. I contacted NRAS helpline and they sent me the booklet they will be sending to you. I also contacted the union for support. I gave the booklet to my head and said I do have a disability and I should be entitled to some adjustments to my timetable. I told them mornings were the worst for me too. My timetable has now been changed and things are much better. Hope you get a good outcome.


  • Thank you Patsy I am going to give my Emloyer the booklet at my next meeting! x

  • Hi Maxine,

    I've just been reading through the Post 'How Do You Cope' and in it a lady called Jora recommends a web site called 'onemomentmeditation' and I've just checked it out - there is a good little introduction video which might help you... I found it refreshing!


  • Thankyou will try it x

  • Hi there, So sorry to hear you are having a rotten time regarding work etc. As one of the replies here has suggested there are two really useful booklets freely available from NRAS "I want to work" which is for you as the employee and "When an Employee has RA" which is for your employer so they understand a little more about the disease but also their responsibilities to you as their employee. One thing to be very clear on is that you do have the protection of the Equality Act which replaced the Disability Act - read more on nras.org.uk/work.

    Give our helpline a call on 08002987650 if you need any more help or if you wish to order the booklets you can do so online or by calling 0845 458 3969.

    Good luck and remember NRAS is here to help.

  • Hi Maxine

    I was furious to read your post. You have had a lot of excellent advice here. But I take it you work for a local authority? They will have a disability policy - which they have by law to follow. The head teacher was very wrong saying you are not the same person they interviewed - doubt he/she is either after that amount of time. Just remember you have the law on your side. And the head teacher needs to be very very careful how he/she deals with this. Get your union involved as well. They have been amazing with me. Keep a diary of comments, and next time the head makes a comment make a note of it and let them know you are and you do not appreciate their attitude.

    Keep smiling hun :))

  • Thank you Fran. I am in contact with the union and we have a meeting next Wednesday with The Head and HR. Trouble is when she said all these awful things to me, there was only me and her in the room! I went to her asking for support and because I was saying that I could no longer do full time teacher cover she wasn't happy, so verbally attacked me! My word against hers though! I am going to fight my case, with the help of the Union because she now says that school can only support me in the short term, which you and I know this is totally unacceptable! Just need to find some strength from somewhere though to fight !!!

    Thanks again for your kind support xxxx

  • Hey Huni

    You have the support of everyone on here. The fact you are fighting it tells me you have a lot of strength. Depression and lack of confidence is a common symptom when you are first diagnosed. But the way you are dealing with this is commendable. When I met with my employer I printed of something I found on the internet explaining in laymans terms how RD made me feel. I actually saw the lightbulb of understanding go on. From what I can remember, it likened how you feel every day to flu symptoms, aching all over, extreme stiffness, feeling like you are not in control of the worse pain you ever experienced. When they understand that ask them to multiply it tenfold- thats how you feel. Good luck I will be with you in spirit to fight alongside you. Not to sound like a stuck record but you have the law on your side, and the head teacher will have no choice. One more thing, just because it was just a 1 on 1 meeting when she verbally attacked you doesnt mean you cant mention it. Keep smiling :))

  • Thank you so much Fran for your reply and support, it gives me great strength knowing that there are people out there who do genuinely care!

    I will have a look on the internet to see if I kind find that printout, it may make her actually understand ( I've got to try something as I'm sure she thinks I'm faking)!

    Its good to know you will be thinking of me when I have my meeting, and I will keep everything you have said in my mind!

    Thanks again x

  • Please don't give up your fight, ask your hubby to support you on this as its your career and alot of us our career is paramount in feeling use-full and productive. Its important to work if you can. It sounds like you and your doc were asking for modified hours.....that sounds like a very reasonable request!!! Its your employers problem to hire someone else to do the days you can not. I think this Head teacher simple doesnt want to be bothered with hiring another person......your request is very reasonable and Im pretty sure the Union will support you on this fully. Dont let them intimidate you or push you around, but always be polite and cautious, no matter who rude they may be.......this stuff they are doing are classic HR tactics to get someone to leave, they will try to make staying there unpleasant, hoping you will give up, they start by undermining you (the head teachers comments) .....if they see you not backing down, they will eventually concede, as you have the disability act/law on your side.....stay strong. I suspect you Hubbys comment to quit, is based on him not wanting to see you upset...tell him yes, you are upset, but you want to keep your job and need his support in the fight, I think once he knows your committed to your job, he will be in your corner.

  • Thank you for your comments, you are so right in everything you are saying to me. I am going to attend the meeting next week with my head held high as I have nothing to be ashamed of.

    I WILL find the strength from all of your support on here to fight my case!!

  • Hello,

    Make a record of all the discussion you hade so far, take all the documentation for the meeting.

    Please ask if you can take a friend to the meeting (not HR) to record the events.

    At the beginning of the meeting you can ask if you can record the meeting audio or video, you can do this on most phones. If you have time go to a CAB to get some helpful information to help you to prepare for the meeting. Keep cool, if any new words are used ask for explanation.

    Write down all the questions you want to ask and if you can write the answers as well.

    Have been in discussion with management/HR, it is very difficult.

    good luck.

  • many thanks for your advice, it's very much appreciated!

  • Hello

    You need to hold onto your job, it is important as if you work in the public service it could effect any pension rights you may have Below is what happened to me. You may not be entitled to this system, although it is rather nasty and things may have changed now Remember you need to be entitled to PIP ?? and you do not want to loose that if you leave voluntary.

    Generally there will be three Boards, generally they will not allow you to attend, The department Manager and her/His first line Supervisor will meet with your Union Rep to act as your friend and the OCT, They will need reports from your GP and will need too ask your permission to obtain that. The Organisation Doctor will deal with any medical problems you are suffering from and, He/She will ask to see you for a medical. and a report will be sent to the OCT and will be discussed in a restricted fashion. They should then try and offer you a alternative position, this will happen twice. You have to be very careful not to turn down the work and the only thing you can do is link the problem to your condition, not that you do not want that work. On the third meeting, that is when they decide your future with that department/Organisation.

    The meeting will take place three times. Then, they will decide to medically retire you, at that time you will leave your job and contact your GP who will issue with sick note normally for six months, You should then be able to get any Sickness Pension from your employer and of coarse PIP

    This what happened to me many years ago, although I do not know your condition you must not leave the position until they get rid of you. The employer will not want you to continue on with your work, and would expect you to leave on the day of the final decision. You will need to see the GP ASAP at that time. The Union should keep you right.

    The work Doctor will need to see you several times before the final decision and He will be in contact with your GP through this period.

    When this happened to me it was quite a long time ago, so things may have changed and of course you may not work for the public service and you may not be entitled to a pension or payment. Although if you leave on your own or you agree to leave you could loose benefits. They have to get rid of you and will need to possibly pay for lost holiday entitlements etc.

    With me it happened in 1988 and the pressure that I was put under was frightening. This system may not apply to you and if this is not so I will say sorry.

    There is to much to loose when this sort of thing is going on and pressure can be extreme.

  • Sorry I read you have already had your first meeting and they are having a second meeting next week.

    Technically the way this system works is when you have had the second meeting you only have one further meeting before dismissal. THAT IS A TOTAL OF THREE MEETINGS !!!!!!

    It is important if this is the system they are using they should have given you a medical by their doctor and also contacted your GP at least.

    If I am wrong, sorry, although you need to watch what they are up to

  • Hi

    Thank you for your support. I have been signed off work since 8th October and the meeting last week was a meeting in accordance with the Management of sickness absence. I think this is normal procedure, but not taking into account my disability. The meeting tomorrow is to discuss the effect my ongoing absence is having on the school, expectations in relation to my attendance at work, and my overall level of sickness absence!!!

    None of this mentions my disability, or how the school are going to support my disability....they quite clearly don't want me back!

    On the referral form to the School's occupational health, the HT stated that the school can only accommodate me in the short term, but not in the long term due to financial restrictions!

    Absolutely dreading what tomorrow will bring, I just hope I can keep it together....I will let you know!

    Many thanks for your advice X

  • You really need the advice of a friend, if your Union is not helping you will need legal advice.

    Get along to the CAB for advice or get an appointment with an occupational solicitor on a one off appointment, they can be free or reduced fee.

    Generally if they get rid of you without taking account of your disability you may need attend an employment tribunal for unfair dismisle

    One other way is go to the Job Shop and have words with the disability Worker they can help


  • Sorry I read you have already had your first meeting and they are having a second meeting next week.

    Technically the way this system works is when you have had the second meeting you only have one further meeting before dismissal. THAT IS A TOTAL OF THREE MEETINGS !!!!!!

    It is important if this is the system they are using they should have given you a medical by their doctor and also contacted your GP at least.

    If I am wrong, sorry, although you need to watch what they are up to

  • Do not resign although you most feel like telling them exactly what they can do with the job. Your employer/Head see you as a resource they are having to work around, its not personal. People who don't have RA cant imagine how it makes you feel the stress which can cause more problems. Its not personal its just management process. Remember you have a critical illness with no known cause or cure just drug intervention, which may help but wont cure you. Don't give up stay strong x

  • Don't resign you have a Doctors certificate and are covered under the Disability act.

    I am so surprised you had a Union Rep present when comments were made about displinary action, they should have nipped that in the bud instantly, but they will be a good witness unless they are on your staff and under the control of the Head, who sounds like a bully.

    I would send an unemotional short email saying how shocked you were with the meeting, specifically the reference to displinary action, ask for a copy of the notes from the meeting and a copy of their employer's internal grievance procedure with form as you are considering making one. Copy in all the people at the meeting and your bosses boss. Maybe get another Union Rep who is not on the team of staff! You may not want to go forward with the grievance, but it may stop your Boss from being so insensitive to your emotional state at future meetings. Good luck x

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