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Fiona Robinson, Business Analyst, Corporate Finance at HMRC talks to VERCIDA about Disability and Mental Health Support

Category: testimonial, disability, Hidden Disabilities, Disability Awareness, HMRC, HM Revenue & Customs, What Our People Say, Staff Testimonial, Reasonable-Adjustments, mental, mental health, mental disability, hidden, mental health at work, disability at work, disability confident leader

Mental Health

Fiona Robinson, Business Analyst, Corporate Finance (Finance Systems Business Change)

Returning to work following health-based leave can be daunting. Some conditions and disabilities are more visible – others may be hidden. What kind of support is available in these circumstances? Some conditions may require practical support and adjustments, others may require mental health support. How can organisations support staff through their change in circumstances and continue to nurture their career development aspirations in this new context?

HMRC is committed to supporting employees’ health and wellbeing – but what does that support look like in practice?

We caught up with Fiona Robinson, Business Analyst, Corporate Finance (Finance Systems Business Change) who has worked for HMRC for 30 years. Fiona has had reasonable adjustments in place and received practical and mental health support to facilitate her return to work following health-based leave. She shared her inspiring story with us:

“In March 2019 I suffered a stroke and brain haemorrhage while on official business. This meant a long time off sick as well as being left with physical and mental issues that I had to come to terms with. If you look at my photo you will see that there’s no evidence of any physical disability and that’s important – the awareness that not everything is visible.”

Fiona described the extensive practical, mental and emotional support that she has received, facilitating her return to work:

“I was given an Occupational Health referral to determine my requirements before returning to work. When I returned to work I attended an Access to work referral that came in and assessed my home and workplace and what equipment I would need to allow me to work effectively. I was given flexibility to work from home as I recovered from my stroke and dealing with chronic fatigue. I had a homeworking station set up with a desk, dual screens, computer chair and an arm support to help me with my weak left arm. I was given software and hardware to enable me to carry out my work. My left arm has reduced function so I was provided with Dragon software so I can still type emails and reports etc. I was provided with a dictaphone to allow me to record meetings to support my impaired memory and concentration. My management team were so understanding in my limitations that I have had a temporary change of role to support my capability as I continue on my healing journey. To support my rehabilitation, I have been given Disability Adjustment Leave to attend a Neuro Rehabilitation Unit. Access To Work provided me with a personal coach who has been helping me with stress management strategies and supporting me and my manager in our expectations in setting performance objectives. I have made use of the free counselling available to all HMRC staff and a counsellor has supported me in accepting my traumatic event and how my life and plans for it have had to change. There are wellbeing ‘dial ins’ where mental health conditions such as depression are openly talked about supported by colleagues with professional speakers and counsellors in attendance.”

Fiona had worked in the frontline at HMRC for 17 years, managing increasing numbers of staff. Although she loved managing a team, she was eager to get back in touch with the pace of HMRC transformation as the organisation moved further into the digital environment. Her passion for seeking out systems upgrades and better ways of using systems to facilitate change led her to move into business analysis and she transferred into a team of analysts working to support a significant programme of transformation within HMRC. Achieving a number of appropriate qualifications she would ultimately end up as a qualified Business Analyst. Unfortunately, she was in the middle of this journey when she suffered the stroke and brain haemorrhage.

More than just providing the practical and mental health support to enable Fiona to return to work, HMRC have restructured her role to keep the options for continuation on the journey to business analyst open for her buy in a way that is adaptable and achievable. Fiona explains:

“The end game for me is still to continue with the business analysis journey, that’s still where my interest lies. The senior management team have been fantastic and supporting, giving me a bit of breathing space to come to terms with what my capabilities are back in the workplace. Because I wasn’t really sure at the time when I first came back to work; so they looked across the patch to see what I could do and still contribute to the work of the team. I’m currently supporting our Senior Leader in her diary management, which is a fantastic opportunity for me to get to know people again and arrange meetings and use the organisational skills that haven’t been fully impacted by my stroke – it’s work I can do in the background rather than being in a face to face role with stakeholders. I am also currently supporting people to create process maps of different business processes. They gave me access to online learning rather than being sent to a venue to attend an intensive training course followed by exams that I would probably have struggled to pass because of my memory problems. This way I can dip into the online learning to support my role and use the learning when I need it rather than having to remember it all – I can have it in my back pocket for reference for as long as I need. Although I can’t see me being a fully-fledged business analyst for the moment, this is still a goal I’d love to achieve so I’m following the same principles, which will enable me to do the job.  And by shadowing more experienced business analysts on my team, I’m gaining a lot of learning as I go.”

We asked Fiona what advice she would give to someone going through a similar journey:

“Don’t leave being honest about your struggles until you are completely stressed out by it. HMRC is very aware of inclusion and diversity and making sure that everybody feels safe and engaged in their job. And my advice is really not to be frightened and to be honest if you are struggling. My experience is that you don’t get judged. My honesty has really helped me feel like I’m getting better - I’m more of the person I was. And I feel really lucky that I am surrounded by the people I am and the processes that HMRC has in place to make people feel like they are the same as everybody else. It’s about making the best use of all the resources to make sure that we, as people wh

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