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Work related stress & contact with work while signed off(6 Posts)
Apologies in advance for the long post but I hope you can help me with some advice as I feel like I have literally no-one I can ask and I don't know what to do.
I'm currently signed off work with work related stress by my GP. I've been off for 3 weeks so far (1 self-certified, 2 signed off by my GP) and my GP signed me off for a further 2 weeks from yesterday, so that will make 5 weeks in total.
My mental health is improving and my GP and I discussed (yesterday) the possibility of starting to consider a phased return to work at the end of my current 2 weeks' sick leave if I continue to make progress. I must admit that I don't feel entirely comfortable with this but am hoping over the next 2 weeks that I can 'get myself ready' and be able to face work.
My GP asked me yesterday if we have Occupational Health at work and I didn't know so when I emailed my new fit note to my line manager yesterday, I asked the question about OH and how we can go about looking at a phased return once my GP thinks I'm well enough to consider going back to work i.e. in 2 week's time.
It felt like I was progressing fairly well until this morning when I have had emails from both my line manager and HR. The HR one in particularly has really upset me and I have been in tears and/or having palpitations all morning. (I'm not saying this is the most logical reaction but I guess it demonstrates that I'm not handling the work stress as well as I thought I was).
HR say that I must meet with them first before they will consider a referral to OH "as it is important that we discuss your specific situation in more detail and clarify what it is you would like to get from such an assessment". Isn't it obvious what I want from the assessment? (i.e. some help and support managing my return) or am I just being irritable? I don't want to discuss my "situation" with HR. My employer is a fairly small company (relative to where I've worked previously) and I really don't feel comfortable talking to the HR person about the ins and out of my mental health and why I have been struggling so much. My work environment is toxic, my boss (who I was close to) was recently fired (unfairly) and I have been excluded / bullied by several individuals since my boss left. My own job hangs by a thread (despite getting great performance reviews) due to the ongoing internal politics to the extent that I cleared my desk some time ago and have been waiting for the axe to fall on a daily basis. This is the tip of a very nasty iceberg. In an ideal world, I would have found another job and left but the job market in my field is non-existent due to the uncertainty over Brexit. However, telling all of this to the HR person could really rock the boat and I don't want to make my situation any more worse than it already is (for example, if I name the people excluding / bullying me, this could backfire quite badly on me as one of them is very senior and one of them is a long serving employee). I am happy to be open with a third party such as OH - and I've been open with my GP - but I don't trust this HR person. They have my employer's interests at heart rather than mine. After what I have seen happen to good people this year, I don't trust anyone at work to be honest.
Anyway, the HR person is going away for 2 weeks from next week so they want me to come into the office this Thurs or Fri to meet with them to have this discuss. I really don't feel ready for this. It's just too soon. I have shocked myself with how upset I have been at their email this morning. Just the thought of having to go into the office is bad enough. I don't want people to see me or ask questions. I actually just want to crawl into a dark corner and be left alone.
How do I handle this? I don't want to appear that I'm being difficult but I do not feel well enough to meet HR so soon. It was only yesterday that my GP signed me off for another 2 weeks and within less than 24 hours of that it feels like work are pushing me too hard.
I have considered asking if I could have a call with the HR person rather than meeting face-to-face but even that is pretty awful and it doesn't solve the problem of not being able to be honest with them. I am regretting ever asking about OH now. My ideal would be meeting with HR later next week when I am hopefully feeling a bit stronger and more able to handle a discussion about coming back to work. But it seems this isn't an option because the HR is away for 2 weeks. I don't know what to do and I am terrified of making the wrong move and/or jeopardising my mental health by being forced back to work before I am ready.
Having taken time off work, the reality is that the situation you've had to step away from hasn't gone away. If it's as bad as you've described, going back to that workplace will only perpetuate your stress.
HR is doing the job they are expected to, which is to determine your needs, which is the reason they've asked you for your input especially as you've been off work for some time. They need to find out how ready you are to return to work, which is the reason for the meeting.
Delaying the discussion with HR won't make it any better, whether it's this week or next, it's something you need to do.
If you really can't face attending in person, I would ask them if they can hold the meeting via Skype or phone. You can remind them your GP has signed you off as not being fit to come to work, however you want to have the discussion with them, so this could be a compromise.
Thanks daisychain. I've asked them if we can have a call instead and they've agreed to this. I am trying to show as much willing as possible whilst trying to balance my mental health. I am usually pretty robust (I've worked in high pressure environments for well over 20 years) but the combination of recent work events plus the toxic workplace has proven too much for me.
Before the call have a think about what you would like to disclose and what you would want from OH. Have notes if it will help.
If you aren’t sure about something or feel yourself becoming overwhelmed on the call have a couple of pre-prepared sentences that won’t leave you committed to anything you aren’t happy with “I’d like to think that over before we discuss any details” might work.
If you want someone to sit with you while you are on the call that is ok. Are you part of a union?
It’s absolutely fine to say you asked about OH as your doctor recommended it.
Does the GP note specify you are off for workplace stress or is it more vague?
I was in a very similar position and I had a home visit, with my partner in the house in case I felt I needed support. Do not be in a rush to go back, as the situation at work will not have changed.
Thanks for the replies. I will be alone when I have the call later this week but I'm planning to have some notes prepared in advance in case I need them to refer to. I have nothing to hide (and I'm usually very open and honest) but I have so little trust in my employer that I am wary that they will try to use anything I say against me. I just need to keep my usual wits about me but when you don't feel at your best mentally, it becomes a bigger deal than it should be.
To answer the questions asked, yes my fit note clearly states "work related stress" but no, I'm not in a union. Unions aren't the norm in my industry.