A terminally ill woman who was determined to go back to work after completing her chemotherapy treatment was stunned to hear she had lost her job.
Pauline Fisher found out just days before Christmas that her pleas to keep the job she has had for the last decade at the Department for Work and Pensions’ Warbreck House office had fallen on deaf ears.
Despite being off work since June while she received treatment for her incurable cancer, the 65-year-old was adamant she would again be fit to work.
But bosses, who say they made every effort to make suitable arrangements for her to come back, wrote to say she had ‘failed to maintain an acceptable level of attendance’.
Civil servant Pauline, who took partial retirement in March 2014 and started working four days a week, said: “I’m so angry. From the neck up I’m absolutely fine – it’s the rest of me that’s rotten.”
She said she qualified for full sick pay for six months after being signed off sick in August, having first been sent home from work on June 19.
However, she was dismissed on November 5 and now wants an apology for the way the situation has been handled.
Her daughter, Jodie Fisher, who cares for her at their Kentmere Drive home in Mereside, said: “It’s disgusting, after 10 years of service to them.
“It’s not as if she’s got a migraine – she’s dying. I am fuming, so angry it’s unbelievable.”
Pauline was diagnosed with clear cell renal carcinoma – a rare form of cancer – in her left kidney in June, which has since spread to her lungs and liver.
She started chemotherapy in August and spends much of her time in a wheelchair.
Jodie, 26, added: “They can’t operate on the kidney itself. She wouldn’t make it off the operating table.
“The are just giving her chemotherapy to prolong her life.”
Pauline said her GP had given her a sick note up until the end of this month and she would have had to have been signed off to come back any sooner.
She added: “When they dismissed me on November 5, they gave me 10 weeks’ notice pay – normally you get compensation but because I’m of retirement age I’m not entitled to that.
“I would have loved to have gone back to work. It’s a nice place to work. I would have just cut my hours down a bit.
“I’m not doing this for any money. I’m doing it because I’m so angry and want them to take it on board so they don’t treat anybody else the same.”
In a letter dated November 2, seen by The Gazette, bosses told her: “You have now been absent from work due to your illness since June 19, 2015.
“You are currently being cared for by your daughter due to your fatigue and dizzy spells.
“Since taking your medication you have seen little improvement in you ability to care for yourself.”
The letter goes on to say Pauline stated at a meeting in October that she was ‘still unfit for work’.
It added: “Although you aspire to return to work as soon as possible, it is clear from the information provided there is no clear indication that you will be able to return to work in the foreseeable future due to ongoing care and medical treatment.”
The letter said Pauline received ‘substantial support’ to boost her attendance.
It concludes: “Your employment with DWP must be terminated because you have failed to maintain an acceptable level of attendance and are unable to return to work within a timetable that I consider reasonable.”
The family say they got a letter on December 23 saying they did not have enough information to appeal the decision, something they dispute.
A DWP spokesman said: “We do all we can to support an employee’s return to work, including offering part-time, flexible hours or a different role.
“If someone tells us they won’t be able to return to work for the foreseeable future, we do need to make plans to ensure we can continue to deliver government services.”