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Verbal warning re sick leave !!! Can you help?

SueDSSueD Posts: 545
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:44 AM in Lower Back Pain
This lower back pain (and associated problems) is doing my head in!

I was told today at work that I will be having an interview in 2 weeks due to reaching the 'trigger points' for absence because of sickness. It seems I've had 3 separate episodes off within 2 months, hence the verbal warning I'm going to get. Total days off are 5 since January. Although each time I have written the [different] cause of time off, to be honest, it's either related to back pain or the side-effects from the medications I'm taking (I won't go into detail because you might be eating your tea and it'll put you off!!).

I'm on the waiting list for a 2-level PLIF (which may be done July/August/September I don't know) and if I can just hang on till mid-July, then the school Summer holiday starts for 6 weeks. They are aware of my impending surgery, but there's not much I can do to stop lbp apart from taking stronger doses of morphine patches/solution - but that would mean I can't concentrate, will make mistakes and would feel like falling asleep all the time - either way, I just feel that for every step I take forward, I move back two! Do you know what I mean?

I need my job - my hubby and I just barely scrape through each month after paying all the bills (which of course only go up). The only answer I can see is to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING at the weekends and evenings to be positive of being fit enough to work. But as you know yourselves, just bending to put on your shoes/tie your laces can give you painful 'twinges' some days.

I know they cannot sack me (but this is the first stage in their absence policy). With all the talk about the Government cut-backs in spending here in the UK, I feel very vulnerable at the moment and am worried about the possibility of losing my job at some point in the future as the schools I work for are run by the State. I would also mention that the subject I teach is NOT part of the National Curriculum - in fact, I'm not even qualified to 'teach' as such, but that's a different story!

I suppose some of you with chronic pain will have gone through similar situations before. Have you got any advice for me? Should I be asking to see their Occupational Health Team, or would this just give them more fuel to burn me with?

By the way - when I completed the application form for this job I did confirm that I DID consider myself to be disabled (even though it goes against the grain). I was surprised when they passed me fit for work without having an occupational health appointment first. I completed their health questionnaire truthfully and I told them about the facet joint and epidural injections I've had on my spine over the last 2 years, but they didn't flag this up for further investigation to ensure I was fit for work - perhaps they should have done.

Any advice you can give me would be useful as 'forearmed' is forewarned in my opinion.

Thanks alot

2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!


  • My thoughts...
    1 - pull up your work's employee policy. From what you are saying, it doesn't seem like you are missing much.

    2 - be prepared to talk to them about filing a disability claim. It doesn't not mean you are on disability but by having a claim (esp. if you are waiting for a PLIF) will invoke FMLA protective rules. The federal government (in USA) will protect your job I think 12 weeks (in my state it is actually 16). I didn't want to file a claim b/c I figured, why bother. My HR manager told me why. She said technically I had been working with a disability for 5 months (Aug - Jan) and if my performance started going down, it may be reason for them to lay me off or terminate me. By filing disability, I was protected b/c
    a) they have to make reasonable accommodations for me
    b) if I take more than the employee policy (in my company you cannot take more than 5 consecutive sick days without filing disability or having medical proof.

    What did this do for me?
    - it was a hastle but it protected me so that when I take sick days, I call up disability and notify them it's related to my back. They can note the reason.
    As long as I stay within my 20 sick days, no worries. If I go over them, I can still get paid by Short Term disability.
    - It's on record that I have a disability which puts my employer in the seat of having to prove they are working with me to ensure I keep my job.

    It allowed me to return to work part time through an agreement (since I'm salaried and put in so many hours, I was able to work part time for 2 weeks and still be counted as full time employee), it allowed me to work out a flexible arrangement for days in office, it allowed me to get special ergonomic assessment which came with special standing workstation and special chair, it allows me to tell them find a chair that works for me if I don't like the special one they gave to find one that does work, etc. Basically it protects me as best possible.

    On the flip side, I do understand that if I'm out of office more than 16 weeks in a given 365 day period, then they have the right to end employment but until then I'm protected.
  • Only 5 days sick days in 5 months? I think companies allow one sick day a month. But not sure if that's for every job. I can't see that that should be a problem. Honestly it urks me when people go into work sick and with a cold to give to everyone else. It's all because the company never allows enough sick days when you're really sick. I hope all works out well for you and get your surgery soon. Best wishes for the meeting and hope they understand your need for those days you were off. Sending positive vibes and prayers your way. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Im in the uk, and work for the nhs as a nurse. Prior to being off with my surgery last december, I had had 4 periods of sickness in 8 months.
    We have the same policy in which 3 occasions in 6 months or 4 in 12 months triggers a meeting.

    It doesnt matter if you have 1 day or 6 weeks etc, its each individual episode.

    I had an accident at work which super advanced my back problems.I stated also on the occy health forms on job start about back aches etc. My manager has been very supportive and told me she knew my absences couldnt be helped.

    Occy health are there to support you, not for your employer to have fuel for the fire. But to be honest as you are waiting surgery, there is not much they can do, but it would do you no harm informing them of the imminent op.

    Do you have a union where you could get advice?

    L5/s1 discectomy & decompression 2009
    ALIF l5/s1 2011
    Awaiting X-ray & consultant to see if fused, but experiencing a lot of pain again :( 2013
  • Ta very much for your replies.

    I am in a Union and they have been helpful when my surgery was scheduled with a new consultant for 22 June (and gave me very good advice 'off the record'). However, I'm not having surgery on that date now as I've asked to revert back to the waiting list of my first consultant. Long story!!! My surgery may take place in July sometime.

    Perhaps, as you say, Glassback (what a strange name?), I will ask for a Occy Health referral because they at least have all my records from when I was employed with the Authority before this job. At least I'll be looking as if I'm playing the game (and, more importantly, being up front with everything - which I am anyway).

    It's such a difficult time (as it must be for loads of people), worrying about finances, worrying about surgery, worrying about 'what if I don't recover in time to get back to work before the money runs out' etc. etc.

    There's loads of pressure on us, who are contemplating surgery of some sort, how it will affect our families/relationships, whether we'll even be fit enough to continue in the same job, without all the worry of the surgery itself! Sometimes I feel like shutting myself in, closing the curtains and staying there so that I don't have to make decisions. Oh dear me, I sound so depressed - I'm not really, I'm usually a positive person who, with my faith in the 'man upstairs' believes that he won't send me anything that I can't handle - but boy oh boy, I'm so being tested at the moment.

    I'll be glad when the surgery is over and I can look forward (please G-d) to a future with less back/leg pain, less/no medication, stability in my spine and to make choices for myself without the need to continuously think if it will hurt my back and render me unable to work. I need to get a life, I'm sure work isn't the be all and end all of my existence - but it does seem like it these days.

    There I go again, rambling! Sorry about that, but I think you get the gist of my concerns. This is such a great forum to let off steam sometimes - it certainly helps to off load our anxieties. MY SINCERE THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO CONTRIBUTES TO IT!!!

    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
  • Hello Sue

    This is not your fault, you are being tainted in the notion of sick days on the basis that you have some control of your back pain when as we all know in reality you have very little over time. As you pertinently put it, keeping all you energy for employment is never easy and in an attempt to spread that definable capacity in all that you need to be doing is very difficult.

    It may well be that a closer relationship with the HR department and OT may enable your employer to cater to your specific needs when try as we might that normality is almost impossible.

    I worked for a national company and after continual and increasing surgery and recovery I seemed an ideal candidate for what they deemed “release” we surmise that we may be treated adequately and helped to continue employment in difficult and challenging circumstance and every case is an individual one.

    In knowledge of your condition your employer may be obliged to support you and not use the circumstance of you condition against you which would discriminate you from other individuals, you as many here are at that transitional stage when with hope and a fair wind future surgery will be effective and your sick record improve as a consequence.

    We wish you well and good luck.


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