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.
It is not clear to me what part of Acas is giving you advice and 'help'.
The first part of any dispute should be your employers grievance procedure. If this doesn't settle the matter or if things are dragging out without an outcome (and less than three months minus one day from the event that caused the dispute) you can seek Early Conciliation. The dispute in this case would be when you asked for 'reasonable adjustments' that weren't forthcoming or when you informed your employer that you considered yourself disabled under the Equality Act 2010 and your Employer rejected this. Your grievance should have stated the grounds for the grievance and how you would like the matter resolved. You will have to study the grievance policy and procedure. Also your employer should have an Equalities policy and stress policy, study these in combination.
If Early Conciliation is not successful, the clock starts again and you have a month minus one day to put your case in writing in an application to an Employment Tribunal. Note that both Early Conciliation and the Employment Tribunal are about seeing wrongs and awarding compensation if they upheld the complaint. I should add that it is extremely unlikely your employer would go all the way to a final Employment Tribunal and you would be offered some sort of payment to withdraw your complaint under a 'COT3' procedure, or you would be offered some money to leave your employment and keep your mouth shut. And even if you did get to an Employment Tribunal, the employer would try to justify its actions and your chances of success are quite slim - only around seven per cent of Employment Tribunal claims are ultimately upheld.
Anyway, that is what I believe would happen should you persue your claim under law as is your right.
However, you should consider other methods. Have you a report from the person who assessed you and diagnosed your autism? Something that explains how you are affected by autism. When I was diagnosed the psychologist who assessed me very helpfully gave me a lengthy appendix explaining how I was affected in the workplace.
With whatever evidence you have, contact Access to Work. They are able to suggest adjustments, give funding for any adjustments that are needed for you, and funding for a support worker and training for your staff by specialists. I live in the Midlands and have a support worker for two one and a half hour periods per week, training was given and certain duties were removed from my workload, as well as an adjustment in my hours of work (starting and finishing times, not the number of hours I work).
Unfortunately, even being autistic still means you have to 'prove' your disability to your employer to get adjustments. Unison have produced a useful publication 'Proving disability in the Workplace' where it lists disabilities and the procedures you should use to prove them. Such things as delayed comprehension, information overload, taking things literally, sensory perception (over or under sensitive to touch, smells, sounds, light etc) can all help prove disability. And with this your employer should try to provide adjustments to mitigate the effects. Dismissing you should only be as a very last resort, your employer should look at work you would be able to do and move you to a different post or change your duties, and just saying words to the effect of 'that's not the way we do things here' is not sufficient excuse.
With all your information on how autism affects you, write to your employer (by email is probably best as you have a written record of what you have and the replies). In your email ask them if from what you have written they accept you are autistic and consider you to be disabled under the Equality Act and if not, to state their reasons why. You can then show these to Access to Work when you make the application. Access to work act fairly quickly, it should all be able to be completed in six to eight weeks, and it is quite painless.
The above are all things a union representative would be able to help you with if you are in a trade union, and I have stated previously the value of a good trade union representative.
Access to Work:
Unison Guide to 'Proving disability in the Workplace':
TUC guide to Autism in the Workplace:
You might also look on the Employment Tribunal Website for some cases and results. You will find the vast majority are 'withdrawn', which in all probability means they have been subject to a 'settlement agreement' where a sum of money has been paid for the employee to keep quiet. You can search for things such as disability, there are a few autism ones there, but any disability will give you some idea of the problems there are:
I will close by saying that I apologise if my information duplicates other posts, there are a large number and it is difficult to follow all the threads.
I am, by the way, a Union Equality and Health and Safety Representative and the above represents my opinion and experience, having been through the Tribunal Procedure myself.
Thankyou for your input. Any kind of legal advice has been sorely missing through the course of this.
Couple of important points for you to understand where i am at.
I have been through early conciliation and it failed horribly. It is ACAS that i hold responsible for this as they where dismissive and insulting to me and also clearly biased in favour of my employer irrespective of the facts.
A lot has happened as you will no doubt have read but ultimately i brought in ACAS because of a couple of sticking points.
1. Me having to clock in and out with the factory staff. No other office employee in tge company has to do this.
2. My refusal to accept targeted PC monitoring. With this monitoring working from home was to be permitted and working from home is permitted for other staff members without pc monitoring.
3. The enforcement of an hourly contract lost diagnosis as i was offered and accepted being allowed to come in as late as 10pm.
In conciliation my employer gave no ground. I went as far as to offer to accept all of the requests if i was granted unfettered access to the data the software generates. This request was ignored.
If i was to be allowed to work from home full time, this would have resolved all issues excluding the request for PC monitoring.
I could not agree to their proposals as for me it would have resulted in crushing scrutiny. I also have struggled with the clocking in system from the outset and so i would have set myself up to fail. In truth i beleive they saw me as troublesome and they were simply trying to monitor my every move and then dismiss me on the first breach. I would have been legally bound to comply with the regime if i had agreed and this to me was unacceptable.
After the concilition period failed they were aggressive with me and i had to take time off work. They are now denying my disability and i dont feel i can go back to work at present under these circumstances. I have defaulted on many things in the process due to wage deductions. My mental health has suffered.
Its do or die for me and so any input you could give me with your expertese would be priceless.
If you go to ACAS Early Conciliation, they will contact your employer but all communication should be through the conciliator. It should not be between you and your employer. I know this is too late for you, but my advice would be for you to get someone else to act for you at Early Conciliation, although it is rarely successful in anything but very minor disputes.
My opinion would be that you are wasting energy with trying to fight the Acas conciliation process. There are obviously ways of complaining about it, but it would be unusual that they would act outside the law. Your dispute is with the employer and the purpose of ACAS is to try to work out a solution not to take sides.
Since your Early Conciliation failed, and if you are in time, you should consider the next stage, an application to the Employment Tribunal. You would have to think clearly about what aspects of the law have been broken and how and why. But from what you say it is out of time, the time limits are very strictly enforced. This would not preclude you from further action should further injustices take place, and previous behaviour would be taken as supporting evidence.
You need to build a portfolio of proof, letters, emails, witnesses as well as dates. And follow procedures properly, grievance, first and grievance appeal if there is time and then Early Concilliation within the time limit of the issue that caused the grievance. Early Conciliation can fail simply because the other party fails to engage, and there is no obligation for them to do so.
If your employer offers you a sum of money to leave and this is substantial, even if the conversation is 'private' and is a non disclosure, if you fail to accept it and go to tribunal this could mean you end up with nothing if the settlement from the tribunal is less than that offered. If you want your job, you should be very wary of the non disclosure settlement agreement, it is a way of employers getting rid of someone who is considered a problem for them and although discrimination is not allowed as a reason for such settlements, the employer will go to enormous lengths to try to show that the reason is not one of discrimination but one of incompatibility with the work.
I think that really you need to try to pull things back so you can take control of the situation. Try to think what you want, and put this to your employer. Things seem as though they have got out of hand, but both you and your employer should be reasonable in requests and what you want. And disputes are usually settled as the result of negotiation and compromise, not conflict.
My particular personal case was finally concluded as a result of a COT3 agreement, where certain concessions were allowed together with a sum of money and a binding understanding that everything would be laid to rest with a 'clean sheet'. It is not an admission of guilt on any party, but that is the law, however much I think the other side is 'guilty'.
But not accepting could have meant I got nothing and what I have got is sufficient to ensure that the company I work for would think twice about pulling the same stunt again.
And an apology from ACAS
I feel somewhat disillusioned about my case now. Perhaps the dwp is a preferable route
The concilliation process is meant to be confidential between you and the employer and the concilliator. The early concilliation process usually fails, often because of lack of engagement which is what happened in your case. It is only a stage in the Tribunal process and one you have to go through in order to proceed to a tribunal. That should have been where your targets should have been and you should have built up a strong case for the lengthy tribunal process.
The next stage would be a preliminary hearing where before a judge you would put your case to find whether there is a case to answer and also to find out the length of time of the hearing, and dates for which evidence must be provided. If the judge at the preliminary hearing decides there is a case to answer and sets the date and time the case is meant to last, you will no doubt be offered concilliation for a COT3 agreement. And I would strongly advise to accept this. You can set conditions in this, such as being not held to account for any alleged past misdemeanours and a clean slate. You would in all probability be working against solicitors at this stage and you would have no contact at all with your employer about this. It would all go through the solicitor and the COT3 concilliator.
Unfortunately you cannot bring up anything that was discussed in the conciliation process at a tribunal without the express consent of the Tribunal. And this is very unlikely and you would have to convince the tribunal that an exception should be made in your case. And this is very unlikely. Things are not like Star Trek where Scottie asks what the chances of success are and Spock answers 'I estimate at approximately 4,353,261 to 1 against' and Scottie says 'I'll take that chance' and succeeds. I would not say you had no chance at all, but the chance is very slim.
I am not supporting ACAS but you have to try to accept that this is the way things are done, however much you dislike it. And I am one of the last people to 'give up' on anything but one has to be pragmatic about such things. I very much dislike the fact an employer can do what it likes and then offer a bribe of a sum of money and that suddenly makes everything all right.
With regards to issues in the conciliation, i just wsnt to extract from ACAS exactly what they have been saying to my employer and how my employer came to know about my complaint. This is something i can deal with separately. I get the impression that ACAS are extremely worried about this. This is a battle for another day. This is also a battle i intend to wage on social media and not in a court or tribunal.
This preliminary hearing is happening next week. My lack of engagement is not my fault. I have a conciliator telling me to agree to everything (and more). I would have rather agreed to everything outside of conciliation as at least i wouldnt have been legally bound to it. I think i was fair and compromising. I couldnt accept a complete capitulation. Especially when my managing director was trying to throw in a few extras during a conference call between both parties and ACAS. Surely one of the big questions a tribunal will ask is why conciliation has failed.
A lot has happened but my issues are clear.
There are 3 main ones as i have said before. Clocking in, targeted monitoring and contract change.
These are all wrong as i understand it. The legislation is there as far as i can tell.
If i lose i wont work in this industry again.
You also have to understand that this clocking in involved walking out of my office...across the yard....into the factory...into the factory canteen to clock in there. Humiliating
They also tried to get me to work out of sheffield branch which would have meant a 2 and a half hour commute each way. 5 hours on to the working day. Obviously i refused.
At one point prior to diagnosis, i cant truly paint a picture of how nightmarish my day to day working life was for this company. I was disliked and ignored by everyone. I had my managing director sat next to me day in and day out. I even had a female staff member who felt she had to be escorted past me because i was somehow dangerous. I didnt speak to anyone. I was not looking after myself properly. I was having arguments with members of staff across email. I felt quite alone and isolated. Nobody asked how i was. I did the grieving for my daughters death at my desk. What a horribly dark time it was. It only started changing for the better when i stood up for myself and so i find it hard to accept that this route of standing up for my rights is not the correct one.
In a nut shell, i was being harassed and victimised. I stood up for myself and then got my diagnosis. Things got better. ACAS got involved and then they went back to harassing me.
Now ive slept on it. I have decided on not looking for a CTO3 agreement. I am going to take this all of the way if i can. I have seen a lot of press coverage on Autism and court cases lately and this is what i want with this. My treatment has been bullshit.
If we dont take a stand we will forever be victims. It is as simple as that. Its like taking a slap in the face and not reporting it because i am a minority.
If the system screws me over, so be it..i am not going to roll over because i might not win though. I dont care what the statistics are.
My case has now been listed for a 5 day hearing and my employer is desperate to settle. I have judicial mediation set up for in a months time. My employer is going to have to dig in to their wallet.
Judge was wonderful, my employers argument was dismissed entirely. They now have to go back to the drawing board.