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TheHoneyBadger Wed 26-Feb-14 17:10:35

hi. my doctor has signed me off for two weeks with anxiety. on the very first day missed they have referred me to occupational health which seems, to me, to be very heavy handed. i became ill during holiday so got a medical certificate and sent it in quickly so they had advance notice and warning.

i have done some online research and it does seem to be unusual. i received notice of it (without a reason though) in the post along with a form for me to sign to a) release access to my medical records and b) agree to being referred. i'm not keen to do either of those things.

i emailed HR and asked for clarification as to whether it was standard practice for them to refer to OH on the first day of certified absence and if not to please explain why they had done so in my case as i was trying to understand. i also asked if they could clarify whether i was legally obliged to release access to my medical records as the letter was unclear and i didn't honestly feel comfortable to do so given i have only been off a couple of days and am seeing my own GP again next week and will know more then.

no reply thus far so i'm thinking it's alerted them to the need to cross t's and dot i's. i did think it was unlikely they'd actually be willing to put in writing that they've referred me so quickly and that it clearly is not standard practice for them - don't suppose you get to be a HR manager without understanding the implications of doing that.

any advice would be gratefully received - am i obliged to release my records? how should i proceed in terms of documentation (will keep records of communications and am now thinking only communicate in writing and not on the phone)?

it has stressed me out to be honest. work was really stressful and i wasn't being line managed at all. i thought i was coping with it but i was waking up at 3am without fail and had started having random panic attacks and a constant upset stomach. being signed off was a bit of a relief in that i'd have time to relax, calm down, take meds and get on top of things. now instead i'm stressed out by what seems a really.... unconventional? heavy handed? response to a 2wk medical certificate.

Crutchlow35 Wed 26-Feb-14 18:53:04

I would post this again in the employment section as there are some very helpful people there

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/employment_issues

DawnMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 26-Feb-14 20:19:16

Hi there,

We'll shortly be moving this thread to our Employment Issues topic.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 27-Feb-14 05:46:39

thank you very much mnhq.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 27-Feb-14 05:47:00

and thanks for the prompt crutch

FadBook Thu 27-Feb-14 06:10:52

It is unusual to refer you to OH on your first day of absence, and it isn't something I would personally do. However, there are a number of factors to consider:

Previous time off work?
Previous anxiety / stress related health?
Previous time off which was unauthorised?
Does your sick note stated "work related stress"?

Being signed off from work doesn't give you an automatic right to not being contacted about your health. Companies have to establish how they can support you.

Your organisation are, in theory, referring you to OH to support you. OH are medical professionals. The HR manager or your line manager are not. You can decline the referral if you wish. You should see any report written about you and you can discuss with the OH nurse the contents of the report.

Accessing medical records is covered by legislation. They should only access records relevant to your current condition. You can decline this if you wish.

As a general message I sent out on declining consent is that the Company can only make decisions on absence / employment based on the information they have. Decisions made without medical advice may be a detriment to the employee.

As you are suffering with anxiety, you probably see this process as intrusive. I know I would. It is relatively normal if for example you've had previous time off for a similar illness, or if your job requires you to be in full health.

The way they've gone about it sounds a bit poor (I take it no call to you or meeting with you to discussed the reasons for referral?) but the action to refer to OH isn't wrong or illegal.

How are you working through this? Signed off work for 2 weeks to relax? Go to counselling? Consider strategies to cope with anxiety? Have a think about how you are going to recover from this and what is going to change.

Get well soon.

VegasIsBest Thu 27-Feb-14 06:57:01

You could see this as positive and supportive of your employer. The occupational health staff where I work are very helpful and have helped me to deal with a fee health issues. They have more time than a GP appointment can offer and can give good advice about managing health issues given the role that you do.

Hope this works out for you.

FadBook Thu 27-Feb-14 07:26:34

Definitely agree with vegas

I use an independent OH and the nurse is knowledgable, fair and honest about what she sees. She would give anone suffering from anxiety strategies to help themselves, push for counselling support from the company if she'd think it would help.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 27-Feb-14 08:32:25

i guess i think to ask for access to medical records on the first day of absence (no absence for this before, no work performance issues) etc is intrusive. also to do so without stating why or what the purpose of it is doesn't come across as 'helpful' iyswim. i would have thought that in the first instance it would be better to not add further stress to someone and to see whether the 2 weeks recommended by the GP does sort things or if it turns into another medical note in which case yes, investigate further?

i don't know - i think it's the 'sign away your medical records' presented as something that has to be done, with no explanation as to why and what my rights are that has surprised me.

i'd have thought a letter saying we are referring to OH and here is a phone number to talk to them or a suggested appointment etc would come across as support whereas a you must give us access to your health records comes across differently.

does it need to be that this is the case for everyone in order for them to be justified in acting this way towards one employee? i mean if they don't usually do this but have done it in my case with no mitigating reasons isn't that wrong? i suppose i'm also concerned that if the medical note had said something other than anxiety they would not have acted like this which seems discriminatory.

really i just want to know if i can say no to signing away medical records to a third party on the basis of having been signed off work for 2 weeks.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 27-Feb-14 08:33:45

i'm also a bit freaked out that they've just ignored my email asking for clarification as to the reason.

TheHoneyBadger Thu 27-Feb-14 08:34:32

and yes i know anxiety could be making me take it more personally but it is feeling.... combatorial (sp) you know? as if i've become the enemy and a legal issue rather than a person instantly.

FadBook Thu 27-Feb-14 22:00:50

Sorry, been off line all day.

With your further clarification that this is the first time you've had absence of this nature; and the fact you had no call or discussion or letter explaining why they've asked for your consent, then yes, I'd agree it is intrusive and a reaction by your company for some reason.

HR not replying to you is more concerning for me. Have you chased them? Call them to check they've received the email.

In answer to your question, yes you can decline consent. You don't have to give a reason. They can't help or support you without medical opinion though. That's not to say you can't give consent later down the line and/or give consent to certain health information.

If they have referred you to occupational health and not other people in a similar situation within similar circumstances, that would be odd. Normally, larger organisations have a process of about 4 weeks before starting a home visit and/or referral to OH. If I see a sick note with stress on, i check with manager what it is about and if he/she are aware of personal or work related stressors. We then might meet with them prior to the 4 week trigger that I normally set.

Try not to worry about it. Call HR, clarify if they've received your email and confirm you won't be giving consent at this stage of your absence and it's is unnecessary and request a written statement as to why you've received forms with no explanation as to why they've been sent, further exasperating your anxiety.

TheHoneyBadger Fri 28-Feb-14 06:22:58

thanks fadbook - i've done that in writing by email and would rather conduct this in writing given they're acting strangely. still no reply from her.

i will send another email today saying i'm a bit worried not to have had a response, could she confirm she has received my communications (i also wrote to her and enclosed medical certificate previously and in my email i asked her to confirm she had received that) and advise as to my queries as the absence of information is causing me concern.

i would really, really rather do it in writing given the way things are going and the fact that she isn't responding ergo putting things in writing is kind of sending off alarm bells for me.

TheHoneyBadger Fri 28-Feb-14 06:27:15

ok i've just sent a very brief email. i waited 48hrs before chasing up - i think that's ok isn't it?

Sunshineboo Fri 28-Feb-14 06:56:53

Hi

I used to work in HR and am now a manager. Please don't worry about chasing up - I sure you hr contact has just been in and out of meetings and not able to respond. Your email will gently push your query to the top.

In my organisation we have a sickness absence policy which states that we automatically refer people off work for a month to OH, two weeks if the reason is stress, anxiety or depression related. This is because on these cases, if an early return to work can be facilitated with support it is better for all, as the longer staff are off with these type of conditions, the harder it is for them to come back. In the past, I have organised increased flexible working, temporary part time hours or secondments to facilitate a return to work

The oh referral also will help notify the employer if the trigger is work related so that something can be done to make it better.

Please don't worry about this. I am sure it is intended to be supportive, albeit it sounds a little heavy handed. I hope you hear from hr soon and that they reassure you.

TheHoneyBadger Fri 28-Feb-14 08:28:54

can i ask why you are 'sure it is intended to be supportive'?

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