Pressure to settle

I met with the lawyers yesterday from my union.  It wasn’t an easy thing to do, and they put the respondents case to me.  That was pretty difficult. I recognise they have to test the evidence, but it was hard going.  Right before the meeting, ACAS called to ask whether I would be interested in any form of settlement at this stage. I called them back after the meeting and said I wanted to return to work, and that with the adjustments in the latest occupational health report in place I thought I would be able to.

I think settling now would do a few things.  It would give me time and space to recover my mental health.  It would allow me to explore other career options – though I may have to leave acadcemia.  It would give me some financial freedom.

The thing is, the pendulum on whether or not to settle the case swings one way and then the other.  I start out thinking that I don’t want to settle, and then something happens and I do.  I don’t want to give any more of my life to this case, this employer, this dispute.  But then I don’t want to be part of this huge problem of people with discrimination cases settling them with binding gagging clauses so nothing really changes.

So, eventually, I sat down with the COT3 agreement and looked at the terms that I didn’t want to sign up to.  I revised parts of it and deleted others. I sent that back to them with a higher financial settlement offer. They keep dragging it out – so I put a time limit on it of end of play tomorrow.  I can’t see them agreeing to the changes I have asked for, and I can’t see them agreeing to the higher figure. I guess it is a case of ‘watch this space’.

Avoiding reasonable adjustments – Precarious work

During and following my undergraduate degree I found myself in various types of insecure work. Some of it was agency work, some of it was short term contracts and one job was on a graduate scheme. In some of these places being in a carpeted environment affected my health, and in others, it didn’t. In some places, I didn’t ask for adjustments because I didn’t need them. In others, I didn’t because my job was too precarious. I rationalised it by reminding myself that it just made me a bit wheezy, and I didn’t really need to work without carpet. These jobs had an impact on my health and my wellbeing, but I didn’t feel sufficiently disabled, sufficiently affected or sufficiently able to ask for those adjustments. My experience of how long and hard I’d had to fight as an undergraduate made me feel like it was just too hard. Especially in a job where I might get dismissed if I fought for myself.
Looking back it really makes me realise how much the fight with my undergraduate university took it out of me. It was demoralising and frustrating. The endless questions about whether I really needed to have a carpet-free room. The requests for justification. It was exhausting. I didn’t have the resources back then that I have now – and I didn’t know I needed them.

My life changed for the better once I had an understanding of the social model of disability, once I identified myself as disabled, once I knew other disabled people, once I understood something of the law, once I learned how to advocate more effectively for myself. None of these things was a silver bullet, but they were resources that I wish I’d had as a young person. I hope some of my writing helps other people to access some of those resources.

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