Potentially losing my job due to sickness

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greenlily | 16:35 Mon 07th May 2012 | Jobs & Education
13 Answers
Hi, I'm hoping for some advice, please.
I was diagnosed about 18 months ago with lupus, and have recently acquired rheumatoid arthritis. I haven't yet had to take any time off work, but I'm aware that I probably will need to in the future if I have a 'flare'. The lupus 'brain fog' also means that I find it very hard to concentrate, and affects my short-term memory, and this has an impact on how long it takes me to complete tasks. Nothing's been said to me about the quality of my work, but I myself know that I'm not working as quickly or as well as I used to.
I have a good job, and am hoping to keep it - particularly since I have a mortgage to pay (I live alone, so can't rely on anyone else's income).
My question is - should my workplace eventually decide to 'let me go' based on my illness - would I be entitled to anything (sorry to sound grasping, but I mean financially!) from them? I'm guessing not, but am clutching at every straw I can in preparation!
Thanks in advance for any help/advice :)


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I have inflammatory arthritis and secondary fibromyalgia (and menieres) and am currently undergoing tests for possible lupus (malar rash, frequent infections and other things). Things have changed dramatically for me over the last few years especially, I can't imagine doing some of the jobs/hours I've done previously.

My employers have been...
19:00 Tue 08th May 2012
If they dismiss you for incapability they would have to pay you for your notice period, nothing more.
If you are in the pension scheme though you may be able to apply for ill-health retirement.
There should of course be an entitlement to state benefits
Why don't you contact Citizens Advice and see what they can offer . Similarly, The Ministry of Justice - the tribunal service side of it.
Have you discussed this with your employer. If not why not ask to have a chat about your situation, they may be willing to make some allowances for your health even if it means offering you another job that you could cope with as your health deteriorates. Do not assume that you will automatically lose your job. You do not say how old you are but if you have built up a reasonable pension with your Company ill health retirement would be an option, maybe also subsidised with an easier part time job.
good advice above, I would certainly start by discussing it with my HR focal point and Line Manager - taking outide advice on your rights may be useful as well.........
Also you could phone ACAS.
does your company have a occupational health dept?

they should help you renegotiate your hours etc!

have you given your medical treatment a chance yet?
Question Author
Hi all, thanks so much for such quick responses, I'll try to answer some of your questions.
I'm 41 and have been working since I was 16 - although only nine years with this organisation. I don't have a pension, and have only told my direct manager about my diagnosis so far - I haven't spoken to OH or HR as yet. I'd like to either work fewer hours or change role, particularly since I'm supposed to avoid stress, but (and this is silly, I know) I don't want to make too much of a fuss, or make it difficult for the work to be done. I'm the only person who does my job, so it would be hard to spread the load.
I think I've given my meds a chance to work - they're supposed to work within 5 months, and I've been taking them for about 10 months. There are stronger alternatives to the meds I'm on though - they started me off lightly! I'm also changing my diet to avoid foods that cause inflammation (fingers crossed it makes a difference).
I really hope that I can continue working in some capacity, but it's useful to know that they would pay me for my notice period at least.
I assume that I would need to contact the CAB and ACAS at the time that 'things get worse' rather than now?
Apologies for the long messages, i do tend to go on! :)
It is commendable to start preparing now
I have first hand experience of Lupus and it can be a horrible thing to have but, with the right treatment, a perfectly normal life can be led
It might be prudent to contact ACAS and/or CaB purely to discover your rights to reduce hours and/or change positions, they are not there just for bad time but also to assist in good ones
If I were you I think I would certainly look at whether my mortgage can be paid in full should I lose my job - are you insured for ill health unemployment for example?
Good luck!
Question Author
ojread2 - thanks so much for your message, it's good to hear from someone who's aware of what lupus actually means on a day-to-day basis.
I have a feeling that I didn't take out extra insurance for my mortgage (trying to save money - ahh, hindsight), but I'll check.
Thanks so much again, everyone, for taking the time to respond, I appreciate it.
All the best,
you definitely need to get occupational health involved. If you are assessed as disabled then your rights greatly increase and your employer needs to make reasonable adjustments hence why Occupational Health need to be involved.

It may not be what you want to do but it will give you many more rights. Also CAB will help you withe mployment rights
I have inflammatory arthritis and secondary fibromyalgia (and menieres) and am currently undergoing tests for possible lupus (malar rash, frequent infections and other things). Things have changed dramatically for me over the last few years especially, I can't imagine doing some of the jobs/hours I've done previously.

My employers have been great about the arthritis. I know what you mean about worrying about making a fuss, I had to have an occupational health review before being taken on direct (from agency) and I was quite defensive as I was worrying they would try and stop me getting the job direct but it was really helpful as it recommended things like a proper DSE assessment to make sure I was comfortable and rest breaks etc... It also said I would be likely to come under disability legislation with at least two conditions.

I have a variety of things to make things easier, a wrist rest and I use wrist supports when I need them, a document holder and they have helped make sure I get a comfortable chair I can adjust and I can get up and have rest breaks when I can move and stretch.

I'm encouraged to get people to help me when I need it (eg picking up heavy things or bending down) but I'm still rubbish at that but find people are only too happy to help when I do ask and some just do it automatically for me if they know I'm bad. I am pretty honest and open about things so people know what is going on. I find it helps people understand more as so many people just don't realise what some things entail, you mention arthritis and they think you have say one joint that hurts if you aggravate it rather than how it is.

I worry about potential time off as I've recently had time with an infected gallbladder, meaning a week in hospital, and then the operation and recovery itself and three days when the immunosuppressants I was on for my arthritis knocked me flat and made me ill. I feel awful about having any of it off, not that it could be helped, and it puts pressure on me if I needed any more. Luckily I have holidays to use and we have a flexitime system so I can work more when I'm not feeling so bad and have a shorter days or take a holiday for a shorter week (and like when I had a bad cold a couple of weeks ago) when I'm in a lot of pain or more exhausted.

There are possibilities such as part time working or job sharing but I just couldn't afford it, I struggle enough on the full time wage I'm on at the moment.

I try to book appointments I can (physio, blood screening, GP) really early or late to fit in with this so I don't have to take them as "leave" as such.

Another thought is asking your rhumatology department if they have services which could help. My one has patient education mornings and I'm trying to get on one where they have specialist nurses, physios and occupational therapists who give info and advice and so you can meet others with similar conditions.

Has your workplace expressed any concerns?
If you are classified as disabled then your work should be trying to help you rather than ease you out, IMO.
Question Author
Oh wow, I'm so sorry, I didn't realise that there had been more answers (I'm sure that answers used to be sent to my email address - has that stopped happening?).
Jenna, I wouldn't wish an autoimmune system illness on anyone, but it's good to know there's someone else out there who's going through similar, you've been so much help here. I think I need to 'out myself' with my colleagues before I speak to OH about adjustments - they might think I'm getting preferential treatment otherwise! :)
I hope you're a lot better now after your op - have you heard back re your tests? It sounds as though your work is very supportive, hopefully mine will be too - I'd like to carry on working for as long as I can (maybe until I retire, you never know!). I'd like to go part-time but like you, I just can't afford to.
That's a great idea about possible services through the rheumotologist, I hadn't thought of that, it would be great to speak to others with the same illnesses (I also have Sjogren's, grrrrr...).

boxtops - thanks for your answer - I'm hoping that they'll be helpful!

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