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what are my rights here? - new sickness absence procedure at work

Eleison

Eleison

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 21, 2008
Messages
818
Location
London
They're piloting this new sickness absence procedure at work.
Instead of phoning line manager, you now have to phone this independent health line and speak with a nurse, giving all your symptoms and being advised on treatment and how long to be off. And you have to keep in touch with them all the time you're off sick.

Well. For physical things that's all well and good.
BUT.
I feel very uncomfortable telling a random nurse over the phone what's going on for me when I'm off sick for mental/emotional reasons.
For a start, I'm rarely off sick with depression related issues. So, when I am, you know it's Really Bad. When I feel like that I just need some of my own space to get myself back together again. I don't want to be having to keep calling this *&%$£"&*(Y££^" phone line. Let's not forget that I have phone anxiety.

I'm under the care of my psychotherapist, my GP, and my homeopath. I have regular review meetings of my disability related welfare and work needs at work.

I get depressed and anxious and everything because I've been abused when I was growing up. I'm ok with my managers knowing this, and colleagues I trust. But some random nurse? No way.

I'll just have to keep going into work even when I feel utterly unable to cope, I guess. Because that's what they want from this. People not being off sick. I'm hardly ever off sick. But I feel so judged, not believed.
And my boundaries and privacy feel so violated with this new procedure. I feel very threatened.

I've emailed my line manager back [the news came in an email sent to everyone] and asked her how this relates to my situation, and let her know how upset I am. She doesn't yet know, and is going to find out and get back to me.
Technically my depression related absences don't come under sickness absence anyway, up until now, because they are 'disability related'. Our disabilities coordinator has been made redundant though [the dc wasn't her only role], and is trying to sort her own life out, so I don't feel I can bother her with this.

Has anyone else had to deal with similar things?
Does anyone know what my rights are with this? [apparantly it's fine with the Union. But the Union ain't got perspective on people with long term mental health issues.]
Any empathy?
 
S

*Sapphire*

Guest
Hi Eleison

I'm not surprised that you are not happy, I too would be uncomfortable with this type of scheme even if it was about a physical problem. What right does a nurse have to diagnose you over the phone and advise when you should go back to work, without seeing you or knowing the true extent of your symptoms?? Flus can take anything between three days to two weeks for you to recover from, how can a nurse fortell how long it will take??

Anyway, with regards to your sickness here is a link to the Government website about taking sickness, and it states that if your employer is giving you contractual sick pay (which means you get it off them) they can in fact ask you to call in more than once a week. However if they do not pay sick pay and you get SSP then you do not have to call in more than once a week. They would be breaking the law, and can not withhold pay for it.

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/MoneyTa...CreditsAndOtherSupport/Illorinjured/DG_175850

If however you are off sick due to a disability different laws apply. If you are off sick related to a disability and they refuse to pay you sickness then they could be breaking the law, and you could go to a tribunal claiming disability discrimination. I would contact the CAB about further details on whether you have to call in every day or not. Or even ask your employer if you can have a different contract regarding sickness that gives you the right to not have to call in every day because of your fear of using a telephone. They may ask that you send them an email instead. A company must make 'reasonable adjustments' to cater for disabled workers, it could stretch to how and when you call in sick. But again I would ask the CAB for clarification.

With regards to phoning the nurse, they have no rights to know about your past, and if the nurse demands to know the source of your mental health problems you should advise them of that. It would be like having time off for an STD/STI and having to tell the nurse who you got it from! That is wholly inappropraite, an infringement of your rights and nothing to do with your employer.

I would call the nurse and say you are suffering with established mental health problems that your employer is well aware of, and it is affecting your ability to go into work that day. I would assume that this nurse is not a mental health specialist, and even if they were they could not 'diagnose' or advise on what to do or how long you take off without seeing you or your notes and consulting with a specialist in your care.

I hope the matter resolves itself, and try not to worry about it in the meantime.
 
Eleison

Eleison

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 21, 2008
Messages
818
Location
London
Thank you Sapphire.

I've got to go to a meeting with a senior manager, the disabilities coordinator, and one of my managers tomorrow, to discuss this.
So it doesn't look like I'll be made exempt from the scheme, although I have't been told for sure.
I've drafted up some thoughts and questions and emailed them to the disabilities coordinator.
But I'm really really scared.

Any advice, support, suggestions, caring.. welcome. I don't know how to go through with this. I feel so trapped and helpless, and terrified.
 
D

Dollit

Guest
I always tell people that while mental health problems can cause illness they don't show themselves in the same way a physical illness does. While I can't expect special treatment, I do expect equality and that means that people have to learn whether they want to or not. If organizations say they want to learn I put them in touch with the Shift Speakers Bureau.
 
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