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Very long - sorry. Can I go back after sick leave?

(22 Posts)
NaToth Sun 03-May-20 16:54:54

I work in HE. I am ten years in post and due to reach State Pension Age in November 2021. I am the main breadwinner and cannot afford to resign. I do belong to a union. I already have a long term health condition which requires reasonable adjustments.

I have been off work since 20 December 2019 as I was diagnosed on 23 December 2019 with a serious systemic illness. I was put on medication with awful side effects, including mimicking BPD, and was clearly not fit for work at that time. All absences have been covered by fit notes. I was always open about the reason I could not work being the side effects of the medication rather than the symptoms of the condition.

I have kept in touch with my manager throughout and have also seen Occupational Health. They said that they wanted a report from my GP, but prepared their report, which was full of errors and omissions, without doing asking for this. I have also not had a second appointment, which should have been just before the lockdown. They have not looked at all at the question of whether I will be able to go back to work in a student-facing role now that the medication has destroyed my immune system. This effect is likely to last for some time and certainly almost up to my reaching State Pension Age, if not past it.

When I went for my follow up appointment at the hospital in February, I was told the diagnosis was wrong. They don’t know what is actually wrong with me and the departments they have referred me on to cannot see me until at least June. I have to come off the medication gradually, but will be still be on it until at least July 2021. Now that I have started to reduce the dose, the side effects have gone and I feel pretty well, well enough to go back to work, if they will have me.

I tried to start this conversation with my line manager, but she has been very evasive. I e mailed her again and said that I thought they would need to satisfy themselves, through Occupational Health, that it was appropriate for me to return and that this would have to be their decision. Ten days later, I have had no response.

I’m not sure where to go from here. I feel well enough to work from home now and to go back FT at the end of the lockdown, but despite how I feel, I don’t think they can have me back unless they are satisfied that there is little or no risk to me. Am I right?

How do I get this moving? If I can't go back, do they have to medically retire me? Should I just go to the Union now?

Thanks

OP’s posts: |
Mmsnet101 Sun 03-May-20 21:09:18

When does your fit note cover you until? You don't need a sign off line to return but if you are still within fit note period then they can ask you to remain off until then /get resurrance from gp /Oh about coming back earlier.

The delay in responding might be due to covid making things more complicated I. E whether you can just switch a laptop on and start to work or whether you will need paperwork /equipment etc?

CloudsCanLookLikeSheep Mon 04-May-20 00:52:12

You can go back to work when your sick note expires. If you say you're fit to return, it's not for them to challenge this, unless you are asking for adjustments/restrictions which they need further advice on.

If you are fully fit to return just go back after your current sick note expires

NaToth Tue 05-May-20 11:16:35

Sorry, maybe I didn't make myself clear.

I know that normally you just go back to work when your fit note expires.

My problem is that the drugs they put me on, and that I will now be on until at least the middle of next year, have destroyed my immune system, making me very vulnerable to infection. I'm currently in the very vulnerable shielding group.

I don't know if that means I can go back to work on site at the end of the lockdown, in cramped offices, with a lot of people around, or not, and I don't know who has to make this decision. I guess it's some sort of risk assessment?

Any thoughts now?

Thanks

OP’s posts: |
DateandTime Tue 05-May-20 11:47:03

I've had someone on long term sick, declare herself fit for work but in the shielding group so unable to work currently.

Which means she's no longer on sick leave but not in work. It hasn't gone down particularly well if I'm honest but that's where we are.

It will depend what approach your employer has to the vulnerable/shielded groups though. We are paying them and asking them to do what work they can from home, so we've done the same for her. Some employers are furloughing them or even insisting they work.

DateandTime Tue 05-May-20 11:49:39

In terms of the decision on whether you are fit to be in the office, we have asked staff to read the guidance and make their own decisions, with their medical practitioners if necessary. If this becomes long term, I suspect those who declare they have a medical condition which means they unable to attend work will have to be managed via the sickness absence policy.

CloudsCanLookLikeSheep Tue 05-May-20 15:06:18

At the moment those in the shielding group are eligible for furlough, so you could end sick leave at the end of the sick note and go on furlough with your employers agreement. The scheme is set to end at the end of June but I have a feeling they may keep it going for shielding whilst the virus is a risk.

NaToth Tue 12-May-20 21:03:45

As far as I am aware, our unit is still operating, albeit on line a nd no-one has been furloughed so far.

So here we are, a week before my fit note expires. I have e mailed my manager and told her that I wish to return to work on 26 May subject to approval from Occupational Health. I did that last week and it hasn't even been acknowledged yet.

If they don't want me back, they need to tell me on what basis they don't me back and put everything in place instead of just ignoring me.

Difficult.

OP’s posts: |
KillerofMen Sun 17-May-20 09:36:08

Do you want to be medically retired? If so, speak to you union rep and ask them to approach the uni. HE is fucked so they might want to do that as it'll mean less redundancies later.

tamsintamsout Sun 17-May-20 10:00:49

You can be furloughed if you are shielding whether or not your role is needed.

seltaeb Sun 17-May-20 10:06:13

I suggest checking your employer's absence/attendance policy. My former employer started the process for dismissal after 6 months sick leave.

NaToth Sun 17-May-20 15:31:11

If they were to start the process for dismissal, I think they might be on dodgy ground as I already have one long term health condition covered by the Equality Act as well as the current one!

I've still heard nothing, and my consultant has told me that this is a job for Occupational Health to effectively carry out a risk assessment. I will be e mailing again next week as I have still heard nothing.

I had not thought about medical retirement. I had expected my employer to be keen to get me back to work as my job is not being covered in my absence! The man I saw at Occupational Health talked about medical retirement and I told him I hadn't thought about it, but if that was the situation I would accept it. That's where I am. He didn't mention it in his report at all. Didn't even say it had been mentioned.

My plan for tomorrow is to talk to the ACAS helpline and then e mail my line manager and HR. If I can get the go ahead, I want to start back next week.

OP’s posts: |
Moondust001 Sun 17-May-20 16:04:53

The Equality Act doesn't protect you from dismissal of it is not likely that you could return to do your job. It only entitles you to have your employer consider whether there are reasonable adjustments they can make. Working from home, for now, might be acceptable. But in the longer term if you cannot do the student contract time due to a suppressed immune system, and there is no vaccine, then dismissal is a very real possibility. Medical retirement might be the way to go, but it often has stringent rules attached about not being able to do ANY work, and you may not be able to show that is the case. But it would seem worth asking, and seeing what they say, if you are happy to take it.

KillerofMen Sun 17-May-20 16:07:35

If you're in a union, don't bother speaking to acas. Speak to your rep, they will have practical solutions based on your workplace. Acas only state the law, they don't give advice.

If they've managed 5 months without you, they'll probably be glad for you to leave with a small pension top up rather than make you redundant.

Flamingofolie Sun 17-May-20 17:27:24

Which means she's no longer on sick leave but not in work. It hasn't gone down particularly well if I'm honest but that's where we are.

Well, she's not sick so why should she use up sick leave entitlement?

Flamingofolie Sun 17-May-20 17:30:31

But in the longer term if you cannot do the student contract time due to a suppressed immune system, and there is no vaccine, then dismissal is a very real possibility.

This is all pie in the sky stuff, there is no information re another period of shielding and how this would be covered. There is also no information on how the shielded group will be treated so do not make decisions based purely on this.

Difficultcustomer Sun 17-May-20 17:40:27

If there was no Covid 19 would you be completely fit to work including all aspects of your work? Can you do all or part of your job WFH?

NaToth Sun 17-May-20 17:56:22

In the short term, the fact that I am shielding does relate to COVID.

However, I would have the suppressed immune system anyway, so that is the real issue.

OP’s posts: |
NaToth Sun 17-May-20 17:58:23

I can do part of my job from home, but not all.

Whether I might be fit to do all aspects of my role will,come down to what OH say, if they ever say anything.

OP’s posts: |
SomeoneElse1 Sun 17-May-20 18:08:46

However, I would have the suppressed immune system anyway, so that is the real issue. lots of people have suppressed immune systems and still work,transplant recipients for instance.

Are they currently working from an office? If so your return date would be the date your sick note expires and you are within your rights to go back.Whether you choose to or not is your decision. But if you choose not to and don’t have a sick note they would be within their rights to start dismissal procedures.

Difficultcustomer Sun 17-May-20 18:32:11

Talk to the union. Longer term beyond Covid maybe reasonable adjustments and phased return. However if you can’t do an important part of your job and you and employer can’t agree to change the job (possibly with change of salary) then they can use sickness policy and disciplinary procedures on unfitness to work.

Moondust001 Mon 18-May-20 07:07:09

This is all pie in the sky stuff, there is no information re another period of shielding and how this would be covered. There is also no information on how the shielded group will be treated so do not make decisions based purely on this.

No, it is not "pie in the sky" stuff. It is employment law stuff.

Coronavirus complicates matters, for employees and employers, but it does not change employment law. Shielding in now way trumps the fact that an employer may implement capability processes if someone is unable to do their job due to a health condition, regardless of what other circumstances apply. The duty laid on the employer by the Equality Act is to have due regard to whether reasonable adjustments are possible. In the end, only an employment tribunal can determine whether that has happened or not. What decisions may or may not be made about shielding have no relevance to whether an employer may fairly dismiss someone who cannot do the job that they are paid to do.

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