Multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer, coupled with chronic hip and back pain and depression and stress, meant that Tanya was away from her job as a Child Support Assistant for a total of nine months. With Fit for Work’s help, she spoke to her manager about making key workplace adjustments, and has now made a successful phased return to work.
Tanya is a 48-year-old Child Support Assistant at a Grimsby-based Learning Disability Academy, which helps to care for and educate disabled children. She was off work for a total of nine months, because she has multiple myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer. This was exacerbated by bursitis, a joint condition which affects her back and hips, making physical movement difficult and painful. “I work with disabled children, which means that my job can often be physically demanding, as they require a lot of hands-on care.
“I really wanted to get back to work, but was concerned and stressed about how my physical condition would affect my ability to do my job. Coupled with my depression, I was left feeling very isolated and helpless.”
Tanya’s GP suggested that he refer her to Fit for Work to see if they could help her. “I knew that there was no way I could go back to working the way I did before, but the challenge was whether my work would support a change in my role. I spoke to Fit for Work about possible adjustments that could help me to get back to work – we discussed these together and came up with some suggestions for me to make to my manager in my Return to Work Plan.
“Having someone to talk to openly and honestly who also had clinical expertise gave me lots of confidence to then speak to my manager, who was actually really supportive. My Return to Work Plan helped us to work together to find activities which I can still confidently do at work, and others that I would need to avoid. I also agreed that I’d speak to her if certain tasks starts causing me difficulties, which has helped stop me worrying so much.”
Tanya has now made a phased return to work with permanently adjusted duties. “The impact that having a normal work routine has on your life is huge. I was already feeling low and depressed, but being stuck at home while everyone else was at work made me feel even worse – I was missing out on social contact and that had a real impact on my health and well-being. Fit for Work helped me back to work and now I have a much more positive outlook – I don’t feel isolated and alone like I did before.”
Gemma Ryelatt, Tanya’s manager at Humberston Park School, says:
‘I knew that Tanya was really desperate to get back to work, and we were very keen to have her back too. It is difficult for the school when we have a valued member of staff off sick – so when Fit for Work called me I was happy to speak to them, even though I’d not heard about the service before. Tanya’s case manager explained all about the conversations they’d been having with her about returning to work – it was really clear and helpful.
“In Tanya’s Return to Work Plan Fit for Work suggested that she made a phased return, which we agreed to, and they also suggested we do a risk assessment of Tanya’s duties, which we did too. They told us that we needed to make sure that Tanya wasn’t doing too much work that involved repetitive bending, such as assisting children in the bathroom, or anything that involved standing up for too long. Because of these recommendations, we got Tanya in for a normal shift and we looked at all her roles to see how we could amend them. For example, when she was working with nursery children she was often sitting on a little nursery stool, so we made sure she was sitting on a bigger chair so that she was more comfortable.
“After we did this risk assessment, we wrote down all our recommendations and shared them with Tanya’s colleagues so that everyone was aware of the adjustments we needed to make to help Tanya. Fit for Work helped make Tanya’s return really simple – without them we would have had to go through a lengthy process, doing things like writing to her doctors. Fit for Work helped cut out that long-winded process and did all of the legwork for us, which was really helpful from a business perspective.
“I know that the first day coming back through the door is incredibly hard for people, but Tanya really wanted to return to work and we wanted to make sure that happened in the right way. If we have a staff member off sick for a long time of course we want them to come back – but we also want them to be safe and well when they do eventually return. Fit for Work helped make that happen – Tanya is really happy to be back at work, and we’re really happy to have her back too.”