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Help! Can you be sacked when officiating signed off work?

(29 Posts)
Tailfeather Thu 04-Apr-19 18:06:08

My sister had been signed off work for the past 6 months due to stress and depression. She was in an abusive relationship with the father of the child. She ended it. He moved out but stalked her and continued to threaten her. She hasn't been eating or sleeping. She has finally got a restraining order and is waiting for a court date to discuss visitations.

Her company have called her in for a disciplinary as they now basically want her out. She works for a big financial institution in London. Can they do this if she had had her GP signing her off every month? Where would be best to get advice?

She's not being paid, if that makes any difference.

Thank you for your help. I'm so worried about her.

OP’s posts: |
HoraceCope Thu 04-Apr-19 18:07:23

They can indeedsad

GeorgieTheGorgeousGoat Thu 04-Apr-19 18:07:40

Yes of course she can.

Tailfeather Thu 04-Apr-19 18:09:04

Ok. I didn't know this. She was the only earner. Ex doesn't work. I think she was under the impression her job would be safe.

Shit.

OP’s posts: |
spugzbunny Thu 04-Apr-19 18:10:04

I would highly suggest she talks to a solicitor or any union she may be in. This happened to a friend of mine and they offered her a pay out for her resignation as sacking a depressed person isn't particularly great for the companies image.

Dyrne Thu 04-Apr-19 18:12:30

Yes, unfortunately. sad

They’re ultimately running a business, not a charity, and even though she may not be being paid, she’s still costing the company money; and they need to find a full time employee who can do the work.

If she works for a big company she should ask for their absence management policy, that usually lays out the steps the company will take. It may be that they will try to find a way of getting her back into work - a phased return or similar with appropriate occupational health support.

If her depression is severe enough it may be worth looking into whether she can claim any benefits.

ScreamingValenta Thu 04-Apr-19 18:12:37

How long has she worked for her present employer?

zsazsajuju Thu 04-Apr-19 18:16:27

Yes. She is signed off as being unable to do the job and they don’t have to employ her indefinitely to see if she can again in the future. This is the case even if they had caused her illness (although in that case they would have to give her more leeway). But yes, they can dismiss her after 6 months not at work.

Bankofenglandfiver Thu 04-Apr-19 18:17:12

Yes.

Hollowvictory Thu 04-Apr-19 18:19:50

Yes. She hasn't been to work for 6 months. Hope she feels better soon.

HeyCarrieAnneWhatsYourGame Thu 04-Apr-19 18:23:09

As others have said they can- I was in a similar situation with a physical illness. Union negotiated a great deal with a pay out and a reference in exchange for me not telling everyone on Twitter that they’d essentially tried to fire someone with an autoimmune disease. What does your sister do- is she in a union? If not ACAS have a very helpful helpline open 8am-6pm Mon-Fri 0330 123 1100.

Dyrne Thu 04-Apr-19 18:26:27

Oh and definitely yes to what others are saying - big companies especially like to crow at the moment about how amazing they are about supporting employees with mental health issues - it’s the latest fad. She may be able to get a happy severance agreement from them - though I would thoroughly recommend getting a union rep to negotiate this, she can’t come straight out and threaten it!

Lwmommy Thu 04-Apr-19 18:29:36

Yes they could look at it as excess absence or as a capability issue, ie that her medical condition leaves her incapable of fulfilling her role.

hopeishere Thu 04-Apr-19 18:36:56

Would she be able to return to work even part time?

Meandmetoo Thu 04-Apr-19 18:43:53

Yes absolutely. I imagine previous experiences on this thread re: payouts happened as the employer wanted to get it done quickly or knew they had fell down regarding correct processes at some point. If they do it correctly they don't need to pay anything apart from notice and outstanding holidays.

she can broach the subject of a settlement agreement, it doesn't have to come from the employer.

sandi2019 Thu 04-Apr-19 18:47:37

Unfortunately.....Yes....they can dismiss her. But they will need to follow some process.....also she shouldn't be dismissed under a conduct procedure if the dismissal is due to ill health.
They can't mess around with depression as it has the potential to afford her protection.....they'd be silly too.....and so they'll need to follow a full and proper process (it doesn't matter how long shes been there....claims under the EA2010 can apply from day 1 of employment....6 months off sick with depression indicates the potential for this condition to be protected).
Short story....if they have a medical opinion that confirms no return to work in the forseeable and no adjustments that can be considered, they'll have a case to dismiss her. If your sister has refused to engage with a medical assessment, they can progress the case anyway.
I'd expect to see, as a minimum:
Regular contact/welfare meetings
Medical report (recent....so they cant rely on one from 6 months ago.....they'll need to get an updated one)
Adjustments considered (including alternative employment that may be available)
A full and proper process (including formal invite to capability meeting with the right to be accompanied and sufficient notice)
Appeals process

Really sorry about your sister. Do you think she could return on a phased basis...as already suggested above?

She doesn't have to be 100% well with mental illness to be able to return to work.

AgentProvocateur Thu 04-Apr-19 18:48:59

Of course they can. They couldn’t function if everyone took six months off. Did she intend to go back?

sandi2019 Thu 04-Apr-19 18:49:09

Agree with PP re her mentioning a without prejudice discussion about a settlement.

However...if the client has been advised correctly and has followed a fair process...they'll likely say "no".....there would be no reason for them to settle the employee off when they can just dismiss fairly.

daisychain01 Thu 04-Apr-19 18:50:23

OP has her health situation been resolved? She should be given full information throughout the process, including hard or soft copies of their Disciplinary process, which will include the Appeal process.

If she is now better andfeels she has tha capability to return to work, there is nothing to stop her appealing if they do dismiss her.

It depends on whether she has a good track record, skills they value and of course if she wants to keep her job esp due to service history if she's clocked up a few years.

An option could be to request a transfer to a different team.

keepingspiritsup Thu 04-Apr-19 18:56:33

Yes unfortunately it's excessive absence - doesn't matter if she's not being paid - it will be costing her company if they are having to hire someone in temporarily to replace her and most likely unreasonably adding to the workload of her colleagues. Also I think her company still has to make pension contributions if she is off sick so also costing them money in that sense x

daisychain01 Thu 04-Apr-19 20:52:08

Arguably a big Financial institution in London is in a better position to support an employee in those extenuating circumstances than an SME.

I'd be encouraging the employee to appeal any Dismissal decision provided

a. They felt they were strong enough to go back to work
b. They had valued skills that were relevant to the organisation in the future
c. They had a good track record that evidenced past contributions.

Only the employee can drive the discussion depending on their motivation to stay there and willingness to fight for their position. No guarantees but worth a try.

Tailfeather Thu 04-Apr-19 21:26:21

Thanks everyone. She has been signed off for another month - which is why this has come to a head. She is a PA for a large investment firm in London, but they have lots of PAs and receptionists that float and cover holiday time, sick etc. She forwarded me emails today from someone in HR telling her to take as much time as she needs and that her health is the moist important thing!!

I run my own small business and know the stresses and cost (out of my own pocket) of covering people off sick etc.

I've given her the ACAS details. Thank you. X

OP’s posts: |
Tailfeather Thu 04-Apr-19 22:20:36

@ScreamingValenta She has been there for about 11 years.

OP’s posts: |
Tailfeather Thu 04-Apr-19 22:23:26

@sandi2019 Thank you.

Personally if I was her I would force myself to go in, but I think she is in such a downward spiral and has been off for so long that she's scared. And now it won't feel like a welcoming, safe place to go back to....

OP’s posts: |
Dyrne Thu 04-Apr-19 22:57:39

Your latest OP is interesting OP, when did HR send her those emails? If recently, they may work in her favour. Is she certain that it’s a disciplinary meeting and not an occupational health meeting? I’m really surprised actually that no one has been in touch previously to discuss supporting her to get back to work - 6 months is a long time.

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