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Reasonable for employer to expect you to work while sick?

(4 Posts)
CookieMonster1 Mon 22-Jun-09 21:35:02

Hello everyone

I'd be grateful for your views on whether it is reasonable for an employer to expect an employee on sick leave to complete their work.

The reason I ask is that my employer has told me I have a bad attitude/acted unprofessionally because I did not complete my work while I was off sick. I strictly followed company policy for notifying them of my absence and feel I acted totally professionally so it seems completely crazy for them to take this position.

I am never sick and have to be almost dead on my feet to take sick leave but unfortunately I have had to take 2 periods of sick leave this year. I was signed off sick by my doctor for 2 weeks at the beginning of the year and then last month I picked up a lovely stomach bug that left me firmly tied to my bathroom for the best part of 36 hours. Hard to work on my laptop and vomit at the same time really.

I was honestly too sick to work during both of these episodes and feel disgusted that I am being criticised for not completing presentations etc that were pending during the time I was ill. If I had been well enough to sit at my computer and work, I wouldn't have needed to take sick leave.

This is really upsetting. I am pregnant and don't need the stress. Is it me that's acting unreasonably or my employer?

All thoughts gratefully received!

IHeartKittensAndWine Mon 22-Jun-09 21:59:52

I believe it's actually illegal for employers to expect/pressurize you into working while on sick leave. From memory, you are expected to call in to notify, projected date of return, anything critical other people should be aware of, and that is it. Employers shouldn't contact you beyond that, unless to confirm projected date/arrange a meeting with Occ, Health etc.

If the illness is something that keeps you house bound, but not physically unable to work, such as a broken foot or leg, you can work, but that is at your discretion, and OH should be involved (or equivalent) to complete a risk assessment.

Do you have an HR dept you could discuss this with confidentially. FWIW, many employers prefer you to take the time off if you have called in sick because a) pressure can delay a full return to work (as I discovered when my flu turned into pnumonia and b) they risk legal action if your condition deteriorates due to the pressure

BUT... I don't work in HR (altho I do manage a team) so don't take me as gospel

flowerybeanbag Tue 23-Jun-09 09:55:19

It certainly isn't reasonable of your employer to expect you to work while you are sick.

There's not technically any specific law against it as such, however any employer who pressurises an employee to work whilst sick is opening themselves up to various potential claims. If someone doesn't get better as quickly as they otherwise might because of being made to work and loses money as a result, for example. Health and Safety claims as well are a distinct possibility for employers who force employees who are not fit to work to do so.

I agree that if you have an HR department having a chat with someone nice there about your concerns might be a good idea.

CookieMonster1 Tue 23-Jun-09 17:44:34

Thanks for the feedback guys, I'm glad I haven't completely lost my marbles!

The most shocking thing of all was that the head of HR was actually sitting next to me when my manager gave me the feedback that I am expected to work while sick, and didn't say a word shock! So my manager now believes he is acting with HR's blessing.

I think I need to put my concerns in a nice, polite, informal email to the head of HR and just ask her to clarify that my manager's expectations are really in line with company policy.

Thanks again.

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