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Interview while on sick leave

(12 Posts)
TheListingAttic Tue 13-Aug-13 15:50:00

Initially posted this on Legal, but posting here for traffic and it's kind of a WWYD.

Long story short, I've just been signed off work for three weeks with depression. My current job is ending in two months and I have been invited for two interviews within these three weeks. My fear is that legally - and crucially in terms of references - the rule is that if I'm well enough for interview then I'm well enough for work.

I really don't want to miss the interviews. Depression stuff has in part come to a head due to employment/financial anxiety and it would be a huge weight off to have it sorted (potentially!) I probably could manage to go back next week, before the first interview, but really don't want to have to. Without going into detail, the current job is a huge part of the problem. So: were they to get a reference request while I'm away sick are they entitled/likely to write back going "well, it's funny she's been to interview since she was supposedly ill at the time"?

WIBU to go to interviews while on sick leave? And would I be daft to risk forcing myself back early for possible longer term gain or what? I know they can't discriminate over the depression itself but not sure where I stand here. Feeling fragile and very anxious about making everything worse....

Drquin Tue 13-Aug-13 16:04:15

I would think it's perfectly legal. In being signed off sick, surely that's just a case of you being unable to do your job. Whether you're able to do other things - such as write a letter, get the train into town for an interview - is irrelevant?

Practically, I suppose you need to consider whether you'd need a reference for the new job, and how this might be perceived. And whether any sick pay entitlements are affected?

Probably the only thing I'd think odd, as a manager, is if you're signed off for say the next six weeks with me but would expect to really start a new job in four weeks time ..... Are you "really" sick for the next six weeks?? OTOH if work is a factor in your depression / being off-sick, then maybe a change of job would mean you could reasonably be back "earlier"

Probably worth checking your own contract / employee handbook etc

Turniptwirl Tue 13-Aug-13 16:15:17

Ask them not to request references until you're offered the job. This seems to be a standard question, when can we approach your employer.

Then if you don't get the jobs, no one at your current job needs to know you had interviews.

As your current job is a major factor in your depression, it's reasonable to take steps to improve your situation even while on sick leave.

Good luck!

Mogz Tue 13-Aug-13 17:19:02

I would expect your managers to be a bit put out by it BUT you need to do what is right for you, if by going to these interviews to potentially secure a better job will alleviate some of your depression then you owe it to yourself to try.
Depression is a tricky one as a 'sickness', it's not like you've got flu so can't get out of bed and do anything, you're probably still perfectly capable of a lot of things and just needing that little bit of time out of normal routine to set yourself straight.
Good luck, and I hope you feel more like your old self very soon.

redexpat Tue 13-Aug-13 17:22:35

I'm not sure if that's legal or not. Can you check with your union? Or CAB?

CommanderShepard Tue 13-Aug-13 17:52:25

I was signed off with HG and AND when pregnant and was invited to interview for another position in my department while on sick leave. It was all fine. Didn't get the job, it has to be said, but it was fine.

LePamplemousseMousse Tue 13-Aug-13 20:52:58

I don't think there is anything illegal in it, but I do think you need to tread carefully and think about how to manage things with your current employer.

I've dealt with a lot of employment issues over the years, and some line managers are not very sympathetic to long-term sickness, especially for 'invisible' illnesses like depression or back pain, and it's surprising how often the line manager (or other member of the team) simply doesn't believe it and thinks it's an easy way for someone to have some time off. I have no idea what your relationship is like with your line manager but bear in mind that he or she may take the 'well enough to interview, well enough to work line', and that could make things very uncomfortable if it's discovered you've been to interview, whether or not you get the job. He or she may mention when a reference is requested that you were on sick leave for the last few weeks, innocently or not, which may also not go down all that well with the new employer if you didn't disclose it at the time (which I wouldn't do TBH - so I think you need to manage it with your current employer instead)

I think there are two strategies: if you have an HR department, I would give them a call and explain that you only have two months left, that anxiety about finding a new job/money is part of the depressive picture and you think it might help if you can take the positive step of attending the interviews but you want to be completely transparent about this as you are signed off. Hopefully they can then advise you that it's OK for you to do it - bear in mind they may feel they have to let your line manager know as a report on the progress of your recovery. Being up-front will show honesty and allow you to explain yourself.

The second strategy is to go to the interviews, and as soon as it looks like you are being put into the second round (or offered the job) go back to work and ask the new employer not to seek references until a week or so after you've been back, giving the reason that you need to tell your line manager first, and he or she is on holiday. This at least means you could have interviewed on evening when you were back at work, say, and is less obvious that you got the job while on sick leave.

If I were you I would DEFINITELY be going to the interviews, but trying to make sure I wasn't risking casting myself as 'taking the piss' out of my current employer and making life uncomfortable.


tb Tue 13-Aug-13 21:22:39

Years ago, I was off with cervical spondylosis which was, in part, caused by stress at work. During this time I had an interview, and got the job - probably because I was less stressed.

I told my gp I was going back to work when she would have extended my sick leave as I had travel insurance with a staff discount and was scared my boss would find out I'd been away. My gp's take on it was that she was perfectly capable of telling me that going away for a week was what I needed.

So, perhaps you could view it as the interviews being beneficial to your health, even more so if they lead to you getting another better job.

TheListingAttic Tue 13-Aug-13 22:04:20

Thanks for the responses, everyone. Some useful things to think about for managing the situation. The thing about asking them to delay taking references is s bit too late - there's a question on the application about whether it's okay to contact all/some referees and I already said it was fine (since the job is finishing soon I had no qualms about them knowing I'd started looking). To complicate matters further my boss is away until the beginning of the same week as the interviews.

missingmumxox Tue 13-Aug-13 23:17:45

At first I read this and thought well legal but I can see where you are coming from in Employers reaction, I thought on and in my role I am always being told X has gone off with Stress after being told about a capability or disciplinary, we are asked if they can come and mostly the issue of stress is due to the above, so getting it out of the way is the only way they can move on otherwise it will hang over their head longer causing the depression to go on, never resolved.

this is the same if you have a job you can move onto you may find you can go and finish your contract.
I don't get the well enough for interview, well enough for work that doesn't work, totally different issues.

I once had an interview within my workplace for a study place, I was not at work I came in on crutches and a comedy head bandage and blackeyes, I could not work as a ICU nurse (which I was at the time) but with my Dh driving me in I could attend an interview.....reader I got the place.

LePamplemousseMousse Wed 14-Aug-13 11:51:54

Thelistingattic all is not lost. It's probably not too late to contact the interviewers and ask that they don't seek references until after a certain date, they are very unlikely to try and take them up before they've interviewed you. Give the honest reason that your line manager is away and you'd like to be able to speak to him/her before getting a reference request. All very standard, so I wouldn't worry about it - it's probably just a case of someone in HR amending the application form you sent in.

Do you have an HR department in your current company, or is it just your boss you'd have to speak to if you wanted to let the company know you were going to attend interviews in advance?

Petals58 Sun 21-Aug-16 21:39:29

Can i apply for jobs whilst off sick with workplace stress and depression

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