Due to restructuring I’ve been the only secretary (out of ten) left without a full-time position. I’ve been told that my job is to be changed whether I like it or not and whether I wish to do a switchboard job for four days a week or not this is what I will be doing. I will have the same salary. I cannot do this job due to mobility and hearing disabilities. All of my colleagues are more able to do the switchboard job as they don’t have my disabilities, but in the restructure it is me that has been left without the full-time job and I am told I need my job padded out. I’ve explained my health problems and so has my GP. I’m currently on sick leave with work-related stress. Can they force me to do this new job? I should mention when I advised I had health problems they indicated (quite strongly) that if I couldn’t do it I would be dismissed. I was also told as a secretary uses a phone if I could not do a switchboard and reception job they would have to consider if I could do my current job. I can do the full remit of my current job as my colleagues and people I deal with by phone know I’ve got hearing problems. I do not deal with the general public in my current job. Please help me with advice as I know I’m doomed to fail and will be dismissed. I realise I no longer have a full-time position due to restructure within my company. Can I ask for redundancy which is preferable to the difficulties I will encounter with mobility and hearing disabilities?
If there was any unfairness in the selection of the 10 secretaries, which led to you being the only secretary without a full-time role, you may wish to consider appealing against that decision or filing a grievance about this. That is, if you can demonstrate that you were more suitable for a full-time role in the new structure than any of the other secretaries selected.
In addition, if there was anything in the selection process which caused you to be at a substantial disadvantage because of your mobility and hearing difficulties, you may also wish to appeal or raise a grievance about this.
From what you have said, you have been allocated a role which entails operating a switchboard for four days a week. If you have not already done so, you should discuss with your employer whether there are any adjustments which can be made to your new role to enable you to perform it. You should also ask your GP to prepare a letter which states the nature of your hearing and mobility conditions, how these affect your ability to carry out normal day-to-day functions, including your new role, how long these conditions have lasted and are likely to last and whether there are any adjustments your employer can make to your role so that you are not substantially disadvantaged when you perform your new role. Your employer may prefer a consultant’s report so if you are able to obtain a consultant’s report you should endeavour to do so.
Alternatively, if you have reached the point when you simply wish to leave, you should discuss your concerns about the new role, your medical conditions, the absence of any adjustments to your new role and your belief that the new role is therefore not suitable for you, with a view to encouraging your employer to offer you a redundancy package. This is a matter for negotiation.
If your employer does dismiss you, I recommend that you immediately seek specialist Employment Law advice to determine whether you have disability discrimination and unfair dismissal claims. These must be notified to ACAS within three months of any dismissal.