Hi Everyone, Not certain if anyone can advise me on what to do.
I have been working since furlough ended and in February 2023. The building manager instructed the removal of the covid protection screen at my work desk. Let me explain further, I am a main receptionist in an office block so deal directly face on with all incoming, visitors, contractors, and deliveries to the building. I arrived to work on the 8th Feb to find the Screens that we had in place since covid began had been removed on the instruction of the landlord. I have always felt relatively safe in work with these in place and and now I am feeling very vulnerable. I have Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and although management are aware of this it was not given any thought when that instruction came. The reason that the landlord gave for the removal is that it reminds visitors of Covid. On the 1st day I went into meltdown and refused to sit at the desk without them in place, I contacted my own line manager (I am contracted to the Building), who was very supportive of me and stated she would contact the building manager. After speaking with them they agreed that the screens could go back, after the breakfast launch party for sales had ended in the reception area, in the meantime I was told to remain in the back office. The following day the screens were left in place. I had a days annual leave on the Friday and was contacted by my line manager to say as from Monday the screens will no longer be in place. She advised me to wear a mask, and would provide anything I need ,hand gel, masks, desk wipes, she also said she would arrange a risk assessment and an occupational health call. Unfortunately there is about two and half foot between me and incoming visitors and I am seated lower than them at the desk. I had noticed the droplets of saliva that used to appear on the screens is landing on the desk, telephone, and keyboard and I am constantly having to wipe these down. My stress levels have gone through the roof over the last two weeks and I am back on anti-depressants. I contacted ACAS to ask there advice as I am feeling very unsafe doing my job. They advised Under the Equality act 2010, as a disabled person I am being discriminated against and to raise a formal grievance with my company. I did this and received an occupational Heath assessment over the phone last week Thursday and the grievance was heard on Friday. The occupational health advisor informed because the government have lifted all covid measures that were in place the landlord has every right to remove the screens and the advice on wearing a mask should be sufficient for them to say they have “Reasonable Adjustments” in place in place for my disability. I felt the grievance was more of a “witch hunt” than any understanding about me and my condition. With questions such as you work alongside security officer at the desk yet neither of you wear a mask does this not bother you? This is true we never used to, he is aware of my condition if he ever has a cold he does his utmost to be away from the desk for most of the day. My grievance has no outcome yet. Am I right that the reasonable adjustment is not enough for my front facing role dealing with visitors? So stressed I can no longer think straight or sit at the desk without feeling panicked about getting covid. Incidentally I think my wearing the mask is more of a reminder of Covid than the screen were. The mask also attracts people to the desk who ask if I have covid. Unable at the moment to engage in welcoming or lengthy conversation with visitors as I feel I just need to get them on their way as soon as possible. I am due to retire in December, really do not think I can manage this until then. Any sound advice?
Hi Everyone, Not certain if anyone can advise me on what to do.
Gosh @Janp I am so sorry to hear you’re having to experience this. I can only imagine how frustrating and worrying this must all be for you and how difficult the lack of support from your workplace must be. Employers have a duty to consult with their employees so it’s surprising they failed to consult or even inform you that they were removing the screens.
Have you discussed the conversation you had with the Occupational Health Advisor, with ACAS? They may be able to talk to you about whether it’s something you could appeal.
Is the reception well ventilated or is this something that could be improved in your workspace?
Have you spoken to your clinical team about your concerns about work and covid risk? If not we’d really encourage you to. You may find a letter of support from your clinical team useful to show your employer. Also, last year this letter was produced by a coalition of charities and led by Kidney Care UK, which you might find helpful to share with your workplace, https://media.bloodcancer.org.uk/documents/Safe_at_Work_letter_to_employers_May_2022.pdf and you might also find it helpful to share our factsheet here - Employer-fact-sheet-Blood-Cancer-UK-EM-1119.3.pdf (shopify.com)
As someone with Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) it’s important to remember that if you were to ever test positive, there are post-exposure treatments that you’d be entitled to an assessment for. You may find speaking to a member of your clinical team such as your clinical nurse specialist, about what the plan would be for if you did test positive, a useful and reassuring step. Do remember you’re also entitled to free government lateral flow tests so do order some whenever you’re running low - Antibody and antiviral treatments for people with blood cancer | Blood Cancer UK.
There are many people on this forum who have been through the process of accessing covid treatment after a positive test, and you can also read experiences in this blog, if you ever felt it might be useful to take a look at - Blood Cancer and Covid: What happens if you test positive? | Blood Cancer UK.
As you may be aware, people with immunosuppression including those with blood cancer will be eligible for a covid booster vaccine dose in Spring 2023, and another one in Autumn 2023.
We have more information on the timeline for these on our webpage here - How to book a covid vaccine if you have blood cancer | Blood Cancer UK.
If you want to talk anything through with us over the phone, please don’t hesitate to give us a call on 0808 2080 888. Take care, Alice
Hi @Alice_BloodCancerUK . Thank you Alice for your prompt and supportive reply. I will be contacting ACAS, once a decision is made in my grievance as it was on their advise that I made a formal grievance. The reception is well ventilated as the entrance doors are in constant use throughout the day. Fingers crossed the Building Manager will reinstate the screens. The work letter and fact sheet about blood cancer will be a useful tool to forward on to my employers and may prompt them to understand better my situation. I have already discussed the Spring covid booster with my GP as yet they have received no notification to administer these, so look forward to an update when this will be. I have supply of lateral flow tests, and a contact number for viral medication should I test positive. I have also asked that my employers provide FFp2 masks in the meantime. It is really not a pleasant experience to go through, it has at times felt quite lonely and not easy to focus on my job. Just a waiting game now to see what the response will be. Again thank you so much for the forums support.
Oh @Janp @Alice_BloodCancerUK has given you a brilliant response.
I just wanted to say I expect that you are anxious and that I am thinking about you.
Please do let us know how you get on and in the meantime perhaps wear your own masks.
It sounds as if you really do care about how you greet the visitors to your building, which is so lovely.
Really look after yourself and fingers and toes crossed that this issue gets resolved soon.
@Erica Thank you I will keep you both updated.
Here is section 44 of the employment act
Employers have a duty to keep you safe at work.
That’s good you have raised a grievance
When covid hit and you returned to work did you have a Work Place Adjustment Plan if not why not
OH should always be independent and on the side of the employee and able to give medical advice and recommendations on keeping you safe at work
If work refuse their recommendations they should put in writing why they cannot accommodate them.
Your are covered by the disability at work act
Your employers reasons really aren’t good enough about not having a screen
Does your work place have a long term ill health policy
Be aware that OH and employers will be looking at capability and can be misleading with questions
I have done all the meetings and made grievances to the CEO of the company I work for. I
Attended a OH meeting that my employer had given secret questions too that I refused to carry on with
I am in the Union and my brother is equalities office for Unite the Union communities
He is my advocate and union rep
He made me aware of section 44
My employer hadn’t done things right since I returned to work in 2018 we found out when covid hit and I was shielding and needed to return to a safe working space
I had a WRAP for covid
A bubble of three face masks my own box of gloves/wipes/blue roll/spray
My hours were changed to 7am-11 to avoid busy times
I am customer facing
When I relapsed in 2021 the covid rules have changed and we warned my employer that my WRAP would have to stay in place when I returned
They have tried to take it away and we also found out that they have been questioning my capability
Im now working with a good manager who is doing everything she can to make sure that I have all the adjustments I need and my WRAP will be made permanent so I don’t have to keep going through this
Including a side screen to protect me from my colleagues.
There is a screen already in front of us for security reasons and that will remain so I will be in a little box.
I will wear a mask and have my own cleaning kit and my hours will stay the same
I have applied to Access to Work for the side screen
I’m disgusted at the way disabled people are being treated in the work place
If you need any help please reach out and I will see if we can help
If they do decide that the screen removal needs to stay, is it possible to have a table top HEPA filter on the desk to further improve the air quality around you? You could also request they instal a CO2 monitor so you/they can check what level it is (this will show you how good/bad the indoor air quality is)
Hi @Janp you have been given tonnes of great advice and I’ve nothing else to add perhaps other than some reassurance.
I shielded at home throughout the pandemic and I subsequently ended up permanently working at home. This has been fantastic for my health all round as I was finding it tough.
I do go into work locations from time to time and I find all restrictions in work have long since been lifted.
I wanted to offer my reassurance around the support and treatment for covid when I did get twice !
Throughout the pandemic our carefulness paid off and none of us got it despite both my daughters being key workers.
But since restrictions lifted I have picked it up twice during 2022, on both occasions my husband passed it to me from him being out even though I hadn’t left the house. So it is possible to take lots of precautions and still get it.
What I wanted to say is six vaccines later and on both occasions getting either antibodies or antiviral treatments in a super efficient way that certainly the second time my version of covid wasn’t as bad as my husbands.
Whilst no one wants to get covid I am certainly not scared like I was back in 2020.
Hope you get something sorted.