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Can I be fired for being off work with depression/stress?
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# 1
Suzykd
Old 14-08-2011, 4:59 PM
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Default Can I be fired for being off work with depression/stress?

I've been signed off work for about 6 weeks now, my GP originally diagnosed "anxiety" and depression, which is mainly due to being bullied at work. I've got worse instead of better, the slightest thing can leave me tearful and incapable, I have very little concentration, so don't feel I can go back yet.
Now I am also worrying about keeping my job.
I saw a counsellor, who has encouraged my belief that I am being pushed out of the job, and my employers are trying to get me to attend a meeting which I know I can't cope with.
The last sick note said "Depression" which I am concerned my employers will interpret as "can't be bothered".
They have asked me to go in for a meeting, which I have refused, as Idon't feel I can cope with it at the moment, but they have more or less conned me into going in to see the Occupational Health nurse, so that she can refer me to the company counsellor.
One GP is telling me I should go to the meeting, another is telling me I don't have to do anything I don't feel capable of.
In the past 12 months I have had 5 days off with a virus (self-cert on the advice of my GP) and 2 separate days with migraines, which I don't feel is excessive, but they operate the Bradford Index, so in their terms, it is.
My employer knows about the migraines, which are mainly due to my working conditions, but they have done nothing about the problem.
I've been in the job 5 years, but did have a bad absenteeism record due to the migraines, and also I had a road accident and another accident on holiday which kept me off work for a while.
In the past month, I've had a couple of spates of feeling suicidal, which scared me witless, but don't want my employers to know that.
Where do I go from here?
Can they demand a report from myGP?
Can they just fire me for not being able to do the job?
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# 2
VfM4meplse
Old 14-08-2011, 5:06 PM
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Sorry to hear about your medical situation.

Do be aware that your employer is only trying to follow process, and make provision for your recovery etc through counselling, which should be entirely confidential. It does sound from your post that your mental state is unlikely to allow you to work atm, however your employer will need to make plans to cover the role whilst you are away, and an OH assessment will help with this.

There is no conning involved. By your own admission, your absenteeism has triggered the internal threshold for action and your employer is just taking the prescribed steps within the HR process.
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# 3
Jarndyce
Old 14-08-2011, 5:19 PM
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The answer to your question is 'Yes you can'.

So if your anxiety etc really is due to being bullied you need to get a complaint together and submit it under your employer's bullying procedure, if they have one, immediately. Otherwise, you are just someone who takes a lot of time off sick. Would you employ someone like that?
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# 4
Anna*
Old 14-08-2011, 5:48 PM
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If you have been away from work for x amount of weeks (most company's have their own internal sickness absence trigger times) you will be contacted by your HR/ER department who should refer you onto occupational health. Occ health will look into your medical history either by writing to your GP or sending you for an independent medical assessment provided you give your consent for this. You also have the right to see any report that is written about you before it is sent to your HR department. If you do not consent to any reports to ascertain whether your condition is covered under the Equality Act 2010 and whether your employer can make any reasonable adjustments for you then they can make a definitive employment decision. Occupational health are there to help and advise you.
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# 5
Jariya
Old 14-08-2011, 6:00 PM
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Yes they can I'm afraid.

I have been bullied at work on two occasions - two different companies and two different bosses.

The more recent behaved the same way with everyone and pretty much had a breakdown and was signed off for two months - she was eventually told that her job no longer existed as others had covered it.

Previously I ended up being signed off for two weeks with stress. I went back and was open with HR and the Finance Director and told them what had lead to it.

About two months later it all kicked off again and I was so fed up I waited until my boss had left and went to see HR and the FD - they literally moved mine and my boss' desks to an area visible to them both for when we got in the next day. I was so relieved and within about two months my boss left of her own accord but has tried several times to contact me since.

If I hadn't said anything I would have been off sick again - I know that.

I also understand how you feel as it's a very horrible situation to be in.

Even if you think you can't do it I think you should make every effort to go to this meeting at work. They are trying to help and are following their protocol for this.
I broke down to crying like a baby when I stayed late that night - did I care? Nope. They understood and had spotted things themselves about her behaviour towards me.

Give it a shot..take some tissues. Take all the help you can get. The first step is the hardest bit. ((hugs))
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# 6
fiendishly
Old 14-08-2011, 7:11 PM
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I'm under the impression that migraines can come under the DDA - disability discrimination act; as people who suffer from them (me too) are much more likely to be off sick than those who don't (odd days though, as you said). I used to work for tesco who have a notoriously strict sickness policy and they disregarded my migraines under the DDA. Do look it up though.
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# 7
C_Mababejive
Old 14-08-2011, 7:33 PM
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Yes you can be fired because quite simply, you are not doing the work they pay you to do. They are making steps to assist/interact and facilitate you and yet you are unresponsive. Have you talked to your doc about a course of SSRI's to help you through this difficult patch and get you back on track?
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# 8
Suzykd
Old 14-08-2011, 7:57 PM
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Thank you all for your replies.
You are right, I do need to do this meeting, and I think I am more likely to lose my job if I keep putting it off.
My other half is going to come with me, so fingers crossed
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# 9
Nanny35
Old 14-08-2011, 7:59 PM
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Yes they can sadly, I don't agree with it as that is how I lost my job.. I worked for the hospital, and needed a operation, had the operation, and was then off for a long while as I wouldn't heal, then i had to see the occupational nurse/doctor and she said that i could go to work, but to go back gradual, 2 days a week, 3 days a week and then 4 and 5. I was in sheer agony, and saw the consultant, to find out i needed another operation, that went ahead and again i wasn't healing good, and had yet another infection, the bosses decided to call a meeting and i had to go, by this time i had a nervous breakdown and deep depression, I went to meeting where they told me as you have been unfit to do your job we are letting you go. so not only did the hospital screw up with my body, but also kicked me out of my job. then 12 months later I had another op and at present I wait still to heal and to be fit enough to have another operation, for the incisional hernia they caused on the second op... all of this was 3 years ago.... and i still have nurses every other day to dress the wounds. ... Sorry got carried away there, don't want to sound so negative for you, but i am so bitter, and depressed and fed up with waiting ... lol. I hope everything goes well for you. Big Hugs.
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# 10
McKneff
Old 14-08-2011, 8:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suzykd View Post
Thank you all for your replies.
You are right, I do need to do this meeting, and I think I am more likely to lose my job if I keep putting it off.
My other half is going to come with me, so fingers crossed
This is a more positive post, it really shows that you are willing to help yourself. Your earlier post were really negative, good luck,
i hope things go well for you.
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent
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# 11
elsien
Old 14-08-2011, 8:27 PM
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IN our company (which is a good one to work for, and I understand that not all are the same), dismissal due to incapacity to do the role is as a last resort at the end of a long process of trying to make adjustments and doing the best to get people back to work.
There are various options which can be considered including a phased return to work when you are feeling well enough, and which is where occupational health come in so they can advise on procedures, and set up monitoring to check that all is going as planned.
Are you a member of a union? They will have come across these situations before and will be able to advise so you don't feel steamrollered into things. Plus advise on how to get help with the bullying issue.
If you try to avoid things, you are likely to build them up in your head as worse than they are - I've been off work myself in the past with stress related depression, so I do know at least a little how you feel. However unless or until the bullying is sorted you are likely to encounter the same difficulties when you do return, so you do need to give some thought as to how to resolve this with your employer.

Just another thought, if you're not sure about seeing the company counsellor, you could also ask your GP to refer you for counselling if you think it would help. Good luck.
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# 12
traybro
Old 14-08-2011, 8:28 PM
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my reply dissapeared but to cut it short, yes they can.
I too had an operation. I worked for the nhs and had been at the hospital 9 years. They caused me further complications after my hsyterectomy which meant that i needed more time off.I had GP notes but that didnt matter.. they still sacked me. Rightly or wrongly they did sack me, with a medical note.
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# 13
SarEl
Old 14-08-2011, 8:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fiendishly View Post
I'm under the impression that migraines can come under the DDA - disability discrimination act; as people who suffer from them (me too) are much more likely to be off sick than those who don't (odd days though, as you said). I used to work for tesco who have a notoriously strict sickness policy and they disregarded my migraines under the DDA. Do look it up though.
The Equality Act - the DDA does not exist now. And it would have to be siginificabtly serious migraines to qualify - the OP would need more than a few days off here and there to even stand a chance.

The advice given to (a) co-operate with the employer in terms of meetings and OH and (b) file a grievance if bullying is going on, are the correct things to do. What isn't on the record doesn't exist.
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# 14
Superbiatch
Old 14-08-2011, 8:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by traybro View Post
my reply dissapeared but to cut it short, yes they can.
I too had an operation. I worked for the nhs and had been at the hospital 9 years. They caused me further complications after my hsyterectomy which meant that i needed more time off.I had GP notes but that didnt matter.. they still sacked me. Rightly or wrongly they did sack me, with a medical note.
Were you finished up for being incapable of doing your job? Or were you planning to return at some stage to your original job? The only way we can finish people who are off sick is by proving they are incapable of doing the job they were employed to do. Its a long drawn out NHS process which usually takes a few years.
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# 15
cazarol
Old 14-08-2011, 8:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suzykd View Post
Thank you all for your replies.
You are right, I do need to do this meeting, and I think I am more likely to lose my job if I keep putting it off.
My other half is going to come with me, so fingers crossed
Go to the meeting, as hard as it feels and just see what they have to say. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Good luck and hugs to you
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# 16
Valli
Old 14-08-2011, 9:52 PM
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If you are in a union they will send someone to come to the meeting with you.
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# 17
wdw2003
Old 16-08-2011, 8:54 AM
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A friend was in an almost identical situation and was made redundant after the company decided the job was no longer required. It went to tribunal, which failed, but a major weakness in the case was that a complaint of bullying was never filed at the time.

As Jarndyce says above, it's vital that you get the bullying complaint on record, as your feelings and view of events isn't enough without that formal complaint. It might seem a very awkward thing for you to do, but you need to do everything you can to protect your position as your company's lawyers certainly won't have your interests at heart.
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# 18
Horace
Old 16-08-2011, 11:11 AM
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Employers can dispense of your services if they feel are you are incapable of doing your job.

I worked for my ex employer for 12 years and in that time was redeployed to a different post within the same employer. Unfortunately for me I ended up working for a complete toad who systematically turned me from a confident person into a gibbering wreck. I went off sick and had put in a grievance about his behaviour towards me - thankfully for me (in some respects) I was a union representative so knew to keep a diary of every incident of bullying, who from, date and time - I even sent emails to confirm things when I had been asked to do them (toad had a nasty habit of denying all knowledge of ever asking me to do stuff). I attended meetings with Occy Health and my own GP sent reports as did my hospital consultant. I went back to work on a phased return but things were no better and went off again. I was called to a meeting when I was told that I was being made redundant despite the employer having several vacancies all of which I was capable of doing.

In some respects my ex employer did me a favour because I now work for myself after a period of unemployment. To a certain extent I still have some of the effects still - e.g. mild depression which I have at the moment but all the other health problems I had have either disappeared or are under control with medication. Looking back the best thing they ever did was make me redundant through ill health although I didnt think that at the time.

Your employer may not allow you to take your OH into the meeting with you and he will have to wait outside. Usually, in these situations you are asked to take a union rep with you or a work colleague - if you are not in a union then it is unlikely that you will get representation especially as this is an ongoing event that has happened before you have taken up membership with them. It is better to work with your employer than against them, if you keep refusing then they are likely to think that you are chancing your arm. Your employer needs to be able to make reasonable adjustment so that you can return to work but they can't do that if you refuse to work with them. Occy Health are there to help you and your employer - they can provide a confidential counselling service and will be able to advise the HR dept as to whether or not you are fit or will be fit to return to work.
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# 19
Suzykd
Old 25-08-2011, 5:45 AM
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Thank you all so much for your posts and support.
I went to the meeting and they were really supportive, made me an appointment to see the company counsellor, which I did on Monday. She's told me the Occupational Health rule of thumb is that you are not fit to return to work until you have had 10 good days together.
The problem now is that having seen the consellor on Monday, I stated slipping back into being stressed on Tuesday, but work seem to think that the counsellor waved a magic wand and made me better, and are now demanding that I go on site again to have a meeting about the problems I highlighted, and are complaining that I am signed off again.
I don't see what they are compaining about, the sick note was issued last Wednesday, 5 days before I saw the counsellor.
I'm in a union, but have only been in it a couple of weeks, so they won't snd anyone with me. Thye also won't help with problems which arose before joining them, so they are no use to me this time.
I think work think I'm skiving, so I am thinking of getting my GP to write to them.
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# 20
Uncertain
Old 25-08-2011, 7:40 AM
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As stated unfortunately you have no legal right to insist that your other half attends a meeting with your employer. That said, under the circumstances they may well allow it or you may be able to gently suggest that it is the only way in which you would feel able to attend.

I would also suggest you encourage them to seek a report from your doctor. They may well ask so I would try to get the idea in first. They will have to go through a formal process and pay a fee. You have a legal right to see the report and discuss it with your doctor before it is sent. Having agreed to it being produced you can't then veto it or tell the doctor what to write (it has to be his professional opinion). If you really can't agree the doctor has, by law, to include a statement of your views. However, if your doctor is "on side" there is seldom a problem and it can be very helpful.
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I limit myself to responding to threads where I feel I have enough knowledge to make a useful contribution. My advice (and indeed any advice on this type of forum) should only be seen as a pointer to something you may wish to investigate further. Never act on any forum advice without confirmation from an accountable source.
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