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  1. In the UK we, if employed, are often ‘requested’ to opt out of the European Working Time Directive, the directive that limits our hours. Our employers think that the longer we work, especially if salaried, not hourly paid, the more productive we will be as production units for the shareholders. My last employer made this request of me at around the turn of the century.

    I emailed the Human Resources manager who had sent me the form and asked him to tell me what benefit it was to me to opt out. I never had a reply. I think I was lucky not to have discovered that I was to be made redundant then and there!

    That ‘choice’ caused me stress. The Health and Safety Executive says that I have a right not to be caused stress by my employer. Imagine the conversation with Human Resources [I HATE that term. I am not a resource, I am a free man! (to paraphrase The Prisoner)].

    “I am being caused stress at work. Please help me to mitigate that stress.”

    “Certainly. Here is one months notice, a small payment as compensation, and a Compromise Agreement (non disclosure agreement) for you to sign.”

    So becoming stress free at work is hard.

    Later, a new manager took the department over. She was a bully, and bullied everyone. I was lucky, in a way, that I went to the doctor at the first sign of her bullying and spoke to him about stress and depression. I started formal treatment for it. I needed it because she was so intent on bullying that I was trembling in fear of her and her actions. I knew I was to be dismissed, but I needed to be able to fight her.

    She trumped up a charge and convened a formal disciplinary hearing. Had I not been being treated for depression, and had I not stated this, the very sweet Human Remans lady would have allowed me to be fired out of hand. I played the Depression Card hard. The outcome was a final written warning, never to expire from my record, not dismissal. I appealed, and the sentence was confirmed. The charge was still trumped up, but disciplinary hearings are not about fairness, just about the following of procedures lest the victim goes to a tribunal later.

    I survived the employer and the bully for three further deeply unpleasant months and was greatly relived to be summoned to a redundancy termination interview where I was able to collect a redundancy package instead of being fired out of hand. I used that three months to secure an income and a living that lasted me from April 2003 until I retired in December 2009.

    Mental health in the workplace is not a thing my employer cared a jot about. They are a US corporation with a US “At Will Employee” mentality. “At Will” means instant and arbitrary termination of employment with no employee rights.

    The great thing was that my own recognition of my own enhanced stress levels allowed me to receive medical assistance and to play the Depression Card to fight off termination. It is harder to fire an employee with diagnosed depression under treatment than it is to fire the same person without. It ain’t impossible, it’s just harder.

    • Thanks for sharing such a powerful, and, I sadly appreciate, all too common occurrence.

      I DO advocate making a ‘fuss’ and seeking support in any workplace. As you so rightly wrote, we are not resources (or a number) but valued human beings who agree to perform to a mutually agreed contract which includes respect for one another.

      I hope this message helps others.

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