To think a company can't demote you after stress leave?

(471 Posts)
GreenHeritier Mon 19-Apr-21 18:30:11

Hi all, posting here for traffic and have NCed to protect friend's anonymity.

A close friend of mine has been on stress leave for 5 months following a burnout. Her role was a high-pressure, high-responsibility managerial role running a large team. She is now feeling better and had a few conversations with HR about returning to work.

She has requested that they make some tweaks to her role so she can avoid stressful, high-pressure responsibilities like dealing with well-known difficult people or particularly stressful projects.

HR has now said that they can't accommodate her request and that they therefore don't think she is fit to take her original role back as she can't perform the duties the role requires. They have offered her a smaller, low-responsibility role with no managerial duties, but with the same salary as before.

AIBU I think what they are doing is illegal and she should speak to a lawyer?

OP’s posts: |
JackieWeaverHandforthCouncil Mon 19-Apr-21 18:35:14

If they can’t accommodate her request and are offering her a less stressful role on the same money it’s a no brainier?

Putdownthecake Mon 19-Apr-21 18:36:21

Im sure there will be someone knowledgeable come along but from an outside perspective, Shes on the same salary and none of the stress. What is there to complain about exactly? Is it just the managerial title?

GreenHeritier Mon 19-Apr-21 18:36:38

@JackieWeaverHandforthCouncil true but it would be a big demotion and potentially damager her future career.

OP’s posts: |
SnargaluffPod Mon 19-Apr-21 18:37:14

But if those duties are what her role entails then your friend is effectively saying she can’t do her job. She should be glad they are offering her another position.

Biancadelrioisback Mon 19-Apr-21 18:37:48

It's been a long time since I did an HR course but I think this is what we were told to do!

GreenHeritier Mon 19-Apr-21 18:37:56

@Putdownthecake yes, you nailed it. Friend is an ambitious person who has worked her socks off to get where she is now, and going back would be humiliating for her as well as having a potential long-term damage on career progression.

OP’s posts: |
skeggycaggy Mon 19-Apr-21 18:38:06

Not a lawyer nor HR nor anything but that sounds fairly reasonable to me.

Is stress leave a thing - isn’t it just sick leave for stress?

GreenHeritier Mon 19-Apr-21 18:38:58

@skeggycaggy yes, sorry, I should have worded it that way. Just wanted to emphasize the nature of the medical issue.

OP’s posts: |
SummerInSun Mon 19-Apr-21 18:39:25

It wouldn't hurt to speak to a lawyer to be sure, but actually this sounds reasonable to me. If she just wanted her old job back with no changes, and they refused to give it to her, they might be guilty of some sort of discrimination on mental health grounds. But even then they could probably justify it by saying that they have a responsibility to her as her employer not to put her back into a situation she couldn't cope with previously.

But she isn't just asking for her old job back, she's asking for them to tailor it in a way that means she can (she hopes) cope with it better. They don't have a responsibility to restructure their workplace arrangements to suit her, especially if it affects other employees.

Frankly, if her old job caused such a bad mental breakdown that she needed 5 months off, going back to a lower key role sounds very sensible. If she can cope with that, then she could think about applying to move into something more stressful. But plunging straight back into the situation that caused the breakdown, without any transition, sounds high risk to me. Can't help suspecting that her desire to go back to the old stressful job may be linked to being the sort of person who worries so much about work achievement, professional standing, etc, that she was particularly vulnerable to workplace stress in the first place.

JackieWeaverHandforthCouncil Mon 19-Apr-21 18:40:24

But if she won’t deal with the difficult people or difficult projects who will? Surely she can’t expect to keep the role and delegate that stress to someone junior on less money?

mummabubs Mon 19-Apr-21 18:42:00

Sounds reasonable to me, she's asked for adjustments to her role that probably fit the other role description better (ie lower level so lower responsibility) and they've even ensured she won't lose out financially? I do understand her feelings about seeing it as a demotion, but maybe the reframe is that work are trying to support her and obviously want to retain her. I'm pretty sure they're not acting illegally from my experience of seeing how people return from sick leave owing to stress in my sector (NHS). She's effectively said she's unable to fulfill her role as it was before so not sure what else they can do?

Darkstar4855 Mon 19-Apr-21 18:42:15

I suppose the issue for the company is that if they give her just the less stressful parts of the job then who deals with the stressful projects and difficult people? Do they employ someone else just to do the tough bits of her job? What’s going to stop that person burning out too?

The law states that they have to make reasonable adjustments. I think offering her an easier job with the same salary so she doesn’t lose out financially would be considered a reasonable adjustment.

rainyskylight Mon 19-Apr-21 18:42:56

But if she couldn’t handle the job before what did she think she’d then go on to do? Jobs get more stressful the higher up the ladder you go. She’s basically said she’s not up for doing the job. Going diagonally or down for life reasons isn’t something to be ashamed of.

NavigatingAdolescence Mon 19-Apr-21 18:44:24

Darkstar4855

I suppose the issue for the company is that if they give her just the less stressful parts of the job then who deals with the stressful projects and difficult people? Do they employ someone else just to do the tough bits of her job? What’s going to stop that person burning out too?

The law states that they have to make reasonable adjustments. I think offering her an easier job with the same salary so she doesn’t lose out financially would be considered a reasonable adjustment.

Reasonable adjustments wouldn’t apply for a 5 month absence for stress. It needs to be something which has or is likely to last for at least 12 months to be eligible reasonable adjustments.

Mintjulia Mon 19-Apr-21 18:45:04

It sounds like the employer is doing their best to avoid the same situation arising again.
If they took her back into her old role and then she became ill again, they could be liable because they knew what had caused her stress and had failed to protect her from it on her return to work.

Northofsomewhere Mon 19-Apr-21 18:45:31

It does sound like they've tried to make the adjustments by giving her an alternative role but need someone to perform the duties of her role so therefore have to offer the alternative role rather than same with adjustments. Someone clearly needs to deal with those stressful people/jobs within her team and if it can't be her then it needs to be someone so she's been offered a good alternative with the same salary.

They clearly value her worth if they're offering the same salary with reduced responsibilities and likely see a future for her with them.

Sirzy Mon 19-Apr-21 18:45:52

I would say with it being the same wage then that would be classed as a reasonable adjustment. They need to find a solution that works for the company as well as your friend

paralysedbyinertia Mon 19-Apr-21 18:45:56

She can't just opt out of doing the harder bits of the job while cherry picking the bits that she likes. A certain amount of resilience is required for senior management roles because responsibility for the difficult stuff goes with the territory.

If they're offering her a less pressured role on the same salary, I think they're being more than reasonable. It's for her to decide whether she wants to accept that offer, or whether to make the case that she is indeed well enough to perform her original role as defined by the company. Or whether to walk away if she prefers.

She hasn't been "demoted" because she went on stress leave. She has been offered an alternative role on the same salary because she has indicated that she will be unable to perform some aspects of her original role because she finds them too stressful.

Moondust001 Mon 19-Apr-21 18:45:57

GreenHeritier

*@JackieWeaverHandforthCouncil* true but it would be a big demotion and potentially damager her future career.

Sorry but she's getting the same pay for a less stressful job. She has utterly no chance of winning a claim. She isn't capable of doing her job. She turns down this offer and she's unemployed. Being blunt, the person damaging her career progression is her. Not everybody can deal with stressful roles. That doesn't mean such rules don't exist or can't exist. Honestly, she's lucky. Many employers wouldn't have made her such a good offer. They'd have started capability processes and dismissed her.

AnneLovesGilbert Mon 19-Apr-21 18:46:01

What’s her alternative proposal? I know nothing about HR but to he offered the same money for far less stress and responsibility sounds brilliant. The status is surely linked to the responsibility and she’s opting out of that.

Twickerhun Mon 19-Apr-21 18:46:31

This is brilliant so she wanted a less stressful role, they’ve offered her A less stressful role and she wants to sue them? What they’ve done on the surface sounds very wise and the bonus of keeping her pay the same? Very generous of them.

emilyfrost Mon 19-Apr-21 18:47:06

They are being very reasonable; what they are doing isn’t illegal.

Mumdiva99 Mon 19-Apr-21 18:47:32

I think you should ask for this to be moved to the Employment board. There are really knowledgeable people there.

She should have a return to work plan - probably a phased return.
Did she see an OH specialist whilst off? What are the recommendations from this?

TitsOot4Xmas Mon 19-Apr-21 18:48:34

15+ years of sh*t like this is why I think my employer should cover the cost of my Botox. Bloody frown lines from spending my days saying WTF?!

What more does your friend want, OP? Moon on a stick?

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