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Disciplinary action over poor sickness record (Depression)

(19 Posts)
sostupid Sat 30-Apr-05 23:47:19

Hi all I need some advice regarding my dp.

He was absent from work yesterday as he had a panic attack, he has suffered from anxiety and depression for years and work are aware of this.
Well on returning to work today he was called in for an investigatory interview regarding his sickness record. Basicly he has had 26 days off sick in the past 12 mnths.

They are taking disciplinary action regarding his sickness record,not sure what this will be as yet but some form of warning.

The reason I am asking for advice is surely this is a long term problem and should not be delt with in the same way as someone taking the piss by taking days off with coughs and colds etc. Although not all of his sick days are as a result of his depressive illness others were for things such as tonsillitis or ear infections all supported by doctors notes. There argument is that because it is a varied variety of instances of sickness his attendance record is unacceptable.
Plus if someone calls in sick due to anxiety surely the worst thing you can do on their return is interview and threaten them with warnings !

I am unable to contact the union until tues but did read on their site that people with depression should not be discriminated against by the use of the managing sickness policy as it is classed as a longterm illness.

Sorry for the confusing long winded post but if you have understood what I am saying do you know if we can apeal against his inevitable warning.
p.s sorry for all the sp mistakes

BadHair Sun 01-May-05 00:06:10

I would have thought that his company would offer him a referral to occupational health before issuing a warning. Perhaps this is what they are getting at?

tiffini Sun 01-May-05 00:09:19

Disciplinary Procedures should not take place for sickness when doctors notes are issued

sostupid Sun 01-May-05 00:09:34

Nope no referals no request for access to medical reports just a warning for having an unacceptable sickness record !

tiffini Sun 01-May-05 00:18:13

it seems the company practice bad management, when he recieves his Disciplinary action tell him is entitled to by law to take in a witness, this has to be a colleague. This is crucial if he wants to take it to a tribunal.

philippat Sun 01-May-05 07:07:44

are you sure it's disciplinary and not capability?

He definitely needs to take a union rep with him.

But, to be honest, 26 days on separate occasions IS a lot. Our trigger point is 10 separate periods of sickness.

Is his anxiety related to his job? If so, he needs to make this very clear.

fisil Sun 01-May-05 07:16:54

My letter (triggered after only 17 days in 12 months) seemed fairly formulaic. It stated how long I'd been off, how many episodes this represented, and informed me that I had been refered to occupational health. It didn't come as a shock to me as I'd already spoken about it with a boss at work. Occupational Health has been brilliant, and in fact gave me the idea to look for a new job! The boss I spoke to was wonderful and supportive and described the system and I was so desperate to get rid of depressive illness that it sounded like fantastic support. The boss (top boss) who wrote the letter made it sound more like disciplinary, and actually made me more stressed and therefore more depressed. So it maybe the way it is being communicated. When I was in the thick of my depression, it really did feel like the world was out to get me. I now feel more relaxed (cos I haven't been to work since January) and realise that some people just don't have a clue about how to communicate, especially when mental illness is involved.

I don't know your dp's particular circumstances, and I agree about getting his union involved. But until the word disciplinary has been used, they don't (can't) mean that. Also, he could try turning it around and saying "yes, I have had a lot of time off with depressive illness, I need help and it is your responsibility to provide me with occupational health care so that I can do my job properly"

CAT me if you want to chat more.

sostupid Sun 01-May-05 08:15:31

They gave him this letter after yesterdays investigatory interview.

Iam writing to inform you that you are required to attend a disciplinary hearing in to the allegation of not complying with the absence procedure and an unsatisfactory sickness record.

thats about all the letter says ! it does say he can have representation if he wishes.

The not complying with absence procedure bit was only giving 50mins notice of his absence rarther than the required hour, but he was having a Panic attack at the time !!!!!!!!

sostupid Sun 01-May-05 08:21:31

Sorry forgot to clarify that he has had 26 days off through sickness not 26 instances of sickness I dont actually know how many instances of sickness there has been but out of 26 days 14 were for an inner ear infection (signed off) 7 were for tonsillitis (signed off) I think 3 days with nausea and vomiting and the rest have been anxiety and depression

sostupid Sun 01-May-05 08:24:11

sorry make that 10 days for the ear infection and 5 for tonsillitis........I for got to go on the fact he does a 5 day week

tiptop Sun 01-May-05 09:39:36

I would advise you to:-

Make notes so that it is all set out clearly for when you contact the union rep. Do this in chronological order. Include a photocopy of the letter your dh has received and anything else that would be useful for the rep to keep. If there is a choice of reps, ask who has the most experience of dealing with a)this problem and, maybe, b) the people in work concerned.

Go on the Citizens Advice Bureau website. Find out where your nearest office is and make an appointment for you or your dh to go and see them. On the website you will find a whole chapter on disciplinary stuff. You need to inform yourselves of your rights and the procedures you should follow. Don't assume that the people in work will tell you clearly what you must do and by when, or necessarily follow the correct procedures themselves. They're only human and some go about these things very badly and treat people poorly. They also make mistakes in procedure that can make the whole disciplinary procedure invalid. N.B. You, also, need to follow the procedures to the letter.

If there is a staff handbook in your dh's work on what is expected of you re:- contacting them when you are sick, then read up on it. Show how you have done your very best to comply with the rules and put a consise explanation in your notes of the occasions when you weren't able to comply.

You can ask your dh's gp to write a note in support. I did and it was most effective. It cost £10. If you were to do this, you should discuss it with the gp first, giving him a copy of the letter from work, so that he can word it to address their concerns.

As fisil said, occupational health can help. I would say that your dh should say that, yes, he is willing to go to the occupational health doctor. The o.h. dr will send a report back to work advising them of what adjustments they may need to make to your dh's hours, work or to the sickness absence procedures, perhaps. He will probably be on a review, say every 3 to 6 mths or something. I would say that maybe your dh should have you or someone else he trusts to go with him and maybe go into the room with him also. Your gp sees you often enough to read between the lines. Someone you haven't met before can't do this and needs you to either express yourself clearly (very hard when you are depressed) or have someone sitting with you who can hear the question being asked and answer it consisely and accurately.

Sorry if this all sounds "Do this. Do that." I hope it helps and good luck!

P.S. I should have put mention of the employer's "duty of care" in there, somewhere. Try to find out what that means in your case. Also, definitely your dh should have representation in any meeting. You need to make notes in the meeting, probably the union rep would do this. It might be a horrible thing to go through and he needs all the support he can get. Think of a good time and date and location to make it as easy as possible for your dh. Don't agree to the date, time and location without saying that you need to check that the union rep can make it.

Good luck again.

sostupid Sun 05-Jun-05 20:57:14

Thanks for your advice, due to all this stress dp has been signed off for a further 6 weeks so they have postponed his discaplinary.

They have also requested access to his medical reports as his sickness has now exceeded 6 weeks and is classed as long term sickness, they write to the doctor to ask if they need to make any adjustments to his position but this is making dp stress even further as he thinks they will be able to sack him on medical grounds !
Basicly the whole situation is a mess and dp is stressing about having to go back what the medical report will say what the outcome of the discaplinary will be etc etc etc. I just want the whole thing to be sorted !

Pennies Sun 05-Jun-05 21:36:10

Ok this is going to be long...

There is a marked difference between discipline and capability. Discipline relates to beaviour and capaility relates to ability to do the job and includes sickness. The company should distinguish between the two.

It seems that if they are disciplining him due to being 10 minutes late in reporting his illness (i.e. not complying with the sickness procedure) then that is being unreasonable, if this is the first time he has done this. Assuming this is the first time he's been late I would suggest that it may indicate a level of vicimisation, particaulrly if he has already explained why he was late in reporting it.

If however they wish to meet to disucss his sickness level then I would agree with them that his absence rate is above average and therefore it does need some kind of discussion, but they do seem to be going the wrong way about it.

The nature of his absences seem unrelated and although he suffers from stress and depression from what you say this has only recently become a long term problem. If I am wrong and if you can prove that he has suffered from clinically recognised stress / depression for more than a year he may be afforded some protection under the Disbaility Discrimination Act. You would need to research this though and be able to chronical his history.

So what he needs to do is the following:

1) Get representation (You say you have the Union involved so that's ideal).

2) Clarify if they are meeting to discipline him over his non adherance to the sickness policy or to discuss his sickness. If they say both then that is not acceptable and that the two issues must be kept separate.

3) When he gets to meet with someone to discuss his sickness he needs to ask to see Occupational Health.

4) In order for his doctor to release medical information your DP will need to sign an authoriation form. He can ask to see the doctor's report before it is sent to your employer. I recommend he does this. If medical information is released without his consent then that is illegal and he will have a strong case should he wish to pursue it.

In terms of how safe his job is, well obviously I don't know what his company procedures are but from what little they have done to date I would say that at the moment it is very unlikely that they would be able to dismiss him. Tiptop's advice is sound - get a copy of the sickness procedure and make sure that they follow it to the letter. I would expect that it would follow a 3 stage process, and they would also need to demonstrate that they have made a number of adjustments to try and enable him to work before taking any drastic action.

Although it may seem intimidating and worrying to him at the moment it is actually in his interests for them to start talking to him about this sickness, particualrly if the stress is vcaused by his job because they will then be obliged to start to try and change things to help him go back to work.

Good luck. I hope this is of some use to you. You can CAT me if you would like me to offer more advice as the situation deveops (by the way, I'm an HR Officer in a large unionised organisation and the sole remit of my job is dealing with sickness absence!).

I hope this helps.

sostupid Fri 17-Jun-05 19:37:10

Well he has finaly had his discaplinary the outcome was a first written warning.

He was warned for having an unsatisfactory sickness record, failure to comply with the sickness reporting procedure (ringing in 10 mins after cut off) and failing to set a good example to his staff.

He has to dramaticly reduce his sickness/absence ring in on time and it must be him who rings in sick.

He decidied to accept the warning and wont be fighting it as it would probably lead to more stress at a time he definately doesn't need it.

But thanks to everyone who gave us advice on this matter it has been much apreciated.

sis Fri 17-Jun-05 20:41:46

Have you checked out the disabilty rights commission website here ? There is loads of info on what constitutes a disability and how it should be treated by employers. It may be a case of you or your dh having to inform his employers about the disability discrimination act and its provisions! - it is not uncommon for employers to be unaware of their obligations under employment law.

sis Fri 17-Jun-05 20:44:12

sorry, didn't read your last post before posting. It may still be useful to visit the website as it may be difficult for your dh, if he is suffering from depression to meet their requirement to phone in himself when he is too unwell to go to work, never mind their other requirement!

granarybeck Mon 04-Jul-05 17:37:41

contact disability rights commission helpline. number is on website.

spursmum Mon 04-Jul-05 17:43:25

don't know if this will help but the counsellor i saw for my depression told me that work couldn't do anything like that as it was classified as mental illness and therefore a disability. i was then covered by the disability discrimination act. i'd recommend talking to citizens advice or similar.

sostupid Thu 07-Jul-05 18:09:14

thanks for the recent advice I hadnt checked this thread lately but I will give them a call.

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