Absence Issues

Absence Issues

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We have an employee who following a disciplinary (where the outcome was a final written warning and redeployment) has been signed off sick with stress for the past 5 months.

The employee has refused to attend an Occupational Health Assessment and will not give consent to a GP report, so we have no details regarding what exactly he is claiming is causing him stress. Generally he is being very unco-operative.

The employee's most recent sick note expired yesterday and we are yet to receive another one.

I have a couple of questions as follows:

1. Is there anything we can do about the non-cooperation regarding a medical report? Our absence policy states

"We reserve the right to apply for a medical report or request that you attend a medical examination by a nominated doctor or other specialist, as and when deemed necessary, for example, in the event of prolonged or recurring absence through illness, or on your return to work. These will be arranged and paid for by the Company. As appropriate you will be advised of your rights under the Access to Medical Records Act 1998."

Does this non-co-operation warrant disciplinary action considering he is signed off with stress?

2. How long is a reasonable length of time to allow between sick notes before the employee is considered as AWOL?

Tina Bull

Replies (2)

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By alawler
08th Jan 2008 17:51

Hi Tina

Do your Occupational Health people offer Stress Management sessions and if so, have they been offered to your employee in addition to an assessment.

Perhaps your employee may feel less intimidated and would feel more able to co-operate if you approached on the basis of offering stress management 'sessions' rather than an 'assessment'? It's quite possible that as your employee is signed off with stress-related illness, he is not thinking rationally and may take an assessment as being a bit of a test.

I am a stress management specialist and would be happy to have a more detailed chat with no obligation at all, if you felt that would be helpful to you. I can be contacted on [email protected].

Good luck with it all.

Best wishes


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By craig.midnight.co.uk
04th Jan 2008 15:10

“In this case, you do owe this employee a duty of care but without the benefit of detailed medical advice you have little to go on and I don’t think it is unreasonable to want to know more. You can legitimately argue you do not know how you can help them get back to work if you have no information!
However, it could be very difficult to try and justify taking disciplinary action against this employee as they could argue they were too stressed to co-operate and your actions have made their condition much worse (as well as the fact they sound unlikely to be able to participate in any disciplinary process anyway). Instead I suggest you consider taking a more robust approach in terms of following your capability procedure. In particular, you could write to them explaining exactly why you need the medical examination. If they will not co-operate you could warn them that a failure to submit themselves could result in you having to make a decision regarding their capability to work without the benefit of medical input. Ultimately, if this still does not work you may be able to fairly proceed to dismissal (proving you have followed the statutory dismissal procedure). This does of course depend somewhat on what reason they give for not being able to attend!

In terms of sick notes, technically an employee is absent without authorisation as soon as their current medical certificate expires. It is usually sensible to wait a few days just to check a new certificate has not simply been delayed for some reason. Waiting a short time is also especially prudent in a stress situation as again the employee may justifiably be able to argue their condition preventing them sending in the certificate promptly.”

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