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To be skeptical of employees illness

(113 Posts)
ashvivienne Wed 24-Apr-19 09:20:33

A few weeks ago an employee on my team informed me that she had been given a cancer diagnosis quite recently but hadn’t informed us till she knew all the facts and exactly what was happening. She is in the early stages and has informed us that she’ll be receiving chemotherapy which she has now started.
We have had a meeting with our HR department and occupational health staff as she has said she’d like to continue working as long as possible. HR have asked for a letter from her doctor so we can obviously get the ball rolling on accommodations such as reduced hours and time off for appointments on sick pay rather than unpaid leave or holidays. She’s refused to give us any letters that she’s been given none and that if she goes to her GP she’ll need to pay for one (I’m going to discuss it with HR if we can pay for the letter).
She is obviously friends with some people in the office and we have each other on social media. She has been out heavily boozing on numerous nights out even since starting treatment and has even spent this bank holiday out for 3 days not returning home.
Aibu to be skeptical? It feels harsh and part of me does think maybe she is putting on a brave face but there just feels like something isn’t right.

MrsGrannyWeatherwax Wed 24-Apr-19 09:22:50

Depends on treatments etc but I often go on “boozy nights out” and don’t drink...

If you have any other reason to doubt then maybe but if not your being a little harsh - not many people would lie about cancer...

Ask her to get the letter from her doctor

SaskiaRembrandt Wed 24-Apr-19 09:25:21

I think YABU to be sceptical. She will have to pay for a letter. And a lot of people who'd just received a diagnosis of cancer would feel like letting their hair down while they still can. Nothing you have written suggests she is doing anything wrong, so unless she has a history of faking serious illnesses you might want to revise your opinion.

Grumpasaurous Wed 24-Apr-19 09:25:51

I think it’s fair to ask for the appointment confirmations, otherwise how are you as a business to plan, and also accommodate any further needs that may arise.

I’ve a chronic illness and am more than happy to let my employer have whatever they want from dr/hospital etc.

At one of my previous employers there was a bit in the contract about granting access to medical info should you be off long term sick or ‘regularly’ sick (the regularly bit was to discourage the Monday/Friday people that always seemed to be off IYSWIM).

I’d also be a bit sceptical, you’re offering support. She’s putting up barriers to that.

Specialkay1983 Wed 24-Apr-19 09:31:55

Your Company can pay for the letter. She will have to sign a consent form to access her medical records though. It might help if HR completes the referral form and she understands exactly what questions they are asking the GP? Maybe she worries that other information would be disclosed if she has previous medical history?

OneDayillSleep Wed 24-Apr-19 09:32:09

A relative of my husband has been battling breast cancer, her social media she's off on holidays, out enjoying herself etc, very happy fun stuff. The only sign she's been having chemo is that her hair is now a lot shorter. She's never posted anything to suggest she's battling a serious illness.

I'd wait before jumping to conclusions, you could get into a lot of trouble if she finds out you doubted her and she is really unwell.

ZoeWashburne Wed 24-Apr-19 09:35:47

This is a legal minefield, and HR are usually best pressed to handle things like this. At the crux, say that you need to see a letter from her doctor outlining what accommodations she is going to need and details of the type of time she will need off. If there is a cost, you should pay for it (usually around £30). That will tell you everything you need to know. Make it clear you are not asking about her medical history or private information, but rather the accommodations she may need and things you should be aware of as an employer.

Cancer is deemed a disability, legally. If you are wrong, this would be a costly, costly mistake. That being said, it couldn't hurt to screenshot some of the posts you are seeing.

When you have the doctors note, that should clear up a lot of the issues. You can check the note directly with the surgery if you are concerned about forgery. If she is refusing a note all-together, even if you are paying, then you should get direct legal advice.

MzHz Wed 24-Apr-19 09:38:12

Get legal advice - GOOD LEGAL ADVICE first and foremost

If she won’t provide documentation that helps you help her, then get a letter drafted (and double triple checked by aforementioned GOOD lawyer) that says that until she provides the standard information to support her health status then as a business you have no other option than to insist that all leave she takes will need to be either taken as part of her holiday allowance or unpaid.

Rosesaredead Wed 24-Apr-19 09:44:14

YABU. She must be terrified. No wonder she's being going on some boozy nights too, to have a break from feeling scared. Not all dancer have extreme symptoms right away, she might be feeling well enough to go out and try to drink away her worries but that doesn't mean she shouldn't let you, as her employer, know. Please don't voice your scepticism to her. That would be awful.

ashvivienne Wed 24-Apr-19 09:49:53

She’s part time with us and either works a morning or afternoon at the moment so we would like to get her on mornings only and be able to schedule in her days off after her treatment so she has two days off anyway and if she needs more there obviously wouldn’t be an issue she’s also been with us long enough that she’s entitled to 12 months of full sick pay.

BarbaraofSevillle Wed 24-Apr-19 09:52:52

Isn't this the sort of circumstance where a Fit Note from her GP is the answer? As in her GP will document what she is capable of and any adjustments that need to be made at work to accommodate her illness?

If she can't provide a Fit Note, it's up to your's employer HR/Occupational Health department to decide how to proceed.

PregnantSea Wed 24-Apr-19 09:56:55

YANBU to insist on a letter from her doctor. YABU to be sceptical of her illness based on her being seen on nights on via social media. It means nothing. People who have cancer aren't obliged to look sad and do nothing. It affects everyone differently. I know people who have battled through chemo, brightly coloured wig donned, and put a brave face on it all and tried to live their life to fullest throughout the whole process.

If your company stumps up the cost for the medical letter and she still refuses, at that point I would be very suspicious and start asking some questions. But not before then.

JudgeRindersMinder Wed 24-Apr-19 09:58:38

Why are you looking to change her working pattern to mornings only?

Dodie66 Wed 24-Apr-19 09:58:52

I know somebody who has cancer too and she enjoys going out for long walks, has drinks and tries to live a normal life as she can. No reason to stop living because you have cancer

adaline Wed 24-Apr-19 10:00:21

Don't judge by what you see on social media. I know plenty of people who have gone through pregnancies, cancer diagnoses' and more without uttering a single word on social media. Not everyone puts their personal business on Facebook.

YANBU to ask for a doctors' note, though. That's par for the course for any serious illness.

Reallyevilmuffin Wed 24-Apr-19 10:01:09

Your company needs to pay for an Occupational health assessment, not a letter from her GP.

TerryWogansWilly Wed 24-Apr-19 10:03:48

Yabu about social media. She can be sick and go out.

Yanbu about expecting her to sit down with HR and give something definitive from the doctor.

LuckyLou7 Wed 24-Apr-19 10:04:20

I worked with someone years ago, who pretended to have cancer. We, as a company, fundraised to send her and her 3 children on 'one last family holiday' to Disneyland. She cocked up by providing a fake letter from a non-existent oncologist when Occupational Health asked for details of diagnosis and treatment regime.

People do lie about serious illness, for time off work, and in this woman's case, monetary gain, but I'd like to think they are in a tiny minority.

ashvivienne Wed 24-Apr-19 10:06:46

Judge she said it would be easier to do mornings as it means she would be able to schedule any appointments for afternoons and she could just go home afterwards

qazxc Wed 24-Apr-19 10:07:45

I wouldn't judge based on social media. She might not want people to know that she is ill, she might want to go out and take her mind off things while she can.

Comefromaway Wed 24-Apr-19 10:10:37

My husband was diagnosed with a chronic illness last year (thankfully not life threatening as we first thought as he ws investigated for strokes and brain cancer) but at no time did he ever have to provide a letter from his doctor, and indeed would have refused to do so.

What his employer did was to send him to an external occupational health agency and although he had to give permission for them to share his information, they made an assessment based on what he told them and his medical report from the consultant.

overreactingperhaps Wed 24-Apr-19 10:11:08

Social media can be very deceiving.
Also, Doctor's notes don't seem to be the done thing these days, I remember struggling to get one from my GP.

However, she will surely get letters for appointments at hospital etc, for scans/first chemo appmt, so perhaps she could show you one of those?

Catchingbentcoppers Wed 24-Apr-19 10:13:28

I was recently diagnosed with cancer and had surgery. I'm about to start chemotherapy. I have not, and will not, put anything on social media about this. It's far too personal and truth be told I'm shitting myself. I have provided my employer with letter and doctors note as to why I'm not at work right now though and I haven't had to pay for any of them.

Pardonwhat Wed 24-Apr-19 10:14:33

If you were skeptical just based on her going out to enjoy herself I’d think you were a CF. But you’re right on the lack of forthcoming evidence front. How hard is it to even just provide a hospital appointment letter?

Xiaoxiong Wed 24-Apr-19 10:14:51

My dad worked with someone years ago who faked having cancer, she had loads of accommodations, time off for appointments, sick leave etc. Eventually it was found out, she admitted it and she was fired. He then heard a couple of years later through professional contacts that she actually got cancer (for real this time) sad

Pardonwhat Wed 24-Apr-19 10:16:32

Comefromaway

So your husband DID provide a letter from a doctor - just via an exteneral agency. So no different really is it?

bobstersmum Wed 24-Apr-19 10:17:17

I read this and expected to hear some good reasons for your suspicion. I can't see any to be honest. Yabu. It sounds like you are hoping she is lying? Has she got form for dishonesty?

EdWinchester Wed 24-Apr-19 10:17:42

Why can't she just show you a hospital letter - she must be getting letters about appointments?

Tawdrylocalbrouhaha Wed 24-Apr-19 10:18:24

She needs to give you a letter confirming the diagnosis. If she is really having chemo there will be no problem obtaining this, or a clinic letter from Oncology to her GP (copied to her) will also clearly state the diagnosis and proposed treatment.

If she cant give you these, she is lying. If she gives them to you only after being pressed, look at them carefully - I work in the NHS and have been contacted by employers who have been given poorly forged letters purporting to be from a certain consultant and hospital. Normally the content gives it away immediately.

Kedgeree Wed 24-Apr-19 10:18:42

My colleague has metastatic bowel cancer, her treatment is palliative. She's out on the lash every chance she gets. As pp have said, YANBU to ask for medical notes, but YABU for being sceptical based on her social life.

MrsMaisel Wed 24-Apr-19 10:19:07

People do fake cancer - not unheard of. I would demand evidence.

C8H10N4O2 Wed 24-Apr-19 10:19:16

This is HR's issue to deal with not yours but doctors do not routinely give letters detailing medical conditions even to HR let alone nosey managers. Occupational health makes that assessment for the business and provides the recommendations to HR in terms of needs for adjustments.

There seems to be quite a spate of threads recently from people who have "someone on their team" assumed to be skiving because their life doesn't come to a grinding halt or conform to tabloidesque attitudes to the sick.

Imagine if you had a cancer diagnosis and your supposed team mates/managers' response was to search social media and assume you are lying. How would you feel?

LtJudyHopps Wed 24-Apr-19 10:19:22

If I had a cancer diagnosis I would damn well be out drinking as much as I could before the chemo started having serious side effects!
Social media is a smoke screen - it doesn’t show what’s really going on. Also everyone reacts differently to their diagnosis, my mum has buried her head in the sand and doesn’t really talk about it. Others blog their whole experience.
Depending on her cancer she may have oncology appointments in the morning and breast clinic appointments in the afternoon - so changing her to all one or the other may not work.

itstheweekend2 Wed 24-Apr-19 10:20:07

When you are diagnosed with cancer and receive chemotherapy treatment I would think you don't 'schedule' appointments you just go when you are called to go ? and also surely you would have a diagnosis letter from the hospital? something seems a bit off here

C8H10N4O2 Wed 24-Apr-19 10:21:52

She needs to give you a letter confirming the diagnosis

No she really doesn't. Her medical details are none of the OP's business.

The sick employee may have something she can share with HR but even then the details should not be shared with other staff beyond (a) any adjustments needed (b) aspects the employee herself chooses to share

Occupational health and HR manage this, not random nosey staff. Her manager's responsibility is to implement the recommendations not be privy to details.

oakthorn Wed 24-Apr-19 10:23:52

Her social media is not indicative of what is actually happening . I was out all through my treatment for breast cancer . However I had multiple letters from the hospital detailing appointments and all were shown to my employer. I never had to pay for a letter . In my experience all chemo and rad appointments are detailed in writing and don't give any personal medical details away . I would certainly be asking for evidence of appointments. Failure to provide those would make me very suspicious.

C8H10N4O2 Wed 24-Apr-19 10:25:04

and also surely you would have a diagnosis letter from the hospital?

Her doctor may. Her GP practice will not be likely to share that confidential information with third parties. They may well charge to write a separate letter summarising the impact on the person (mine does because its not standard procedure - its the kind of thing asked for in companies with poor staff processes).

If she hasn't yet started chemo the most she is likely to have in hand is an appt card which will have no details of illness.

ReanimatedSGB Wed 24-Apr-19 10:25:51

Well, people do lie about having cancer and other serious illnesses. People who do that rely on the fact that others will feel too embarassed and awkward to express any doubts, and that it will be easy enough to get anyone who seems to be getting near the truth massively shamed and punished at least socially for daring to doubt the poor suffering saint (look at the history of vampire trolls on MN - there's always been a stage where someone points out an obvious flaw in the posts and gets flamed to bits for being a nasty-minded cunt).
But it's HR's job to follow procedures, which may include asking for a doctor's letter or OH assessment. Leave it to them.

thelastgoldeneagle Wed 24-Apr-19 10:26:38

Is there anything specifically making you suspicious of this employee? Has she lied about anything in the past?

I agree that what she puts on her social media is irrelevant - she may not want to tell everyone about her diagnosis - most people just use SM for the fun bits of their lives, don't they?

InadvertentlyBrilliant Wed 24-Apr-19 10:27:35

I would ask her to obtain a fit note from her GP stating she isn't fit to work. An actual letter detailing her diagnosis is not required. You do not need to know the details. If the employee does not want to divulge her situation she does not have to. She may fear that it won't be kept strictly confidential or she may just be very private in this regard.

I'm sure she will be able to ask for any adjustments she considers necessary to be made.

SnowsInWater Wed 24-Apr-19 10:28:30

I'm currently undergoing Chemo. I posted the nice happy pics of me with my family having a city break, and yes I has a glass of wine in my hand, at the weekend. I didn't post pics of me looking like a gargoyle with a cold cap on my head having my treatment at the hospital yesterday or of me spending today with a bright red face from the steroids trying not to puke. So, YABU to be sceptical because of what you see on social media but of course if she wants to continue working she needs to work with you and comply with HR policy.

I was five weeks into a great new job when I was diagnosed. I offered to resign so they could re-hire but my fab employer offered me six months unpaid leave instead. I know some people work through Chemo and obviously some have no choice but I would be prepared for your employee not being able to do as much as she thinks she will be able to once treatment starts. Chemo brain really is a thing so you just can't work effectively in some jobs through treatment.

BarbaraofSevillle Wed 24-Apr-19 10:29:26

I would be surprised if a large organisation with HR and Occupational Health departments would take an employee's word of serious illness with significant impact on the business in terms of sick pay and resources/adjusments with no independent documented evidence.

They usually won't reimburse the cost of a sandwich without a receipt, so are unlikely to give months of paid leave, time off for hospital appointments, adjusted working hours etc on trust.

SusieSusieSoo Wed 24-Apr-19 10:30:10

Refer to occupational health for a proper report then you choose the questions and the person who produces the report. Always the best way.

C8H10N4O2 Wed 24-Apr-19 10:30:49

They may well charge to write a separate letter summarising the impact on the person

Just to be clear - when GPs are asked to write these letters they are implicitly being asked to perform an OH service for the company. Most GPs are not specialists in OH which is why its usually a service contracted in.

Orangeballon Wed 24-Apr-19 10:30:49

If I had cancer the first thing I would do is produce letters from hospital to HR department in order to get them fully on my side and to get as much support as possible.

Unfortunately, lying is fairly common place these days and businesses are there for their own benefit not the emp.

Scrumptiousbears Wed 24-Apr-19 10:31:23

I imagine the hospital are used to giving such letters to people in these circumstances.

itstheweekend2 Wed 24-Apr-19 10:33:06

If I had a serious illness requiring time off work I would expect to prove this to my employers (HR dept) and not have them just take my word for it.

Tawdrylocalbrouhaha Wed 24-Apr-19 10:35:59

*She needs to give you a letter confirming the diagnosis

No she really doesn't. Her medical details are none of the OP's business.*

I meant "you" as in her workplace - she has told them she has been diagnosed with cancer, and yes she will need to provide confirmation of the diagnosis if she plans to take time off. This will not be a problem assuming her diagnosis is real, because it is an issue any Oncology department will be aware of.

DarlingNikita Wed 24-Apr-19 10:36:40

It would be a good idea for her to cooperate regarding accommodations she needs. But as someone has said, you can do that with maximum discretion/sensitivity by using an external occupational health agency who will protect her information and provide an assessment. HR don't need to know all the details, and you even less so.

And I think it's outrageous that you're sceptical about her illness because of some social media posts. Shame on you.

StealthPolarBear Wed 24-Apr-19 10:37:14

Line managers manage. Hr advise. People who are saying it's none of the op's business and Hr will deal with it are wrong ime.

TatianaLarina Wed 24-Apr-19 10:38:46

As a pp said will get hospital letters for all her appointments. If she has, for example, one course of chemo @ 12 sessions the dates and times will be sent either individually or in a block in hospital letter/s. Those letters are free.

MissingInActionYouSay Wed 24-Apr-19 10:40:13

I had low dose chemo (methotrexate) for a chronic illness, a 1/10th of a normal dose weekly by injection for 6 months and then I had an increase. It says all over the chemo medication NOT to drink. I had to go for monthly blood tests as the chemo is processed and cleaned out of your bloody by your liver and it can cause issues even on a very low dose never mind full. It also makes you feel like total shite, even in small doses I got mouth ulcers, hair loss, constant nausea and I was exhausted.

If I had cancer and I had a chance of being cured, nothing could make me drink. If I was on palliative care, I wouldn't be on chemo and would be drinking whatever I wanted.

ColdNeverBotheredMeAnyway Wed 24-Apr-19 10:43:07

Surely any appointment letter from the oncology department would be sufficient proof, and she would have had those... and could readily produce them pending any further letter needed from the GP.

I think you're right to be slightly sceptical on the lack of evidence. But don't judge her for her FB antics, in fact, don't mention it at work because it's entirely unfair to judge her on what she does in her personal time off. I have two friends with cancer who are both living life to the absolute full, travelling and going out. You'd never guess they were unwell from their public personas.

itstheweekend2 Wed 24-Apr-19 10:43:50

Any letter about her condition that she has received herself she can just photocopy and hand in to HR. I don't understand why she has not just done this, or why she says that she does not have any such letter.

Fairylea Wed 24-Apr-19 10:44:05

I think you are being unreasonable about seeing her enjoying herself on social media. People living with cancer and chronic illnesses are entitled to enjoy themselves too! There are good days and bad days. And we all know people only show the good days on Facebook.

Look at bowelbabe aka Deborah James (google her or look her up on Instagram). She has stage 4 bowel cancer and is running / drinking / partying and living life to the full inbetween gruelling cancer treatment.

My mum died of bowel cancer 4 weeks ago and 2 days before she died she was sitting up drinking a glass of wine and eating a cream cake. Admittedly she did look truly unwell but you have to grab life while you can!

I don’t think many people truly understand the highs and los of chronic illnesses unless you’ve been through it or had close experience of it.

Yougotdis Wed 24-Apr-19 10:45:30

Just ask her for a fit for work note from the dr that the company will pay for. And then make any allowances needed based on that.

Fwiw I got cancer after a horrendous break up, after moving hundreds of miles from home and after the long protracted death in the family of cancer. I didn’t tell a soul but my employer (who I did give drs letters too even though they didn’t ask). I was very lucky and knew my chance of getting through it was very high. If you’d seen my social media you wouldn’t guess I’d ever been ill. I blamed my resulting hair loss on a freak reaction to an infection. Don’t believe everything you see and hear on social media.

SheldonSaysSo Wed 24-Apr-19 10:45:53

I appreciate the need for privacy however the employee can't expect work to help without some documentation. There will be letters sent for appointments and diagnosis, often these cc. the patient in so they will have copies. For the sake of providing one letter the support the company will offer would be worth it.

PinaColadaPlease Wed 24-Apr-19 10:48:13

There are many different types of chemo, my mil drank on all but one of hers (she had many different types through primary and then metastatic).

In all honesty, for a lot of the time, you would have had no idea how unwell she was unless she told you. She socialised, drank, holidayed and generally got in with life much as she did prior to diagnosis.

Of course it is entirely reasonable to ask for a letter, but it is totally unreasonable to doubt her based on her social media life. Some people cope very well with chemotherapy, others suffer dreadfully with side effects.

itstheweekend2 Wed 24-Apr-19 10:48:26

I agree the facebook posts are irrelevant but why the lack of any written medical proof at this stage when she says she has already been diagnosed and started chemo?

Fairylea Wed 24-Apr-19 10:49:07

My mum never received a written diagnosis of her terminal cancer. She had appointment letters but nothing to confirm anything. They tend to tell you orally in meetings.

itstheweekend2 Wed 24-Apr-19 10:50:43

Ah I see

LittleOwl153 Wed 24-Apr-19 10:52:04

My husband had to be in hospital for 4 hours recently, and there was some expected recovery time. The first thing they asked him was whether he was working and needed a fit note. Surely any hospital she attends for chemo/radio or whether treatment will offer that - which is the documentation intended for work purposes. Once you have that I would refer to occ health if that is an option for you for them to sort.

Kez200 Wed 24-Apr-19 10:54:53

I know someone having treatment currently and they are fit after chemo until day 4 when it floors them. So, adaptations may need to be made from what happens not just assumptions. She may well have been picked up through breast screening (for example) and then she may well feel very very well at the moment and be making the most of every minute.

There are people who fake this but it must be very very rare and should never be an assumption at this early stage. She does have to comply with the right procedure though.

MardAsSnails Wed 24-Apr-19 10:58:59

I have a very close friend with an aggresssive brain tumor and likely only 9-12 months to live

Her FB page is full of day trips with the kids, 2 girls holidays, family outings. Because she’s trying to do everything she can to enjoy herself whilst she can. So judging her based on social media alone is being completely unreasonable.

Having said that, DH has a serious condition that is resulting in a lot of time off work including each time his meds change. He couldn’t have been more willing to give copies of anything needed to his work/HR, and was keen to show that he’s not being a piss taker. I get that people see medical info as highly personal (because it is) but surely openness is critical if you need allowances to be made or time off for appointments.

Sleepyhead11 Wed 24-Apr-19 11:04:11

Sorry haven't read the whole thread so not sure if this has been said, but sometimes hospital consultant letters have too much information on. I have regular appointments for a chronic but no means fatal illness, and hate showing letters to work as they have a lot of information in I don't want folk to know.

RussellSprout Wed 24-Apr-19 11:07:22

I write to employees doctors for medical reports as part of my job and they just invoice us with the report... there's no need for the employee to pay for it.

It sounds like she's holding something back but this doesn't necessarily mean she doesn't have cancer... maybe she's just uncomfortable with her medical situation being discussed with her employer.

Difficult to say if the nights out/away prove anything.. she could have been staying with a friend and gone back early to her friends house for all you know.

I'd push for the letter but if she refuses, say that you can only manage her sickness in line with the info available to you.

stucknoue Wed 24-Apr-19 11:08:06

You are entitled to request a fit note or letter from her medical team at the hospital confirming treatment plan, eg two weekly chemo cycle. The social media stuff however is a red herring, she's probably trying to have a good time before treatment starts. Good employers pay for the fit note (in arrears) in these circumstances. My friend works 3 days a week and had chemo every other Friday so just changed her days to have Mondays off plus Friday on chemo week and Tuesday on week following chemo with the understanding that if she was feeling unable to come in on the Wednesday she could switch the Monday as well. She barely took any extra days. But chemo varies depending on protocol so sometimes people cannot work at all

RussellSprout Wed 24-Apr-19 11:08:46

Oh and do you know you can request a report (need her consent first) and she can see it before it goes to you and ask for any info she doesn't want you to see to be removed? Maybe if you tell her that she'll be more willing to comply with your request.

Oly4 Wed 24-Apr-19 11:11:05

Why are you asking on me? This is a legal matter for HR

sashh Wed 24-Apr-19 11:11:36

When my mum had her first cancer diagnosis she reacted by decorating the house from top to bottom.

I don't remember the second diagnosis, I think she went on holiday.

When she had her third and terminal diagnosis she and my dad had a few holidays involving a lot of booze.

She attended a few family gatherings in various parts of the country, she went to visit my niece at uni and took her out for dinner, took some friends shopping.

She even had the odd glass of wine in the hospice the week before she died.

origamiwarrior Wed 24-Apr-19 11:11:54

I think it's a bit mean spirited for you to want to re-schedule her two non-working days to fall straight after her treatment days (so the company is not impacted by her absence).

But YANBU regarding requiring a doctor's note.

Thunderspuds Wed 24-Apr-19 11:12:02

When you say they "refused" to give you letters, etc... do you mean just hasn't been forthcoming with them or has the person actually stated, "no, I'm not providing those"?

Social media stuff means nothing and you shouldn't be judging based on that.

MrsMaisel Wed 24-Apr-19 11:16:25

When I was pregnant I remember being given a note to confirm my pregnancy - to prove i was entitled to mat leave and associated benefits... I would think it's very lax of an employer to not seek some kind of medical evidence of any kind of long term illness.

MrsMaisel Wed 24-Apr-19 11:16:51

and i'm not saying pregnancy is a long term illness...

Theresomethingaboutdairy Wed 24-Apr-19 11:17:18

This is a difficult one. When I was first diagnosed with cancer I didn't have anything in writing. I also went out a bit, went on holidays etc all through treatment. I had surgery followed by intensive chemotherapy. I was lucky that even through chemo I could work, go out, enjoy myself etc. I had very little, if any, sickness. I made no reference to having cancer on social media. I also cold capped to keep my hair. I literally didn't want people to know/feel sorry for me. Work did know though and I provided the relevant certificates although any letters did need paying for. I was a stage 2, grade 3 so pretty serious.

Omzlas Wed 24-Apr-19 11:18:32

YANBU to be wary based on the refusal (?) to provide any sort of GP or consultant letters but do be wary about being your opinion on social media posts.

Catchingbentcoppers Wed 24-Apr-19 11:21:44

I literally didn't want people to know/feel sorry for me.. This is exactly how I feel right now @Theresomethingaboutdairy.

Incywincybitofa Wed 24-Apr-19 11:31:06

You can't predict how people will react to cancer news.
And not all cancers are the same. Not all treatments are the same.
So not all cancer patients look and live the same way.
This is very much an HR matter and if I were you I would step away from it. The company must have a policy on this. If it is a small company they can probably go to ACAS for advice, but seriously this is not for you to get stuck into because it could all blow up

But yes people do fake cancer and they do rely on others not knowing what they can and can't ask, or what the sick person can or can't do.

scarbados Wed 24-Apr-19 11:34:16

Do you have a rule that your employees with potentially terminal illnesses must act as if they're already dead and not go out with friends or enjoy whatever life they can?

Be scepticcal about the lack of letters, fine. But otherwise you're being totally U and a complete CF twat in your attitude.

Ali1cedowntherabbithole Wed 24-Apr-19 11:35:22

Tawdrylocalbrouhaha
She needs to give you a letter confirming the diagnosis. If she is really having chemo there will be no problem obtaining this, or a clinic letter from Oncology to her GP (copied to her) will also clearly state the diagnosis and proposed treatment.

If she cant give you these, she is lying. If she gives them to you only after being pressed, look at them carefully - I work in the NHS and have been contacted by employers who have been given poorly forged letters purporting to be from a certain consultant and hospital. Normally the content gives it away immediately.

I was about to post something similar. Although the employee would have to pay for a GP letter, a cancer patient will have a wealth of correspondence to provide evidence of their treatment without needing to ask for a specific letter.

I would also add that many people feel wiped out in the days following their chemo and so a working pattern of all mornings, might not be ideal. Clearly, this depends very much on the individual, but a pattern of working their "better" days, might be an option.

As other PP say, the social media stuff is a red herring.

FredFlinstoneMadeOfBones Wed 24-Apr-19 11:42:49

I don't think you can draw many conclusions from her social media although I don't think it's unreasonable to sensitively ask for proof of treatment and diagnosis. I would assume there was a standard procedure and HR should be able to do this surely?

C8H10N4O2 Wed 24-Apr-19 12:22:34

Line managers manage. Hr advise. People who are saying it's none of the op's business and Hr will deal with it are wrong ime.

The medical details are none of the OP's business. If the OP is the line manager (which they haven't actually stated) then they will need to know adjustments required and reasonable work expectations which may include a high level title for the illness/condition. Medical details are entirely up to the sick person to share as its private information.

eg X is being treated for a condition which requires them to attend a series of medical appointments, its possible they will be unable to attend at other times due to the effect of the treatment. You should anticipate A and B adjustments.

Anything more is not the LM's business and actually not useful unles the LM has a side line in oncology expertise.

I think it's a bit mean spirited for you to want to re-schedule her two non-working days to fall straight after her treatment days (so the company is not impacted by her absence).

I'd be astonished if OH sanctioned it. This kind of scenario is more likely to result in recommendations to be guided by the sick person during the treatment and to be prepared for both "well" and "sick" scenarios until a pattern has settled.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer I didn't have anything in writing.

I've had quite a few staff over the years affected by life threatening and debilitating illness. Its not uncommon for them to have very little in writing early on and also to be disoriented, frightened and sometimes appear bullish or in denial. HR are the people to manage this until they are ready to share more.

I've never considered it appropriate to stalk them on SM and post to random forums about them lying and skiving because "they don't look sick".

Still, I dare say this will disappear for privacy reasons soon.

StealthPolarBear Wed 24-Apr-19 12:24:03

I disagree. Ime it's up to line managers to manage their staff and refer to hr for advice. That's how it's been wherever I've worked.
Agree I am assuming op is the lm.

StealthPolarBear Wed 24-Apr-19 12:25:12

And it's more appropriate for my staff to confide in me and for me to share the basics with hr so we can find out what needs to happen. Otherwise I'm just their project manager surely.

C8H10N4O2 Wed 24-Apr-19 12:28:08

I disagree. Ime it's up to line managers to manage their staff and refer to hr for advice

You can disagree all you like but the OP's medical details are none of the LM's business. That is what HR and OH do. They have the expertise and the separation to so do.

People may choose to share stuff with LMs, that is an entirely different matter. But really would you share stuff about serious illness with a LM included to post to web forums that they thought you were making it up based on some SM photos which showed you to be presenting other than dejected and ill?

C8H10N4O2 Wed 24-Apr-19 12:29:50

And it's more appropriate for my staff to confide in me and for me to share the basics with hr so we can find out what needs to happen. Otherwise I'm just their project manager surely.

No its not more appropriate unless you are qualified to assess the medical adjustments needed.

However if you have a good relationship with staff its quite likely that they will want to share more with you which is fine. Since the OP plainly hasn't been confided in by their colleague/employee they don't seem to have build that trusting relationship.

MsFrosty Wed 24-Apr-19 12:30:32

Her doctor can give a fit note with recommendations on for free

FredFlinstoneMadeOfBones Wed 24-Apr-19 12:37:49

And it's more appropriate for my staff to confide in me and for me to share the basics with hr so we can find out what needs to happen.

It's fine and lovely if they feel close enough to you to do that but it's not more appropriate. Many people don't want to share personal medical information with people they work closely with so would give their evidence to HR who could then inform the LM what accommodations the employee requires.

StealthPolarBear Wed 24-Apr-19 12:40:17

OK we'll agree to disagree. Where I work it's clear that line managers are there to manage their staff and Hr are there to advise and guide, ensure consistency through policy etc.

Meandmetoo Wed 24-Apr-19 12:52:37

You need better HR, this is one for occ health, not a gp letter, FFS.

romeoonthebalcony Wed 24-Apr-19 14:12:27

do you know that many people with cancer are prescribed steroids that can cause them to look rosy cheeked, get quite bullish and have increased energy, even insomnia, while they continue to not only be ill but also are accumulating potentialy irrevesible side effects from the steroids?
Meanwhile have a read of this www.macmillan.org.uk/documents/getinvolved/campaigns/workingthroughcancer/workingthroughcancer2010/workingthroughcancer2010.pdf

Schuyler Wed 24-Apr-19 14:18:31

I’d be mortified if a colleague or my manager was posting on AIBU instead of seeking proper advice. If you cannot do it, then don’t be a line manager.

C8H10N4O2 Wed 24-Apr-19 14:42:39

Where I work it's clear that line managers are there to manage their staff and Hr are there to advise and guide, ensure consistency through policy etc.

Managing staff - aka scheduling, performance appraisals, routine absensces etc is LM job.

Managing confidential information about a medical condition is not the LM job - that is HR and OH. LMs are lacking the expertise/training to deal with more complex scenarios and should simply direct to HR.

Or to put it another way - you should not be dependent on a LM to both know their legal obligations and be even handed dealing with them. To make this a LM responsibility exposes a company, an LM who assumes that responsiblity exposes a company.

If you are a good LM then staff will share their concerns anyway and you can offer support simply as a decent human being. If you are not a good LM, they shouldn't have to trust or rely on you.

Haffiana Wed 24-Apr-19 15:34:16

I would imagine that a LM posting on an internet forum about how they stalked an employee's social media, used terms such as 'heavily boozing' and having opinions on employees private holiday time would be guilty of gross misconduct.

OP, I think you need to ask your company for more management training because your behaviour is completely inappropriate and you don't seem to recognise this. Unless, like similar posts on here in the past, you are a jealous colleague or just a complete fantasist.

Musicaltheatremum Wed 24-Apr-19 16:13:05

She doesn't have to tell you as her employer anything. You should refer her to your occupational health department and they can write to the GP for details then they can make a plan with her and then tell you the best way forward. She really doesn't need to discuss her medical condition with you. (I'm a GP and one of my partners is an occupational health doctor as well as a GP so explained all this to me.)

SisyphusHadItEasy Wed 24-Apr-19 16:21:02

As many others have mentioned, social media is a selective snapshot.

I am dealing with a serious illness right now, and no one but my immediate family and medical team know a thing. That is my choice, and my right.

Hollowvictory Wed 24-Apr-19 16:22:44

You need to pay for an occupational health report.

NameChangeNugget Wed 24-Apr-19 16:27:08

Been beaten to it, you need to tread carefully OP despite your understandable concerns.

OH is your friend here

Mia1415 Wed 24-Apr-19 16:28:36

C8H10N4O2

I'm an HR Manager and you are not really correct in your thinking I'm afraid. Line Managers need to have a understanding of their employee's conditions, disabilities etc to manage them effectively.

How can a line manager, manage their staff if they don't know about any conditions/ disabilities? They can't.

They have a duty to protect and treat any knowledge they have confidentially. And quite frankly if they are unable to do this then they shouldn't be managing people.

OP - You (with HR) need to sit down again with the employee and explain that to support her adequately you need to better understand her condition and the potential impact. This is as much for her as to protect yourselves. Cancer is classed as a disability and therefore is a protected characteristic. Ideally you should be referring her to occupational health at this point.

If your company doesn't have occupational health, you can request her permission to write to her GP, but this takes longer and in my experience the information you receive back isn't often very user friendly!

MrsPinkCock Wed 24-Apr-19 16:35:33

I’ve had two employees faking cancer over the years. Both admitted to faking at a disciplinary hearing. Both were sacked for gross misconduct.

Check her contract - there is often a clause about the company’s right to request medical evidence. You have a duty of care towards her so in these circumstances it’s usually perfectly fine to exercise that right. If she refuses, that would give rise to further suspicion.

As a PP mentioned though, cancer is a disability so you need to be reasonably careful - if she is taking extended time off, she needs a fit note to be paid SSP (and probably for company sick pay as well). If she doesn’t provide one or unreasonably refuses to allow the company to request medical evidence then that could be misconduct in itself and I would seriously question whether she was telling the truth!

At the moment though I’d be giving her the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t seem as though she’s absolutely refused to provide evidence and social media shenanigans means very little. Probably only worth raising if and when it becomes an issue (medical concerns, time off, etc).

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