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Preg & signed off sick - boss pressurising me to go back to work, help!

(20 Posts)
harassedandherbug Tue 04-Oct-11 13:05:52

I'm 28 wks preg and have a pretty severe dose of spd, so am on crutches, cocodamol prescribed by gp and am currently signed off sick. Initially it was for 2 weeks, after a really terrible time with lots of pain and no sleep, but on Friday I was signed off for another two weeks.

I told my boss yesterday, and he was far from happy. Apparently it's now causing a problem and is a nuisance. He seems to have got it into his head that the only reason I'm not working is because my office is upstairs and loo's downstairs, and whilst this is some of th problem it's not all of it. I need to take painkillers regularly and sometimes these space me out and I need to lie down. So...... he's proposing to set me up a laptop (ancient one!) downstairs. He's now wanting an answer on this, and left me a voicemail.

Firstly, I think it's illegal for me to go back to work whilst signed off, unless I'm signed back on?? Is that correct?? I can't get a gp appointment this week anyway, I've tried.

Also, I don't know if purely moving my workplace, albeit to somewhere that's not cleaned and has no phone, is going to actually resolve the situation.

I'm feeling really pressurised and stressed by all this. Right now I really don't know which way to turn or what to do.

SandyChick Tue 04-Oct-11 13:18:21

He can't force you back to work. If your signed off for pregnancy related illness there's nothing he can do. Its considerate of him to try and make things easier at work for your return when you feel well enough to but that is up to you.

I suffered with severe sickness when pregnant with my son. I was signed off sick for around 6 weeks. My boss was awful about it and told me I needed to decide what I wanted to do ie return to work or resign!

If you start to feel harassed maybe your boss needs to brush up on employment laws!

BlingLoving Tue 04-Oct-11 13:23:38

He can't force you. Although of course you can go back without your gp permission if you wnt.

However, while he should not pressure you, I always have sone sympathy for employers at this time. I had terrible back pain etc so I know what you mean about not bei g able to work easily. Sometimes I would work from home, or come in late or leave early. My boss saw that I tried hard to not mess things up and was helpful back.

When an employee us off sick I definitely for any reason, it's hard for employers who still need to get the work done. He should not pressure you but perhaps he just wants to find a way to allow you to do some of the work?

Don't forget also that at a certain point pregnancy related illness will force your mat leave to start.

NatashaBee Tue 04-Oct-11 13:28:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NatashaBee Tue 04-Oct-11 13:30:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

harassedandherbug Tue 04-Oct-11 13:35:46

I am feeling harassed.... and stressed and sick about the whole situation. I know it's inconvenient for him, but it's not exactly ideal for me either!

I've had nothing but comments from the moment I told him I was pregnant (a bloody nuisance etc),and since I've been on crutches I've been called cripple, and when I explained the effect my tablets have on me I was called a junkie. I just don't feel it's appropriate.

Is it appropriate to not return his call, but to send an email instead? I'm feeling quite upset tbh, and don't want to end up in tears on the phone to him!

harassedandherbug Tue 04-Oct-11 13:39:08

Natasha I've had physio, bought an expensive support belt and see a chiro and acupuncturist privately. Any relief is only temporary. Tbh I can't wait to give birth!! My consultant says he'll induce me on my due date, which I'm kind of pleased about as I'd hate to be late now.

It's small company, so we don't have an HR department and no I've not had a risk assessment.

Uglymush Tue 04-Oct-11 13:41:50

You cannot go back to work now your GP has signed you off unless the GP signs you back as you will not be insured to be on the premises.

I would do everything by email so you have an audit of events/conversations.

If you are ill anytime with 11 weeks to your due date, and it is pregnancy related, your maternity leave automatically starts whether you want it to or not. Therefore it sounds like you will not be going back to work anyway.

On a non-work front I do hope your health improves soon

FancyForgetting Tue 04-Oct-11 13:54:42

Agree with Uglymush - keep everything in writing, so you have a record of all communication from now on. Please don't answer the 'phone to him.

He sounds highly inappropriate and unprofessional and of course no HR means you haven't any workplace support. Are you in a union? Worth speaking to them if so. As it looks as though ML will be triggered v soon, are you confident that all your pay/leave arrangements are in place?

I'm afraid I can't give concrete advice - have been out of workplace some years, but his behaviour/comments/no risk assessment would have been contravening employment law even back then. Hopefully you will get more up-to-date guidance from one of the great Emp Lawyers here.

Meantime - hope you feel much better (sounds as though escaping from Boy Wonder can only help) and good luck with baby.

flowery Tue 04-Oct-11 13:58:39

"If you are ill anytime with 11 weeks to your due date, and it is pregnancy related, your maternity leave automatically starts whether you want it to or not."

That hasn't been the case for some time - it's now within the 4 weeks before due date, not 11 weeks.

OP your boss can't force you back, and although it's not illegal for him to allow you back should you choose to return, he would be extremely silly to allow it both because his insurance is likely to be invalidated and because of the small risk something happens to you.

I would email back saying your GP says you are not fit for work, so you will not be able to come in. Then say that you will obviously see the GP again towards the end of that period and will ask him/her to do you a fit note, which will confirm whether you are fit for any work and under what circumstances. I would also put in the same email a request for a risk assessment on your return and would point out that it is a legal requirement in terms of the health and safety of a pregnant woman.

I wouldn't ordinarily recommend starting in an adversarial manner but it sounds like he needs it tbh...

harassedandherbug Tue 04-Oct-11 14:07:44

I agree with flowery that it's now 4 weeks before due date and not 11 weeks.

I written out an email and sent it to my Dad to read through. I hadn't actually put it about the risk assessment, do you really think I should??

He hasn't got a clue on SMP etc to be honest. I'd printed off the relevant info, and gone through it with the lady who does the wages. Particularly as we normally save 3 days for Christmas shut down and I don't want to lose them (baby is due 22nd Dec), I'm also hoping to get my bank hols!!

It's one of those small companies that seems to forget (or never have known!) what assessments/rights are!! H & S would have a field day in there I guarantee you. No union membership either.......

Fancy you're right, not being there has done wonders for my stress levels and bp! I don't think it's ever been so low. Even mw was surprised!

Uglymush Tue 04-Oct-11 14:10:41

My understanding is that a risk assessment is only a legal requirement if the work environment can be a risk. If that makes sense. Therefore a lot of small office based businesses don't need to do RA's. Or only some departments need to do them for their staff

MumblingRagDoll Tue 04-Oct-11 14:16:05

I would be basic in my reply...you ony need to thank him for his consideration but you remain too unwell to work and that includes sitting and travelling.

He sounds like an idiot!

FancyForgetting Tue 04-Oct-11 15:18:37

Glad to hear about your improved bp!

Agree with Mumbling re keeping email short, polite and to the point. Try not to engage in dialogue with him, just reiterate that there's nothing to discuss while signed off.

Hope this doesn't sound patronising, but are MW and GP aware of your working conditions (ie boss' behaviour/pressure to return), as this is clearly impacting on your health too?

flowery Tue 04-Oct-11 17:00:35

"My understanding is that a risk assessment is only a legal requirement if the work environment can be a risk. Therefore a lot of small office based businesses don't need to do RA's. "

Er..any work environment can be a risk, small office or not. And the only way of credibly stating that any given work environment doesn't present any risk is by..er..assessing it. Even in a very informal way.

Yes technically if the OP's employer are doing general risk assessment and taking into account the needs of pregnant women and/or are reviewing an existing risk assessment to see whether further adjustments are needed for pregnant women, they would be meeting their legal requirements. But I'm prepared to bet that isn't the case.

Loads of places don't bother with RA at all or for pregnant women, and gamble that they know it's pretty safe and their employees would shout if not. They are probably right. But that doesn't mean they are fulfilling their legal obligations.

OP it sounds as though you definitely do need a risk assessment, even if some women probably don't really, and I think the only way you're likely to get one is by pointing out that your employer has legal obligations with regard to assessing your health and safety.

Superfly Sun 09-Oct-11 22:27:08

Totally agree with flowery regarding RA's - the first should have been carried out as soon as possible after you had notified your company you were pregnant, and reviewed at regular periods after that to ensure that any changes regarding your pregnancy (such as SPD) were noted and RA reviewed to encompass changes to your work to accomodate this.

Your boss cant force you back to work, although to be honest (and having suffered with SPD in my last pregnancy I was off from 21 weeks until I started my mat leave at 36 weeks) it is not likely to get much better for you until you give birth.

Have a look at this : www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/
It will outline what your boss needs to do - and what you can expect

Hope you feel better soon!

LoveBeingAMummyAgain Mon 10-Oct-11 07:53:09

Op your ra is important to protect you and ensure your employer is actually looking to see if there are any risks. Eg I have to sign for parcels, it was made clear on the ra that I shouldn't be moving parcels and the process that should be followed instead, also meant that all management were aware so no feeling bad about asking people to move boxes.

missingmumxox Mon 10-Oct-11 23:52:13

Hi first reply on here, first off SPD is extremely painful, I had it and went off sick at 19 weeks, first off if you are on crutches, you are not going back to work before your mat leave the baby will get heavier and the pelvis more painful, sorry but it is the truth, and maybe you need to make this clear so they can make cover arrangements.
on the comments I think first off some people's humour can leave a lot to be desired but your boss might not understand that the comments are not appriciated! if you believe he is being harrassing it is important to keep a record.

Gp fit notes are not a get out of jail free card they are only so the employer can reclaim stat sick pay, so they can insist on you working! that said they would be an idiot to do so without a second medical opinion, which is where you could call his bluff, by unfortuantley sorry folks! I can't believe I am suggesting this, but going to talk to him and if you cry your cry, but try and come across as reasonable, but your understandable worries about your baby.

next bring up the loo/office thing and that you have heard that you could work but a second opinion would be needed from and Occupational Health Doctor or Nurse, (you can find NHS suppliers on NHS Plus, it will cost but it isn't astronomical or he could look at private Occ Health Companies)

then mention (Insurance as others have talked about) as insurance doesn't cover people with temp disabilities in the main, so that would count you out, also options on how he could suggest he get you out in a fire (come out with some stupid suggestions of your own to sound like you are trying to be helpful)
RA should be done and chances are he has a dusty generic document in a cupboard somewhere, but it should be filled out for you whatever.

I work in Occ Health and I send approx 70% of people back to work against their doctors advice, but I would not in your case too many risk factors, to you, based on what you have said.

in case you think I am horrible most of the 70% are on temp redeployments so they are at work but not necessarily in their own job and/or on shorter hours a majority are happy as they are normally climbing the walls with bordom by the time I get so see them.

Good luck and I hope it goes well for you.

Superfly Tue 11-Oct-11 14:11:10

Sorry Missingmumxox - i dont understand what you are trying to advise the OP.

Under the HASAWA 1974 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 it will state that RA must be carried out anyway for any employee - and that a more specialised one must be carried out for New and Expectant Mothers. This would then pick up that there will be certain factors that have to be considered anyway (even with a straightforward pregnancy it means having things in place like somewhere to rest if needed, accessible to toilets chanes to working hours etc) When an employee is presenting with complications arising from that pregnancy the RA must put in measures to mimimise those risks to as low as reasonably practicable.

The employer then has choices: Temporarily adjust her working conditions and / or working hours; or if that is not possible:
Offer her suitable alternative work (at the same rate of pay) if available; or if that is not possible
Suspend her from work on paid leave for as long as necessary to protect her health and safety, and that of her child.

To be honest he has made a cack handed attempt to rectify it by offering a lap top next, to a bog - but then has this alternative place of work been risk assessed?

I don't see how going in and crying will make any difference if he already sees her as a "Nuisance, Cripple and a Junkie". It would be a foolish person that 'forces' someone back to work against GP advice, especially in the case of pregnancy complications. I can understand from an Occ Health point of view that most people could be not as sick as they are making out then there is a case for getting them back on to work asap - but were there are pregancy and riskfactors such a SPD and stress I would'nt be advising the OP to anything else but keep a record of the emails and get signed off until the start of her Mat leave.

missingmumxox Wed 12-Oct-11 23:24:55

Hi Superfly

I admit it was a bit waffly my post, but I am saying what you are saying and also agree in the fact she is signed off sick, but her employer is applying pressure on her and she is clearly looking for a solution for her problem to stop him from harranging her at home, i personally feel that she should document everything he says and all phone calls, but if this ended up at tribunal she would then, if she has had a formal meeting with them and discussed an Occupational Health assessment (I don't think for a moment he would go for it, but it would show she means business), her risk assessment (and they are all generic no employer starts a RA from stratch, they just fill any specifics to the persons job, under general headings ) his insurance and solutions, and then documents these she will be in a really strong position as she has made the employer aware, and I think if she crys, so what! if he has ago about that she can add it to the list.

she is signed off and he is harrassing her at home and I agree that should be the end of it unfortunately it isn't so she has to manage it to her best advantage, lets fact it we all feel bad if we are ill in pregnacy I kept phoning work and apologising for being off from 19 weeks twice I remember from the cardiac ward when I had heart problem, fortunalty for me I had the best boss ever but I still felt bad, so goodness know what it is like to be with an idiot like this.

and yes she could do what you are saying as well it is equally valid and in the main the route I think most people would take, but it does actually stop the harrassment? and then you still need to do something with that information.

the only point I really disagree with in your post is most people are as ill as they make out, I find it not exactly rare but in the main most people are genuine and if fact the job I am in now I have to be super vigilant as a lot of people I have found dose themselves up with pain killers so they can appear normal and get back to work, this is public sector so they have really good sick pay but they hate being off, but each job and each condition need to be taken individually, last week I had a chap who holds 2 jobs within the same company, same job title but different departments and for one I could say he was fully fit and the other he needed to have his job extremely modified as in he could do barely any of it, as in reality the jobs where totally different and the laugh of it was the manager I told he was fully fit, sent him off sick and the manager I told he was needing modified argued he was fit for one he was fit for the other! we got it sorted in the end smile

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