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Disability related sick leave left Michelle financially stuck

My name’s Michelle. I’m 24 and live with my husband Nathan.

I’ve got a lovely little group of conditions, which are stage four endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, fibromyalgia and hyper-mobility spectrum disorder.

I was really proud to begin my career as a nurse in a local hospital.

When I started, if I was having a bad day with pain, I would double my medication to get through the shift and cope. If I was really struggling, I’d book last-minute annual leave, because I didn’t want to be that new-starter who was immediately having sick days.

But sadly, in October that same year, I had really bad flare-up of my endometriosis. I was admitted to hospital and told I needed surgery. With the side-effects of the medication I was put on, I had to go on sick leave immediately. 

A woman in a wheelchair making a cup of tea in her kitchen

I didn't feel ready to go back to work

After the operation, I didn’t feel ready to go back to work. I didn’t feel like my pain was under control.

With the time I’d taken off, I ran out of occupational sick pay and had to go onto Statutory Sick Pay. I’d gone from earning around £1,600 a month, to having just £377 a month to live on.

I wasn’t ready to return to work but needed to get back because there was rent and bills to pay.

With the long hours and the stress and strain of the job, it became like a revolving door. I’d end up going back to work because I needed the money. 

We cut our costs to the bare minimum

Me and my husband really struggled. We went through all our costs, stripping down to the bare minimum.

We’d often find ourselves saying ‘we’re short this month, if we had just another £70 we’d be OK, we’d have our heads above water’. Thankfully we had family that helped us out. But it was hit and miss, because they had their own bills to pay, so it was really tough.

To make extra money we sold things we didn’t need. Because money was so tight, I’d go back to work for little bursts.  

I pushed myself too far and needed double the time off work

The amount of time I spent in work, I then needed double the amount of time off. I’d pushed myself too far. I really wasn’t great mentally, from all the stress of everything.

When I went back to work, I was trying to pick up extra shifts. Just trying to get as much money as I possibly could to get us back to zero, because I knew another episode with my health would be coming.

Finally, around March last year, I went off on long-term sick leave, and stayed off until I eventually resigned because my health was declining so much.

I’m now using a wheelchair and we’ve moved to cheaper and more accessible accommodation closer to where my husband works. 

A woman sitting in a wheelchair outside her front door

Statutory Sick Pay isn't flexible or supportive

I don’t think Statutory Sick Pay is flexible or supportive of disabled people. I’m active on social media.

I talk to a lot of disabled people out there who really struggle, because they feel like they have to go back to work before they’re ready, for financial reasons.

Spreading awareness and fighting for change at least gives everything I’ve gone through a bit of meaning.

Take action

Nobody should have to work while unwell.

Too many of us are stuck with the impossible choice between taking time off sick when we’re unwell and being able to pay bills or buy food.

Join Mind and Scope in calling on the Government to create a modern sick pay system that is flexible and fair. 

Sign our open letter to the Government.

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