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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.

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


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.

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