Good afternoon my fellow aspies.
I would like to speak to you all regarding something that i feel very passionately about.
This would be the impact that Autism can have in the work place on a social level.
I personally have experienced a great deal of friction in this area and it has had a significant impact on my well being. These difficulties have been ignored by my employer. This is an absurdity to me as it was my employer that paid for my diagnosis. The truth is that i would never have pursued a diagnosis had it not been for the impact that my Autistic Spectrum Disorder (commonly known as Aspergers) has on my day to day working life.
The difficulties i experience are many but the issue i would like to focus on in particular are the social issues. In a nut shell 'i am come across as arrogant, aloof and lack a sense of hierarchy'. Throughout my working life i beleive this has made me a target for bullying and harassment in the work place. It has caused me to leave a number of jobs (admittedly i had not received my formal diagnosis at these times).
For various reasons not dissimilar to those that have materialised in other jobs, i am now in dispute with my current employer. The difference here is that i have had my diagnosis and this was paid for by my current employer. Bizarrely my employer is now denying my disability even though they paid for the diagnosis.
What i have found utterly shocking however throughout this situation is not simply the ignorance of my employer. It is also my experience with the organisation we all know as ACAS. This is an organisation i turned to in the hope that they would assist me in resolving issues with my current employer. How wrong i was. To any of you that experience issues in the work place; please be careful when dealing with this organisation.
It is my understanding that this organisation is supposed to be impartial. My experience so far has shown to me that they are entirely biased in favour of the employer. Their involvement has also perversely affected the behavior of my employer also.
I informed my conciliator that i had Autistic Spectrum Disorder from the outset of their involvement. I offered to have someone from the NHS explain to her what the condition was. She was dismissive of the offer and claimed she knew exactly what it was. From this point onward i felt that she didnt take me seriously at all.
I do not want to go into to much detail about this case at the moment but i would say that she advised me to agree to all of my employers demands, was reluctant to communicate with me and at one stage told me 'i was paranoid, should go see my cousellor and should go for a walk to clear my head'.
I made a request to see her line manager and had to wait until the last day of the allocated conciliation time frame to speak to him. When i did speak to him, he explained to me that he was responsible for giving out Autism Awareness training to his staff. For a split second i found this comforting; that was until he then proceeded to tell me how autism and aspergers where to separate conditions. As i underdtand it, aspergers technically doesn't exist when it comes to DSM5 criteria. Correct me if im wrong.
Further to this, someone at ACAS has informed my employer that i had made a complaint (which i am certain breaches data protection laws). They have also told my employer that everything they have done (with regards to myself) will stand up to any 3rd party scrutiny. This beggars belief for me for the following reasons:-
1. They are supposed to be impartial.
2. They are not supposed to give legal advice.
3. They are not qualified to give legal advice.
4. How can they know what is correct regarding my treatment if they themselves are not properly educated on my condition.
I have since been in contact with a long lost school friend and amazingly he has recently been diagnosed and is experiencing similar social issues in the work place. He has told me that his experience with ACAS has been equally troubling.
What on earth is this organisation? Am i correct in assuming that as an arm of the government, this organisation should be subject to statutory guidance as set out in the 2009 autism strategy? If you have work issues and feel you have to turn to this organisation, i urge you to be very wary of them.
A lot depends on your contract and the reasons they will give for changing your contract. If it is to bring you into line with industry norms, you will have difficulty fighting it.
You can ask for reasonable adjustments because of your condition but you can't dictate to them.
I would very much like my contract to fit into the industry norms. Every designer in the industry is on a salary. They have been trying to get me to move on to an hourly contract as a result of them granting me adjustments that they themselves put forward.
The equalities act says in plain english that they cannot move me from a salary to an hourly rate just because of my diagnosis.
I'd love to know where my original contract has vanished too. This new contract is shocking.
Unlike any office staff in the company they want me to do the following:-
Clock in and out with the factory staff morning evening and at lunch times (no other office staff need do this).
Dictates an hourly wage. No designer in my industry is paid an hourly wage.
They granted me adjustments to come in late in the morning. They now want to make deductions accordingly yet won't permit me to work at home like other designers (and even though i am fully set up for it)
They are refusing to let me work overtime unlike other designers. This proposed contract us unique in the industry let alone my company.
Have you asked them calmly why they are doing this?
Yes. I have my position and they have theirs. I have tried to compromise several times. They have been immobile in their stance.
There is a wider problem at this company also. Their HR department is non-existent. There appears to be a culture that belongs in the 1980's and not the 21st century.
This dispute is a year in the making. My tribunal pre-hearing is on the 14th January. I am defending the case myself as a no win-no fee lawyer wants me to lose my job before i take it on.
The breif conversations i have had with solicitors however have suggested my case does have merit.
I do not trust this employer at all. This will be a test of the legislation regarding our disability and i am interested in the outcome whatever happens.
But what are their reasons? You might ask your manager and remind him that those reasons need to be legal and they might have to defend it in court.
Be very careful with no win no fee lawyers - they are not working in your interests, just theirs.
You have to think for yourself about what would be their defence if it goes to tribunal. If they can justfy their action, you lose.
Do you consider yourself to be a good employee?
And do you still want to continue working there? It doesn’t sound like the best environment to be in. But good luck in court. I hope you get your desired outcome
My performance as an employee has been emaculate. I have been doing this for 15 years and i am better than most. (Perhaps there is some of that arrogance i can be accused of). I must add that i have an excellent working relationship with my line manager and i get no less than £500k sales for the company per anum. My wage isn't great.
They say they just want a contract that reflects the terms of my employment and that they are just looking out for me.
They have been very aggressive post ACAS conciliation however.
Perhaps i can be a little confrontational. Something i cannot help. If i feel unfairly challenged i feel compelled to stand against it.
There actions to me are for a simple purpose. Monitor and document everything relating to me in detail and as soon as i step out of line, sack me.
That’s a very reasonable and valid concern to bring to the table, that you are concerned that all these new measures they want to introduce will lead to reasons for them sacking you, you think they are going in a round about way to sacking you. That’s a very valid point and it’s even better that you’ll have it documented as well, if you do decide to keep working for them.
Try and bare in mind that we are actually very confrontational, we just don’t realise it.
So it's obvious they want you gone - but do you really think you can win in a tribunal? Even if you win, the award may be peanuts.
I've been in your position - I chose to smile and grab as much training out of them as possible while sorting out better employment elsewhere.
I don't want to sound negative, but the reality is much bigger than your anger.
This is precisely my point. I can be like this in the work place and it should be taken with a pinch of salt. This should not be a reason for them to harass and bully me. The whole purpose of my diagnosis was to indentify this as an issue.
You said they paid for the diagnosis? I wonder if they were hoping there was some way you could be "fixed"? If that seems not to be the case, and they are still unhappy with the way things are going, then maybe they are trying to "resolve" their perceived problem.
I make no moral judgement on that either way.
As BlueRay has said, it's quite likely that even if this went to court and you won, there's a good chance things won't be the sunny uplands that you are hoping for. The norms will not just take it, shrug and move on, it will rankle with them and fester. The likelihood is that any uncomfortable atmosphere will get worse, not better.
I admire you current resolve to stick to your current course, and perhaps it will help other people down the line, but I wouldn't bank on it helping you. I think a lot of people who win these high-profile court battles, often end-up moving on afterwards because things have changed after to such an extent that their position is no longer viable. I suspect a reasonable percentage of them also become essentially unemployable in that industry because nobody wants to hire a nationally known troublemaker...
I'd be inclined to see if you could get a good offer out-of-court and have some time to think about what you might do next. As I have recently been seeing for myself, sometimes the ability to do the job, isn't really the ability you need to do the job in a norm company...
I dont know if i can win or not as i have no experience. To me the discrimination is black and white. I can argue this comfortably from a moral stand point. We will find out if i can do it from a legal stand point in the near future.
The financial reward is not the priority. It is justice. If i do win however, they will be staring down the barrel of a constructive dismissal claim soon after. I hear the financial awards are much greater for that. It would be in their interests to adjust their behavior.
I have had issues in job after job simply due to the social aspects. It has to stop one way or another. If i fail its the end of my career as i cant do this anymore.
Lots of people see easy ££££ signs when talking tribunals - the truth is very different.
Have you considered saying to the management that they are in clear breach on the equality act because of X, Y and Z.
If they make you a PROPER redundancy offer of £xxx to avoid the tribunal and you'll be gone? Maybe get a letter from a solicitor to back you up.
Otherwise, where do you seriously think this will end (forgetting all the anger and butthurt)?
I think they paid for it because they thought i would not be diagnosed. That they thought i was making it up.
I had them (and i had to ask) go out to staff and give them all awareness training on my condition. This resolved a huge volume of social issues i was experiencing in my work place. It just goes to show that awareness is key!
I was no longer being viewed as a weirdo by my colleagues and my life got easier. I think the process bent my managing directors nose out of joint however and he has been keen to retaliate ever since.
This has been a story of a failure of the duty of care for me. I do my job well and without ACAS involvement, this may have been resolved amicably. I cant stress how awful their input has been from my perspective.
'The invisible disability' says it all. I know i could well lose this especially as i am representing myself. I have to try however. With them now denying my disability, i dread to think of how they will behave towards me in future without a win.
If i lose it will be a life on benefits in the short term at least. I stand to lose my car, my home and my credit worthiness. The stakes for me are very high indeed.
But they might say they bent over backwards for you (sent staff on training etc,) but you were incompatible with their business and disruptive in the workplace (impossible for you to argue with that with any hard facts)..
If you're lucky, you might get enhanced redundancy terms - maybe a couple months 'garden leave' thrown in and maybe paid in lew of notice period.
I doubt you'll be talking much more than 12-months pay in total. Even after 15 years - especially if you've peed the MD off.
It's called being managed out of the situation.
I'd love them to sack me as i would then be able to bring in a no win-no fee solicitor. I am not disruptive in the work place. They haven't leveled a single complaint about my behavior.
Ive only been with this employer for 20 months.
No doubt if i fail i will end up sacked.