Thursday, October 29, 2009

All Change

So, obviously the gods didn't feel like I had enough on my plate with the DLA/CAB stuff and the Social Services stuff and so on, because on Friday, I lost my main job. Sort of.

To start at the beginning... when I started that job, two years ago, the company was a small one and the job mostly consisted of sitting on a perch-stool at a workbench, selecting and scanning CDs, packaging them up with the right address/postage/customs stuff on them, and putting them on a shelf depending on which part of the world they were being sent to. The CDs I needed were mostly within reach of the workbench, but four or five times a day, an order would come up containing a CD that was on a shelf on the other side of the room. Excitement! Sometimes there would be some sort of special request or larger order to sort out, but mostly, that was it, until the end of the day when my colleague would put the packages we'd done into mail sacks, weigh them, and I'd put the information into the Royal Mail website ready for the postie to come and collect it all.

However, the company has grown, and with it, so have the demands of the dispatcher job. It's steadily increased over time. Now there are CDs in stock filling floor-to-ceiling shelves in two rooms, orders often weigh in excess of two kilos, and the loft space has been adapted to hold the supplies of flatpacked cardboard boxes that we now have to keep stocked. What has not increased is my ability to walk around or lift heavy things or climb ladders. If I was interviewing for the dispatcher job today, I would be having to apologise to the interviewers for having wasted their time as several aspects of the job are now beyond my capabilities.

On Friday afternoon, about halfway through my shift, I was called out of the packing room and into the boss's office. I was then asked to look for another job as the changed dispatch role was no longer suitable for me.

I was promised a fantastic reference but told that there were no roles available within the company that might be more suitable for me, and that it wasn't fair to the other dispatchers if I was doing all the less physically demanding parts of the job. I was thanked for all my hard work.

Head spinning with shock, I offered that I could learn to do just about anything, or I could ask an Access to Work Occupational Therapist to come in and see if any further adjustments could be made... but their minds were made up. Hard work, much appreciated, excellent worker, no complaints, glowing reference, not being given notice as such, but role no longer appropriate, please seek alternative employment soonest.

As an employer of a PA, I'm quite certain that for a conversation like that an employee is supposed to be advised in writing at least 48 hours beforehand and told they're allowed a representative with them. However it will surprise no one that instead of imperiously standing up and berating them for this laxity of procedure, I whimpered that I understood and asked if I could be excused to go and sit by myself for a few minutes to get my head around things.

But there's only so long you can spend sniffling in the Ladies loo and of course I can't independently leave the building - I need to wait for my taxi to turn up. So I went and packaged CDs for another hour and a half. What else could I do?


I could get signed off sick, as it is my poor health that means I cannot manage the changed job role. However, this means I would also have to stop doing my second job as well, and would screw up my lower-than-average sick-day record which would have an impact on my future employability. Also, just the thought of trying to deal with ESA makes me feel sick.

I could find another job, suitable for my abilities, with hours that suit me, that pays more than benefits rate and is prepared to take on a disabled person. In a recession, in a town where this week the paper reported there are six Jobseekers (ie healthy people on JSA) for every vacancy listed at the Jobcentre. Hahahahaha.

I could keep working until such time as they do actually outright fire me. However it is an understatement to say that since the "discussion" I have now lost the sense of loyalty and motivation that was making me put myself in more and more pain and swallow more and more drugs to try and keep up with my job.

So I took the initiative and on Tuesday, I resigned.

Dignity and self-respect more or less intact, a certain amount of annual leave to use up during my notice period, they don't have to try and accommodate me any more, and I don't have the unpleasantness of trying to work at a place I know wants me gone.

Once I finish my notice and have my P45, then I'll also technically resign my second job and set up as a self-employed person. I'll continue doing the second job, but instead of submitting a timesheet and having my employer do the PAYE thing, I'll invoice my employer for the hours worked and pay my own tax and NI. My earnings will be very low, but Steve has agreed to support me while I look for another "main" job so that I don't half-kill myself doing Christmas temping.

If anyone who reads this does the self-employed thing and can recommend a person or organisation that can do a bit of hand-holding when I do my first tax return, that would be appreciated.


Sarah said...

I'm doing my first self employment tax return this year.

The most helpful people are actually HMRC!. They put on courses to teach you how to start up and do returns & VAT etc, almost everything can be done online and even the people on the phone line are helpful.

Registering as self employed and sorting the NI payments was really easy - just phone them up and do what they tell you, completing a couple of online forms as I remember.

You might also have a local Business Link office who do courses and info.

Best of luck with it!

Maggie said...

I will have to put in my own tax return next April, not had enough to worry about it all before. IB isn't high enough, and neither is my state pension. But I will be using my parents' tax accountant (he was *very* kind to my parents in the last years of their lives, well above and beyond the call of duty). He charges by the hour, but is only £45 an hour. I say "only" as we are currently paying £200 an hour for solicitor trying to sort out my parents estates, so a "mere" £45 seems very reasonable. ;-) I imagine it won't take very long for him to do my tax return - have all tax vouchers and other paperwork in a file that is gradually being added to as stuff comes in. I think he reckoned to save my parents money (tax rebate) as well as it being convenient. When the time comes I'll let you know how it goes if you'd like me to. Actually I'm not bothered about tax rebates so much as making sure everything is filled in properly - not sure I could manage it myself at this time as parental estates aren't yet entirely sorted (though I think we're getting close) and I'm in a blue funk over even trying to deal with HMRC myself!

My very best wishes to you. I can imagine how gutted you must have felt to be asked to look for another job. Hugs from Liverpool!


PS ever thought of training as an accountant? ;-)

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Oh what a nightmare, I'm really sorry to hear about this. I think you're entitled to courses from HMRC because you're an employer.
Hope things get better v soon, BG x

Mary said...

Thanks, ladies.

HMRC have been very helpful when I've phoned them so far to try and figure out what my position is. And I know I can keep immaculate files for my bank statements and whatnot. They didn't tell me about courses, but they did say that someone would talk me through it all when I start up so I guess that would be included then.

I think I just associate HMRC with the nightmare that was Tax Credits.

Thing is, as gutting as it was to be asked to leave... this may actually BE the "things getting better" I was hoping for, because hopefully I'll have a bit less pain and a bit more flexibility in my life.

Katie said...

Bats, that sucks.

I'm self employed, in a freelance sort of a way so it's different but similar...

The good news is, if your income and expenses are simple, tax returns are actually pretty straightforward, certainly for people used to filling in DWP forms...

HMRC are indeed very helpful. (Government service much better customer service when helping people to PAY tax rather than claim monies off the state. Hmmm...)

If you're looking for an impartial ear, you could do worse than calling your local Business Link. They more usually deal with people setting up businesses but they are by no means unfamiliar with sole trader type people and will be able to point you in the right direction vis-a-vis tax, and whatever else.

It matters to AtW that you've become self-employed. If anything, you should be entitled to more stuff from them - they pay 100% of access equipment costs for self-employed crips, rather than whatever percentage it is for PAYE types. When I went self employed they were a bit heavy on paperwork - wanted me to complete a business plan and took some convincing that it was inappropriate - but ultimately they were extremely supportive.

I might think of more useful stuff to say at some point... One thing I do find being self-employed is that I'm much more in control of what I do when, and consequently keep better control of my spoons, even if it is a bit hairy from time to time.

Hope it works out for you.


Achelois said...

I have been reading your blog for a while now. I just wanted to say I am so genuinely sorry about the job. Good luck with the Self Employment.

Mary said...

I have contacted AtW but my named advisor is on holiday until next week and the other person I got hold of would only give me broad, general advice (understandable if not entirely useful).

One thing I do still need to iron out is whether there is any crossover with being self-employed, and being an employer with Direct Payments.

Katie said...

I have zero knowledge of the finer details surrounding direct payments, sorry.

I do always make sure I declare any non-taxable benefits at the end of my tax return so HMRC know about them. That way if they ever ask to examine my financial records (as is their right), they won't be surprised when they see a bit of extra money coming in that I haven't declared (DLA payments, mostly). It's a precaution rather than a necessity for me.

The National Insurance self-employment helpline may be able to help you on the Direct Payments crossover issue, or will at least tell you who it is who can help you.

As I understand things there should be no crossover at all but it's important to keep clear records of both. But my understanding is very basic, so I'll shut up.

cogidubnus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cogidubnus said...

As a long-term lurker (from Bendy Girl's site) I'm really gutted you lost that job...

Whilst I take the point they make about the firm growing, and the nature of the work developing beyond your capacity, I'd have thought, accepting the fact that it is actually "growth" rather than "shrinkage" in these difficult times, they could have fairly easily re-arranged things to ensure you could've remained in the structure somehow...even if your involvement was reduced...

In fact my understanding is that they are actually legally obliged to...and, despite any acceptance you may have displayed at the time whilst unprepared and shocked, you might well still have a case for either constructive or unfair dismissal...

I should actively consider re-visiting those Regency buildings with the inconvenient access as soon as possible and enquiring upon that score...

Whatever the outcome, they've behaved totally desplicably...

Thinking of you...

Carie @ Space for the Butterflies said...

Oh my dear friend - I'm so sorry to hear your news. It sucks and that's really all there is to it. On the plus side, if you need someone to walk you through tax returns and accounts, call us - the boy is self employed and we have a couple of accountant type friends who are very helpful. Consider yourself the recipient of a virtual reality hug :)