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Questions about sickness and occ health questionnaires when applying for new job

(6 Posts)
yasminejobadvice Thu 06-Apr-17 13:49:43

I’m currently employed by a big broadband company and have been off sick for the past 8 months. It’s quite complicated, but basically lots of conflict with my manager and constantly feeling victimised made me a bit ill. As soon as I produced a doctor’s note stating that I was suffering from depression and anxiety issues, it all escalated massively. I was harassed daily and it made things worse and worse. It even persisted after my doctor wrote to him to explain the negative impact their actions were having on me.

Now, I’m finally feeling like I’m ready to work, but I know I can’t go back to the same place. The thought of putting myself in that stressful situation with the people who put me through hell will probably just push me right back to square one. I’m worried about the implications that my time off will have on finding a new job though. If I’m asked about my time off, there’s no way any employer is going to consider me. So, I’m just hoping I don’t get asked about it. I know I’m fine to start a new job, but a new company will probably see me as too risky.

How common is it to be required to answer questions about previous illness and fill in occupational health forms that request things like sickness days? I’m not sure if this is only standard in certain industries.

If I use a manager at my current place of employment as a reference, and a new company contact him to ask for a reference, are the company also likely to contact the HR department of my current employer for additional information, such as proof of employment or absence history?

It’s not my intention to deceive anyone, I’m just thinking if I get lucky and they don’t ask about my sickness and they don’t ask my reference, am I in the clear? Or is it also standard practice to contact HR to request general employment information? It’s difficult because I’m having to move house too, so if I find a job and arrange the move to a new area, and everything seems fine, I don’t know if I’ll be able to put my mind at ease or if there’s still a chance of my absence coming back and biting me in the ass and I end up in a new place and unemployed. I just feel totally stuck as I can’t commit to moving until I’ve found the job, but then there’s a chance it could be taken away (sorry for the essay).

flowery Thu 06-Apr-17 15:51:04

A prospective new employer isn't allowed to ask you health questions prior to making an offer of employment unless it is for certain very specific reasons, such as to establish whether you are physically capable of performing a task which is intrinsic to the role.

This means they can't ask you about absence rates before making an offer. They might do after making an offer though, although they'd have to be very careful before withdrawing an offer, and they ought to talk to you/get an Occupational Health opinion on whether your attendance is likely to be equally poor/whether any adjustments are appropriate.

Do you consider your condition to be a disability? Being off for 8 months is a long time. If it is a disability you have additional protection.

ChestyNut Thu 06-Apr-17 18:34:34

Flowery why would they have to be careful withdrawing due to a bad sickness record?

If someone has multiple unrelated episodes which aren't covered by the equality act could an offer be withdrawn if the employer feels the service would be too adversely affected?

yasminejobadvice Thu 06-Apr-17 19:37:13

Thanks for the reply, flowery. The issue was basically anxiety and stress based. I wouldn't consider it a disability. Even if I had the option of calling it that knowing it would make a job offer harder to withdraw, I wouldn't like to, as that implies I expect it to continue to affect me in the future. But I feel it's not an issue anymore and I'm sure it wouldn't be an issue in a new job. I'm just worried that the employer will choose to err on the side of caution and withdraw an offer if they find out.

flowery Fri 07-Apr-17 09:25:55

There are two issues really. If the employer hasn't been crystal clear that the offer is conditional upon a satisfactory previous attendance record, then withdrawing it when they find out how many days the person has had off could be breach of contract.

The second issue is being certain there is no disability or potential disability involved. Multiple time off, or a significant period of time as the OP has had, both indicate that it would be sensible to investigate further to be sure there was no disability before contemplating withdrawing an offer.

OP just because you don't specifically say it's a disability doesn't mean the employer shouldn't check for themselves. 8 months not able to work is a long time, and lots of people who don't see themselves as disabled or choose not to identify as such on a form might still be entitled to protection so it would be very unwise of a potential employer when presented with someone with a long period of absence to assume it's not a disability.

Your depression may or may not be, but it could be, is the point. Erring on the side of caution wouldn't be just withdrawing the offer, it would be talking to you about the issue, seeking reassurance that you are confident it wouldn't be an ongoing issue, and seeking occupational health advice on whether they think it will be/whether any adjustments would help.

ChestyNut Fri 07-Apr-17 17:29:01

Thanks Flowery so make sure they're aware it's a conditional offer and not disability related.

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