Tue 18 Nov 2003
Edinburgh Evening News
POLICE chiefs tried to take away holidays from a disabled woman because they felt she was taking too much time off for hospital appointments, an employment tribunal has heard.
Multiple sclerosis sufferer Julie Brown, from Whitecraig, near Musselburgh, claims she suffered discrimination due to her illness.
She claims personnel chiefs at Lothian and Borders Police tried to make her take holidays for days she was at hospital having check-ups.
The former police support officer said she was also victimised when the force refused to provide her with her own printer on the grounds it was too expensive.
In her role, Mrs Brown often had a lot of typing to do to help officers file reports on possible prosecutions to the procurator fiscal’s office.
But she said she found it almost impossible to check documents for mistakes because the nearest printer was positioned two floors away from her.
The problems are said to have affected the mother-of-two after she returned from maternity leave in June 1999. She started out doing four hours a day to ease herself back into full-time employment.
However, after less than two months back at work, her bosses tried to pressure her into taking on more work, the tribunal has heard. Mrs Brown is said to have protested that she could not cope with any more hours.
Alan Brown, who is representing his wife at the hearing, said yesterday she was made to feel inadequate as a result of the pressure that was put on her.
He said: "In a meeting with personnel staff, Julie said she did not require further training.
"Her right hand is affected by her illness and she can only type with one or two fingers.
"She said she felt tired a lot of the time because of her medication."
Morven Fisher, former human resources adviser at Lothian and Borders Police, told the hearing that it was not the force’s policy to make staff take a holiday in order to keep hospital appointments.
He said: "If a member of staff is at a hospital appointment they are not off sick and are not required to take annual leave.
"There had been an issue regarding Mrs Brown’s time off to go to physiotherapy appointments and I was asked my advice on that matter. Mrs Brown’s job is fairly vital.
"She was giving support to officers and putting reports into the fiscal so we are working with a very short time frame. The issue was that there was very short notice of hospital appointments or either no notice at all.
"There was a degree of flexibility in each division and managers would try to fit in with the individual."
Gerry Laing, a Lothian and Borders Police welfare officer, told the hearing that Mrs Brown had been offered support by the force to help her cope.
He said: "The first contact I had with Mrs Brown was in 1997 and in her case it was a support role and not a counselling role.
"This meant a phone call about every five or six weeks or the person could phone us. My main contact with Mrs Brown would be hospital visits and home visits."
The tribunal continues.
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