Hi,

I'm brand new on this forum so will start with a bit of background. I apologise if I'm going in to too much detail here but I like to get everything down!

My (newly married!) wife Chloe has a none-visible disability (slipped discs in lower back and trapped nerves causing extreme pain throughout her left hand side) which she has suffered for four years now. It has always been frustrating because it took a long time to get the initial diagnosis due to my wife's young age (23 when it began) doctors wouldn't believe that it was what it was, and it was 18 months of seeing the doctor in unbearable pain and sent away told it was just backache before they sent her for an MRI scan which led to the diagnosis. Had it been diagnosed sooner it could well have been treated or even cured but unfortunately as it went undiagnosed for so long permanent severe damage to nerves was caused by the discs rubbing against them.

When diagnosed they got her in for a microdisectamy operation within a fortnight, which failed, resulting in Chloe needing 6 months off work to recover as it left her in significantly worse pain and in a worse position than before the operation.

A bit about Chloe's work. Chloe works in an office job 9-5, for a multinational manufacturing company with 10000 employees. At the branch where Chloe works is a factory production line with several hundred workers, and a separate office building with around 40 employees. In her specific office are twelve workers.

During the six months off Chloe found the pain so unbearable she became badly depressed and made a genuine attempt to commit suicide. She found it extremely hard, mentally, to accept that this was now how her life would be (doctors told her as the operation failed she would now have the condition for life and it was a case of managing the pain).

The GP referred her to the local pain management clinic who initially tried a course of physiotherapy and acupuncture. They put us in touch with someone in the local council who provided Chloe with a walking stick, and made adaptations to our home (grab rails above the toilet and doorsteps, and on the bed, and a raised chair to sit on). Chloe's mobility was severley impaired and she'd struggle to walk more than 20 metres using the walking stick without the pain becoming unbearable.

Chloe's employer asked her to ring every week during her recovery period with an update, and they paid her a home visit every month. Chloe just mentally found it so hard to accept what had happened to her, she had always been a very fit and active individual up until her disc slipped. She believed her employers didn't trust her, and Chloe became very paranoid about them (quite rightly) - but she was literally tucked up in bed 95% of the time for these 6 months in agony.

I gave up a second job I had shortly after her operation as I realised I would need to do all household chores and help her get dressed/in and out of the bath etc and a second job was just no longer feasible for me. It was a massive change I had to accept too that my partner was no longer the woman she used to be. She used to be confident, loud, bubbly and outgoing, and being tucked away in bed for 6 months just drained the life out of her.

Eventually the GP prescribed a course of counselling for her alongside her anti depressants she was initially given. However the counselling course consisted of a half hour session once a month for 3 months (with a trainee counsellor aged just 19). This didn't help Chloe at all who had already attempted suicide and if anything only made her worse because she just felt there was no help for her anywhere.

Chloe was referred to a second public-private pain management company to run alongside the pain management care from the hospital, who said they were able to try other approaches. After two initial meetings with them we found out it consisted of hypnotherapy (which we were unwilling to try) and meditation, they even gave us a CD of "whale music" to listen to. Which is all ridiculous, because Chloe just wanted something to take the pain away, so this just infuriated her further. We didn't go to anymore appointments with this second pain management company.

After 6 months off work Chloe's company sick pay ran out and with a mortgage and bills to pay she was faced with no choice but to return to work. A meeting was arranged and a plan for a phased return to work agreed. The phased return was phased over two months with hours increasing each fortnight but to be reviewed weekly.

However what her company completely failed to realise was that before she went off for her operation she was a "regular" employee, and she was now a "disabled" employee. On her first day back at work she was called into an absence review meeting where she was given a final written warning for the length of absence. Chloe came back in tears - and we realised we were going to need some proper advice.

I did a bit of research online and found out that Chloe needed to tell them she's now disabled. And that they would need to make reasonable adjustments to accomodate her back condition so it wasn't aggravated. After all it's in everyone's interest, if she has the correct chair to sit on it will lead to less absence from her.

So on her next shift Chloe called a meeting with her boss to talk through all this. There was a representative from company HR there too taking notes. They agreed that adjustments needed to be made. As soon as the words "disability" were mentioned they started taking her seriously. Within two weeks the company head office and coincidentally employed an Oppupational Health Officer which they had never had before, who's first task was to travel to meet Chloe and assess her needs and what adjustments could be made. Chloe was told the company has never had a disabled employee before she was the first!!

It was agreed they were to provide a specific chair (cost £950) and allow Chloe the use of the disabled parking space (no-one else on site was disabled so up to now anyone parked in the space), provide a raised desk, a mouse mat fixed to the desk, and provide her with a key to use the disabled toilet as this was located a lot closer to her office than other toilets.

This is all well and good - but to cut a long story short we are now 6 months further down the line and none of this has happened despite Chloe chasing it up herself several times. Reason given for the chair is cost. She was provided a £300 chair which is unsuitable which Chloe has told them. (It was like a smack in the face to Chloe when a new recruit started a fortnight ago and said she had a bad back and wanted a specific chair - worth over £1000 - and she was given this straight away on her first day of employment). We advised the employer that they can get funding for the chair and they asked Chloe to chase this up herself. It turned out as they are such a large company no funding would be provided.

She has faced bullying at work - an outlandish company director who is a bit of a character walked in the office within the first few weeks of her phased return, and he picked up her walking stick and started waving it around the office at everyone shouting "oooo look a walking stick eh I bet you feel a right idiot using this" before starting to stagger around the office walking with it pretending to have a limp. Staff in the office laughed uncomfortably but Chloe couldn't stop crying that night. She refused to take her stick to work again after this. Chloe did put a written complaint to HR about this but no action was taken.

During another meeting with her line manager the following week reviewing her phased return in which HR were present, her line manager commented that "Had you got this condition when we were recruiting you we wouldn't have taken you on". The HR manager made no comment on this!!

Also during her phased return Chloe found she was the subject of getting into trouble for extremely trivial things. She was given a recorded conversation in the office over "misuse of company stationary relating to an A4 sized envelope value 15p". These are the actual words printed on the invitation to disciplinary letter which also included photographic evidence, of an envelope!! Other staff in the office regularly helped themselves to packs of post it notes or other things, it was just normal!! Chloe was suddenly being picked on, called into meetings with her line manager and singled out for ridiculous things.

It was clear they were trying to get rid of her. The thing is is that Chloe is excellent at her job - in all KPIs Chloe by far exceeds her colleagues on all measures. If they were to sack Chloe over something trivial that other employees do all the time with no punishment they realised they had a lawsuit on their hand from us!! We paid for an hours legal advice and a letter written to her employer which seemed to do the trick.

Continued on next post due to length.