I’ve Joined the Ranks of the Unemployed
As you know, I was at yet another Occupational Health assessment about three weeks ago. I haven’t bothered to detail it as I knew it would feed into this inevitable post.
It was a different doctor from the two I’ve seen before; he wasn’t quite as nice as the bloke from last time (who was an absolute dote), but having said that, he was pleasant, courteous and competent. Most of all, I was impressed with the fact that he did not in any way try to bullshit me.
Basically, after discussing the recent medication increase and the probability that I would need to be further medicated in the near future, he said it would really be impossible for me to return to the workplace before at least January – and that even at that point it would be uncertain.
He had received a fax from my employers just before I went in. He was (gratifyingly) frank with me about its content; reading between the lines, he said, it sounded highly probable that the office felt that if I could not imminently return, that they would have no choice but to terminate my contract. The physician told me that he had seen a number of individuals with conditions like mine being successful in employment once they had found some sense of stability – but he said that in my case (if stability is ever attained), regrettably, he doubted employment would continue with this organisation. It wasn’t an entirely unexpected revelation to be honest. I’ve been off for some time, and I am very surprised my employers tolerated it for as long as they did.
So, resigned to the fact that dismissal on the grounds of incapacity was imminent, I went home and waited for the Horse, or another Personnel colleague, to get in touch.
As is the wont of the Horse, she did keep me waiting. I finally heard from her last week, requesting a meeting the following day. I responded in the negative – I mean, the next day is just fucking ridiculous. I didn’t give her any particular reason for turning down her ever-thoughtful invitation, as she had suggested an alternative date – and that date turned out to be today.
I agreed to the meeting scheduled for today, and asked them to meet me at my mother’s house. The reason for this was three-fold. (1) I needed moral support, and since I tend to go to my mother’s at least once a week anyway, why not do it there (it also had the satisfying side effect of making them drive from the other side of town, whereas my house is literally one minute’s drive, or 10 minute’s walk, away). (2) I did not want the Horse to contaminate my house. (3) Even if I could have tolerated said contamination, it would have meant having to clean and tidy the fucking house, and that simply isn’t an option. Bollocks to that shit.
Last night, I was fully expecting to be terrified about the meeting. Having literally not slept for about five days (and, obviously, nights), as this is my week off my most-cherished sleeping pills, I downed three Diazepam before bed. In the past, they have not had the effect of sedating me, merely calming me down if anxious (which, oddly, I wasn’t especially at that point, but it was my own interpretation of C’s eternal bleating about taking action before things escalate to the point of madness). However, I actually slept really quite well. I measured out Valium to bring with me today to take in advance of the meeting, in part because I felt it may well be necessary to calm me, and in part as I was feeling sardonically cruel and wanted to freak the two of them out. I had delightfully twisted visions of giving them the 1,00o yard stare a la the scene in the film of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest where Jack Nicholson’s character, McMurphy, returns to the psychiatric ward after his lobotomy. I thought that might be amusing to emulate.
Anyway. I was in surprisingly self-assured form by the time I got to my mother’s early this afternoon. I remember texting another colleague with whom I am still in regular touch telling him that I was ready to take them on, feeling as I did rather confrontational. Despite this, I pre-emptively ingested the pre-prepared Valium, ironically knocking it back with an energy drink.
Perhaps this wasn’t such a good move after all. Despite the caffeine, it did sort of sedate me slightly, which was not what it was intended. Perhaps I am coming less tolerant to it as I lose weight? Who knows. Who cares? For its main functions, it works – and that’s the main thing.
Anyhow, up they showed. I was firmly expecting there to be an awkwardness as they walked in and took their seats; I have not been especially friendly in my email correspondence with the Horse, and I hadn’t spoke to my boss at all since February. But to my surprised gratification, there was no real frisson; they just sat down and got on with it.
The long and the short of it was exactly as expected. Were I able to return in a month or so, they would probably hold the position open, but since it’s likely to be at least January, that’s simply not viable for them. I can and do accept that. It is not unreasonable on their part.
I did tell them that I was in an awkward position in many ways, as VCB had consistently fucked about with my psychiatric appointments (blah, blah and blah), thus meaning that although psychotherapy is progressing in whatever nebulous way, that medication to stabilise me in order to aid that process has been completely cocked about. I said if VCB had seen me as she was supposed to have done, that there was a chance I would have been able to return next month. I’m not saying that’s a probability, but it was a possibility. In part, I hold VCB responsible for this, the negligent, incompetent bitch.
I shrugged at them. “But that isn’t your problem,” I admitted.
My boss, bless her, lamented the way the NHS seems to so often twat about with unseen illnesses such as those of the mind. She didn’t go into detail about the personnel concerned, but it was clear from what she said that I am not the first person she knows to have been put in a position of this nature. Epic fail, NHS.
They asked had I any queries. I did. One was that, although I fully appreciated that they would need to acknowledge the long-term absence on any future reference, I wanted reassurances from them that otherwise the reference would be identical to what it would have been had I been seeking it before I went off ill. The Equine One was quite evasive about this – “we will report the facts” – but my boss, although she didn’t really speak, nodded quite emphatically and judging by her facial expression is more than happy to give me a reference reflective of my many hours of hard work (which frankly so often went above and beyond what was required of me, not that they always noticed that, as earlier blog rants on this subject should attest). She had earlier made some reference to the fact that I had been a hard and effective worker, so I suppose that’s encouraging.
I then asked, admitting that it was a bit cheeky, if they would pay me for the annual leave that had accrued in my absence. I made them quite aware of the fact that I was familiar with this piece of European case law on the subject. Horsey said that I would get my leave as per the case (though she said for ‘last year’, which is a possibly ambiguous statement, as I don’t know what ‘last year’ actually means. Leave year? The whole year? My understanding of the case is that all leave accrued should be reimbursed. But I’ll examine it more and address it as needs be). She also said that I would be paid in lieu of notice – she couldn’t remember whether my notice period was one month or two, but said she would check.
This is awkward. I know that it is meant to be two. However, I initially worked for them in a part-time role, in a slightly different capacity which only required one month’s notice. When I was successful in my application for the full-time job, I was never given a new contract to sign. A tells me that because I was doing the job for some time that that amounts to an implied or verbal contract, and therefore the terms and conditions of it should be applicable, but frankly I don’t know that Horse has a baldy notion what the hell she’s doing. Still, again, this is something I can address should it come to it, as Horse is going to send me all the relevant details out by the end of the week.
I have no idea why, but I simply didn’t think about the lieu of notice issue. Therefore, that came as a bonus. It will pay for A’s birthday present, some drivel for the million strong brood of extended fuckwit familial individuals vis a vis (the much accursed) Christmas, and some spending money when A, our mate and I head over to Newcastle-upon-Tyne just before said accursed Christmas for the derby match against Middlesbrough. Result!
My ma chimed in after this. She said, “would anything prevent SI applying back to [the organisation] in the future?” She turned to me to gauge my reaction, which was one of irritation. At least she had the grace to blush slightly.
My boss, again, emphatically nodded about this. Horse said that I certainly could, but in cases like this they do an OH screening before employment, which is something they’ve brought in since I was last there. That’s fair enough in my view. In the (probably unlikely) event that I did reapply to the place, I would certainly not be doing so before I and all my health professionals agreed that it was a prudent move, so I wouldn’t be concerned on that score. But there’s a lot of water under the bridge. I’m not sure it’s tremendously likely.
The formalities out of the way, my mother invited them to chat to me. In the end this was what took up the most time; they updated me on all the comings and goings from the office – who was on holiday, who’d left, who’d arrived, even one that had died (unfortunately one of the nice ones). My boss talked a bit about her family, with whom I’m moderately familiar, and I even found myself engaging with the conversation more than I expected to do.
When they were finally leaving, the Horse went on out but my boss turned to hug me and shake my mother’s hand. She said that we must go out for coffee soon. I agreed to contact her re: same. When I reported this to A later, he reckoned it would never transpire, but I’m inclined to think it probably will. I know I have done an awful lot of whinging about work on this blog, including critical remarks aimed at my boss, but one thing I do believe is that she is a genuinely nice woman – just a really shite manager. I have no problem remaining in contact with her outside the workplace; I’ll just be glad that she’s no longer in charge of me!
Mum said to me later that they were both very nice and she couldn’t understand why I had so much of a problem with the Horse. Of course, this was all part of the point of having someone with me at the meeting. The last time I saw Horse in person she looked at and spoke to me as if I were something in which she had trodden. Her correspondence since has been of a similar ilk, and its patronising tones have infuriated me. It was my belief that if I had someone else there to defend me as needs be, that the Horse would be unable to behave in her trademark cuntified way. And so it proved – either that or she’s had a personality transplant. My suspicion is simply that she was on her best behaviour.
So, how do I feel about it all? My boss asked me that during the conversation. My honestly held view is that it’s simply a fucking relief not to have to worry about it anymore. Everything had become so drawn out and it was all inevitably going to end this way, so best just to get it over and done with. I was worried about what would happen if I did go back; I was worried about dealing with the Horse more if I didn’t go back; I was worried about more OH appointments; blah yadda etc. The stress of not having the situation sorted certainly wasn’t helping me in a bid to regain some semblance of sanity.
Of course, it is sad; I’d be a liar if I denied that. In many ways, they weren’t all that bad to work for; whilst I was utterly taken for granted, that happens to a greater or lesser extent in any job. The work itself, whilst (if I may be so arrogant) it was beneath my station, was still more interesting and ‘challenging’ than all the jobs I’d had prior to it. I had my own office (though later I got an assistant who moved in with me). Leave wasn’t fabulous, but there were other decent benefits such as flexi-time. Above all, with maybe one exception, I got on very well with all of my immediate colleagues (ie. those in my department) and most in the rest of the office and the outlying sites at large.
It’s also unfortunate that I will have to declare to any future employer that I was dismissed due to illness, but I figure I can bullshit my way around that with relative ease. I needed time to really sort my head out, and it was best for my employers to let me go and give me the requisite time to do that or some such brainless arse. I do have a couple of books lying about on interview techniques which cover difficult areas like this, so when I’m mentally capable, I’ll work something out.
So, in summary – yes, this is disappointing, and yes, it’s sad because among bad memories there were also many good ones of my now-former job. But the office have to put themselves first, and I have to put myself first. Since the twain were not going to meet within any reasonable timeframe, this was the only workable outcome, and at the end of the day, it’s a burden off my shoulders.
Now I can try and focus on removing all the others.
[NB. Any references to this meeting that said ‘today’ should now read ‘tomorrow’. I was writing this before and after midnight.]