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Can I carry on a voluntary role if I am off sick from work?(11 Posts)
I work part time in a very stressful environment. I am currently suffering from anxiety and depression for which I am receiving treatment (CBT). My employers do not know this, this is because it is a relatively small business and the management are indiscreet so I haven’t dared tell them for fear of it going all round work.
I also do a voluntary role, a few days a month. It is completely different to my job, is done on the days I don’t work and causes me no stress at all.
I have been feeling further and further overwhelmed recently and my dh has suggested that a break from work (being signed off by GP) might help. If I did this, would I also need to stop my voluntary role - which does not contribute to my mental health difficulties? My voluntary role is not something that will lead into an alternative career or anything like that, it’s just something useful I like doing which helps people.
If I had to take some time off and it was not ok for me to carry on my voluntary work I would do that (and speak to the organisation I volunteer for about that) but I wondered if I could still carry on with it?
Sorry about how you are feeling, yes it's a good idea to get some time off, but in the long term would it be better to find a less stressful job. What will you put down on your sick cert, the Dr can advise you about the benefits of continuing with voluntary work. Would it be better just to take a complete rest and break for a while.
I would worry about what would happen if your employers found out that you were still working elsewhere ( even though unpaid ) while claiming sick pay from them ( or SSP).
Are the two roles totally different ? For example, you might not be well enough to dig gardens or paint walls at work ( because of a bad back ) but be able to crochet blankets or make phone calls to housebound elderly people from your own home.
I don’t think it’s good enough to say that eg working in an office is stressful and makes you ill but serving in a charity shop isn’t stressful so you can do that when you are off sick.
And if you don’t tell your employer that your work is making you unwell, how do you expect them to make changes to help you cope, so you can return to work?
You will need to be open with your employer. Once a sick note is sent, they will know what you are of with. Personally, I would arrange for a telephone call with the HR manager/Director to discus and stress how important discretion is. It's your personal information and they would be in breach of DPA by sharing it unnecessary. I would also tell them that it is workplace stress/anxiety specific to your paid employment. Explain you volunteer for x hours a week and having considered carefully, you have decided to continue volunteering as it is positive for your mental health.
As an employer I would take a very dim view of this though I do understand your reasons.
Try to be more open with them as there could be some changes to be made?
I am absolutely not an expert, but so often you read of people with anxiety or depression then being stuck at home which can also be unhealthy, when signed off from work. If the doctor were to 'prescribe' continuing with the volunteering, would it then be ok?
It will depend. It is disingenuous to say that your voluntary role causes you 'no stress at all' if you are suffering from generalised stress and anxiety, because you still have to get to the place you are volunteering at, you have demands on your time, you have to talk to people, respond to interaction, dress appropriately, think about what to do, say, etc. These are all stressful things, whether or not you are able to do them without suffering unduly from doing them. They all require decisions, choices, judgement of the environment you are in, etc.
What you are actually saying is that you feel comfortable in the voluntary role, and don't feel stressed in it. Which is fine, but not a sign that it isn't in any way stressful.
What you need to do is tell your first boss that you have a voluntary role that you find therapeutic and you'd like to continue going, as you'd like to continue to improve your mental health.
I think it would need to be stated on your fit note.
Gov guidelines state you can be off sick from one job while still working another if they are different, eg a physical job vs an office job. See here
It’s a small business so no HR dept - that would have been great. Thanks for that info @handmademitlove - good to know!
Because it is difficult to prove that stress/anxiety is work related an employer may consider that if you are fit enough for voluntary work you are fit enough for your employee role. I would suggest it would be unwise to continue voluntary work while off sick from paid employment. If the employer knows that you do voluntary work they may well ask about it if you are off sick.
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