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Signed off ill - can I be sacked?

(18 Posts)
CaulkheadUpNorth Mon 01-Dec-14 16:55:22

I work in a charity-based job, where it is the busiest time of our year currently. Due to various issues over this year, three people have left and now it is just my boss and I.

I'm currently seeing a psychiatrist for various mh stuff. I had a week off in October following an overdose (ie whilst in hospital) but came straight back to work. I'm not coping at work, and the psychiatrist has said I need to be signed off for a few weeks.
My boss would not take this well. Last year I had two weeks off with depression and when I returned she said that I had used up all my "sick leave" and would have to take holiday for any other time off. I didn't question it, just accepted it.

I don't know what to do currently, as if I get signed off, I do not have enough holiday left to cover it. Is it possible to be sacked for being off ill, and if so does she need to give me any notice? Can I also refuse to be signed off? The psychiatrist said to think about it, and then see my gp tomorrow.

I've worked there since march 2012 and have had two days off ill in 2012, then the fortnight signed off in autumn 2013, and the week in hospital this year.

KirstyJC Mon 01-Dec-14 17:07:05

You can't be made to use your holiday, but check your company policy for sick pay - you might only get SSP.

I don't work in this area but I do know that it is possible to sack someone for illness, if it impacts on their ability to do their job. (Happened to a colleague). That is a long process though I believe as it must be done correctly to meet the legal requirements. Have you ever been warned formally about your sickness rate? Been put on 'absence management' or similar? If not then it would be hard or them to sack you just on this one instance.

I would check your policies on sickness management immediately and before you make any decision, just so you know your rights and don't let your manager push you into something that isn't actually correct.

And you can't be forced into being signed off, no. You can decline it, but if the medical professional in charge of your care thinks you need it, I would think hard about that - presumably there is a reason they think that. Is there any way you can be on reduced duties ie a fit note rather than a sick note? When I was struggling due to pregnancy I was given a fit note that said I was able to continue working if it was shorter days and no manual work. Is it possible to get something like that as a compromise?

I hope you feel better soon.

CaulkheadUpNorth Mon 01-Dec-14 17:11:12

I've had a look and it's 4 weeks for first year of job, 5 for second, 6 weeks for third year on full pay, then the same amount on half pay, then move into ssp. I don't know whether that starts again each year, or if I've used up three weeks and a couple of days of it already over the last few years.

I've never been warned or told sickness rate is a problem.

KirstyJC Mon 01-Dec-14 17:24:54

They usually start again each year I think - but either way, you are still within the time limit for being paid in full for sickness by the look of it.

Do you have a head office / HR / Occupational Health? I know you said it is just you and your manager on a daily basis but is there anyone/where else as well? If so then I would get in touch with them asap and ask their advice. Do you have anything in writing from your manager when she refused you sickness leave that appears to have been a contractual right?

If you are within your sickness policy limits and have never been warned about sickness levels then they really shouldn't be able to sack you. Some managers do seem to think they are above contracts/the law and that they can do what they like though!

CaulkheadUpNorth Mon 01-Dec-14 17:28:28

Thank you for your help.

No, no one else. Very small charity, just the boss and I. She is an ex-lawyer so I just do what she says with things like this, but it just doesn't seen to make sense!

KarenHillavoidJimmyswarehouse Mon 01-Dec-14 17:34:51

It is possible but your employer must jump through certain hoops first. Many employers are actually better than the law says they have to be so check your contract and the workplace policies.

You've worked there for more than two years so you do have some protection. Your manager can't just sack you.

I'm only used to large organisations so it might be different for such a small company.

KirstyJC Mon 01-Dec-14 17:36:57

So she was the one who wrote the sickness policy that she failed to follow....?

Tricky. Can you genuinely cope with being at work? Is work making your health worse - and if so would it be better in another job? Possible to continue working whilst job hunting, and give yourself a break in between jobs to get better once you get a new one lined up? I do realise that might be completely impossible though!

Can you manage without your salary for a bit? Or on a lower one - eg maybe look for temping work, part time with none of the stress of a 'proper' job, until you get a bit better?

What a shitty situation - bad enough to be ill without worrying about work as well. sad

CaulkheadUpNorth Mon 01-Dec-14 17:41:12

I can't manage without salary, but can job hunt. Confident is at an all time low, and cancelled an interview I did have, stupidly.

I'm not coping at work, and I know that, especially as it's getting busier but I know it will put a lot more stress on the boss if I'm not in.

I don't have anything in writing, except the contract.

CaulkheadUpNorth Mon 01-Dec-14 18:11:14

Sorry if I'm coming across a bit stupid or ill informed, have never been in this situation before!

KirstyJC Mon 01-Dec-14 18:23:40

I wouldn't worry about putting the boss under stress - she clearly isn't worried about putting you under stress if she so responds so badly to your being ill.

I would job hunt as hard as possible but if you are really ill, then you need time to recover.

If you really think she would try and sack you then I would have a print out of the sickness policy to hand and at least ask her to explain how her actions meet the contractual obligations if she threatens to sack you.

But maybe it won't come to that - after all if she is really really busy then sacking someone would be really stupid, as she would be even busier then! Especially if you are only needing a couple of weeks off work. It takes ages to recruit a replacement and costs a lot more than a couple of weeks' sick pay.

CaulkheadUpNorth Mon 01-Dec-14 18:51:08

Thank you for your advice. smile

KirstyJC Tue 02-Dec-14 19:28:38

Hiya Caulkhead - hope all went well with your boss

CaulkheadUpNorth Tue 02-Dec-14 19:35:15

I lost my nerve to tell her. We had a meeting planned, before the being signed off was discussed, so I just went along, planned normal stuff, said I was fine when she asked like an idiot .

KirstyJC Tue 02-Dec-14 19:37:28


Musicaltheatremum Wed 03-Dec-14 19:34:39

I think depression comes under the DDA so they can't sack you for that. Get a sick note from your GP and hand it in or ask your psychiatrist to write a letter. Just hand it in and switch off your phone. Trouble is because you are so low you can't deal with the stress. It is awful for you.

CaulkheadUpNorth Wed 03-Dec-14 19:38:24

Until yesterday it was a "I think you need to be signed off" thing from the psychiatrist, but I ended up speaking tore duty psych in a and e last night who has signed me off for two weeks.

I've told the boss this, but also said that I'm totally fine, and she is happy to let me carry on working.

I've no idea whether that was the right thing to do. It seemed the thing that would guarantee I would still have a job and she wouldn't be angry or anything, but at least she knows.

KarenHillavoidJimmyswarehouse Wed 03-Dec-14 20:53:06

I think depression comes under the DDA so they can't sack you for that. Get a sick note from your GP and hand it in or ask your psychiatrist to write a letter. Just hand it in and switch off your phone. Trouble is because you are so low you can't deal with the stress. It is awful for you

Be careful with that. if OP's depression comes under the protection offered by the Equalities Act the employer has to make "reasonable" adjustments. They are entitled to make a decision that a person can't do the job they're employed to do even with the reasonable adjustments and if there is no suitable, alternative roles, employment can be terminated.

Please don't be worried by that OP, there are numerous hoops for an employer to jump through before that becomes a reality.

CaulkheadUpNorth Thu 04-Dec-14 13:51:58

I'm now going in, doing stuff and telling myself she won't fire me as long as I'm doing enough and don't look like I'm slacking.

In September we stripped my job back, so I really am only doing the stuff which has to be done, and the stuff I'm good at. I don't think reasonable adjustments can be made, as we've made them already, and not doing the job would be the next thing.

On the signed off form it says "Borderline Personality Disorder" but the new one from the gp saying I am ok to work saying "depression". I don't know if that makes any difference.

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