Stress work and a formal warning

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I found dad being put into nursing care very stressful. I was advised to get signed off work and my doctor signed me off for a month. I already had two small absences on my record and so I triggered a warning on my record as my employer uses something called the Bradford Score.
I had a meeting with occupational health which was fine and I am now going to be getting some counselling, but I have now received a formal warning for my absence.
I am not at immediate risk of losing my job but I am upset that this is now on my record and could be used against me if I were to need time off work due to illness.
I have 14 days to appeal and I am thinking of doing this as I'm sure I am not the only carer in my organisation that this will happen to.
Deborah, hi - I have to say I find your post disturbing. If you have been off sick, you have been off sick (ie, certified by a doctor), and that your sickness is stress, is surely 'irrelevant'. You've been 'off sick' with stress just as much as you would have been 'off sick' with pneumonia!!

So how on EARTH can an employer give any kind of 'formal warning'??? It seems to me to be utterly absurd!

However, be that as it may, one of the things I've read on this forum, which MAY apply in your circumstances, is something that is called 'disabled by association'. Now, I've only read it here, and hopefully those here who know a great deal more about it than I do, will be here shortly to elaborate/explain, BUT, it could be that IF IF IF your father is regarded as 'disabled' (eg by his need for nursing care now??), THEN it could be that YOU have become 'disabled by association' (ie, that you had to care for your dad)..

IF that is so, then MAYBE the following applies (taken from Wiki!) (I'd never heard of the Bradford Score before - Wiki says, an I'm not in the least surprised, that it's controversial!!!!)


"The British Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and 2005 (DDA), (replaced by the Equality Act 2010) creates a duty on employers to tailor their actions to the individual circumstances of disabled employees. As certain disabilities may lead to a greater likelihood of short-duration absences or to a higher total of days of absence, caution is needed in taking action as a consequence of the data generated from the application of the Bradford Factor. The DDA allows disabled employees to request 'reasonable adjustments' in situations where they are disadvantaged by generic processes. Failure to provide these reasonable adjustments, or to adequately justify why they cannot be provided, may leave the employer open to civil action for breach of the DDA in an Employment Tribunal. Reasonable adjustments in the case of the Bradford Factor might include recording Disability-Related Absence separately from Sickness Absence, or individually tailoring targets. Reasonable adjustments may also be requested by disabled employees for relief from any negative consequences of application of the Bradford Factor, such as disciplinary action or reduced salary awards"

However, even if none of this applies, may I recommend that you urgently get in touch with whatever union is appropriate for your job (and there is always one - even if it's the 'catch all' union, Unison!), and if you are not a member, join immediately, and immediately get them 'on the case' on your behalf.

I was a member of a union when I was made redundant some years ago, and it promptly repaid every penny in union dues that I'd ever paid in - they gave me a representative to sit in at all my meetings with HR/management, and negotiated a redundancy deal on my behalf that I was very comfortable with. What reassured me most was that the rep was just as knowledgeable about employment law as the HR department, unlike me, who knew zilch, and I felt very strongly that it 'levelled the playing field'. It assured me that MY interests were being met by MY representative, who acted very much as a defence lawyer would!

I wish you all the very best. It seems so bitterly ironic that now, BECAUSE your dad is in nursing care finally, and being looked after by someone else, not you, that that means that you are free to go back to being a fully functioning employee. So the very LAST thing you need now is any damn hassle from your workplace!

As I say, I hope others will be here soon, and don't forget it may also be the best thing to email the experts at Carers UK helpline directly (don't phone is the recommendation, but email, as the response will be faster and more reliable than the phone line which apparently gets very busy!)

Good luck with it all, and definitely take the counselling. I know just how stressful it can be - my MIL's wonderful care home has just informed me she is being expelled for constantly trying to escape (they are not a secure unit) so she has to go to a grim, bleak place with a secure unit, and it's gutting me. She's brought it on herself but of course has no idea at all that this is so (severe dementia), and I am beating myself up about it and trying to find a nicer place for her, but so far nothing, etc etc etc. Just when I thought she was settled 'for good' in a lovely home, here she is 'homeless' again, causing me problems again, and my stress levels are soaring yet again......no one who hasn't gone through this awfulness really understands how stressful it is to have to be the 'guardian' of what I call an 'elder toddler' whose quality of life is sinking all the time......
Hi Deborah- You have my sympathy. I worked somewhere using the "Bradford Factor" , I had one day off for a cold, a couple of days off for caring related issues, a week off due to symptoms later needing surgery, a week off following exploratory surgery and then 3 months off for abdominal hysterectomy and oopherectomy. I got a warning letter in writing to and it was one of several straws that broke the camels back so I left- great decision, wish I had done it before. They gave me the verbal spiel about realising there were reasons behind my absence and not to worry but still sent the disciplinary letter! I took some satisfaction in leaving being able to say I was leaving to care plus going part time.
No job is worth getting that stewed up over. We always feel tied into a job but we have choices and freedoms so say what you want to with your feet.
Even if you chose to stay and fight there would leave a very bitter taste left in your mouth, no loyalty or respect for your employer, so not much fun all round.
My jaw's falling open, it really is. How can ANY employer 'warn' employees who have sick leave because of health problems? How can they? It's absolutely disgraceful! I can understand that there can be abuse of sick leave, that there are staff who pull just enough sickies, on Fridays, around bank holidays, during Wimbledon or whatever, and that ABUSE needs disciplining. But how on earth do you justify disciplining someone with ill health! Surely to god that is discriminatory??!!

I'd love to hear what unions think of this. They must be outraged, and rightly so!
It's true Jenny. Birmingham City Council do back to work interviews and on the 3rd one you get a warning. It can be very scary and I've known people practically crawl into work for fear of repercussions. Some know how to play the game however. The employers have to try to find a solution. Some do,to be fair. This came about because certain staff seemed to abuse the sickness policy.
Well, I'm genuinely shocked and appalled. What if you've had an operation, like Henrietta, or worse, have had treatment for say cancer, or a heart attack? I really am appalled that the unions haven't hammered employers over this harassment - because it does come across like harassment quite definitely!
Just composed a reply then lost it not sure where it went but I will try again! :roll:
Thank you for your replies I really appreciate it that other people are as appalled as I am.
The letter I received was horrible and a standard letter which states that my sickness absence record has fallen below the standard expected. There is no acknowledgement of my explanation of my absences or the outcome of my occupational health meeting and in fact the letter actually suggests they may contact occupational health! They tell me that my absence is not discountable however my manager obviously thought it should be as she went to great lengths to tell me she had contacted HR on my behalf.
I shall be appealing and I will be looking into the legislation to see if it applies and if it doesn't I will be suggesting that reasonable adjustment for carer should include stress as a discountable illness in their policy.
I have contacted Unison the chap wasn't as enthusiastic as I thought he might have been but he said yes write your appeal letter as you have nothing to lose and I will come to any meetings but I'm not available for the next two weeks.
As for dad he has spent more time in hospital than at the home. The home isn't the best despite having good cqc report. On one of dads admissions to hospital he was reported a concern because of pressure sores which I believe were made worse as a result of sitting in a transit wheelchair without a pressure cushion all day. Eventually I lost it with the home and kicked up things did improve but I find visiting dad at the nursing home stressful.
Tomorrow I have to take more time off at short notice (annual leave!) for a meeting at the hospital because they say he is medically fit for discharge. I am not so sure and I think if they discharge him he will be back there again in no time and the home isn't up to caring for him. So although he is in nursing care I am still not a fully functioning employee although work is usually a welcome break from all the other stuff.
Sorry to hear your Unison rep is so unenthusiastic. I guess it calls into questions the function of the unions at all - they do seem to be extremely spineless these days overall (or maybe have been continually disempowered, I don't know)(eg, they don't seem to do anything about all the nightmare 'slave labour' of immigrants etc etc et, or zero hours).

Anyway, in practical terms, may limit the expenditure of energy on this, and focus on what is important, ie, your dad's care and YOUR sanity.

Re discharge from hospital - I understand from this site that there is something called 'unsafe discharge' which they are not allowed to do, and hopefully someone who knows more will be here to explain that. However, if your dad is being discharged back to his nursing home, that may make it more complicated for you to object/complain? Do the home think they are unable to care for him properly if he's discharged now, or is that just your opinion of them? If the former, they should 'object' to an unsafe discharge, but if it's 'only you' then the hospital may not have to listen to you???? (ie, they may say 'sort it with the nursing home, not us'!!???)

May I say, stepping back a little from this current crisis, that it may be time for you to take an hour or so 'time out' to think through a strategy for the coming time. When we are carers we usually are 'fire fighters' - we are so busy and overwhelmed responding to the immediate situation, whatever it is, to be able to stand back and get a longer view.

So, putting it bluntly, how ill is your father, how long, to be horrible, is he likely to survive, will his health worsen gradually, or dramatically, what, in the end, is likely to 'carry him off' and when is that likely to happen? I know that sound harsh and unfeeling, but getting some kind of 'handle' on what to expect over the next year/two/three/five/ten years may help you 'plan ahead' both in terms of practical steps, and, perhaps more importantly, your own psychological response.

I think what the answer is may then determine how you respond to the rest of your life. For example, if, say, your father is unlikely to be here this time next year, you could take a very reasonable decision to dedicate this last year of his life to him, and 'put aside' everything else - that might mean, say, letting your horrible employers (or rather, their stupid Bradford Score) do what the hell they want, you will do the minimum you can get away with (because all they've achieved is to alienate you by their vile letter etc etc), and just 'tough it out' until your dad has died, and you are a 'free agent' again.......THEN you can think about job/career, whether you want to go on working there, or if there are options on leaving, etc etc.

BUT, if your dad's life expectancy is longer than a year, then maybe you DO need to 'tackle' your employers, and do the appeal, etc etc etc.

Did you say you have your manager 'onside'? I do hope so. Maybe they could write a letter both to you and their HP and more senior manager saying that you are a loyal, hardworking employee, and that they, personally, are standing by you at this stressful time, and that they value you, and know that when your father is either 'more settled' or 'no more' you will be back to giving a hundred percent, and that they value you more than they do stupid nit picking HR policies (because HR earn ZILCH for a company, and are a costly overhead, so there!)

Wishing you all the very best. I do find it appalling that after ALL the stress that caring brings, you now have the completely pointless stress caused by HR policies.
I agree Jenny. I know when I had a similar letter I had a reached a point where I needed to assess my own situation.
You get so swept up in fire fighting all day at work when you haven't been sleeping , and then get home and spend all evening fire fighting on the caring and domestic front , you fail to make time to sit down and think- where am I going, what are the alternatives, what help is available, who is being unreasonable, what am I doing that isn't necessary, how can I fit in me to time to destress and much more besides.
Despite the flipping "Bradford Factor" I would take a days sick leave, go and find somewhere quiet with a pen and paper and think "Out of the box" about life choices.
Wise advise! So often (in life in general) there are no easy answers, and certainly very few risk-free solutions, and there's nearly always a downside or a price to pay.

I'm always reminded of what I believe is an old Spanish proverb: "Take what you want, says God. Take it and pay for it."

What strikes me as particularly cruel about the Bradford Score is that at a time when one is bound to be very low, because of the stress/illness that made you have to take time off work, it then comes along and puts the boot in!

I sincerely believe that the ONLY response a 'good' employee will have is to make them think 'oh, so you then!' and either do a ruthless clock-watching work to rule, and do the least work possible, or they will just vote with their feet and leave.

I genuinely cannot understand why it's used in any cases other than for when abuse is suspected.

Time and time again, good management (ie, supporting staff!) nearly always 'pays off' for an organisation. When I worked part time as a new mum, I was supremely conscientious and appreciative, and I truly believe they got more out of me than my part time working hours were being paid for. A supportive manager, and a supportive employer, nearly always gets more out of their staff than they are strictly paying for.

You can't put a price on loyalty - but it would only take one wretched little warning letter on the Bradford score front to make me immediately 'disloyal'!