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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 44962
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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My partner and I have been going through IVA and she fell pregnant

Customer Question

My partner and I have been going through IVA and she fell pregnant but unfortunately we lost the baby over the summer at 16 weeks.
My question involves information regarding doctor’s notes. This is because my partner is a teacher so was off sick for the last two weeks of term. She was then around 9 weeks pregnant but feeling ill from the pregnancy so was signed off for the last two weeks of term.
During the summer holiday's the lady in the school office requested Trace provide another sick note for the durance of the summer holidays. As we had lost the baby by now (problems started around 14 weeks so around 3rd week of the summer holidays) Trace connected the doctor to ask if she was fit to work or if she would need to be off sick at the beginning of the term. The Doctor said she should be ok in around 2 weeks so should be fine to start the term that was due to start in 2 weeks and 1 day.
Therefore, as a result of this conversation the doctor said he will provide a fit for work note stating that she was fine for light duties such as emails and lesson planning during the summer holidays. My partner then sent this fit for work note to the school.
The issue I now have is when my partner returned to school the day before yesterday, she was asked by another teacher in her department if she would doing light duties due to her pregnancy. Of course this was extremely upsetting for her and I'm frustrated that the lady in the office has 1) mis-read and interpreted the doctor's note, 2) created consider unnecessary work for everyone and finally creating unnecessary upset for my partner because they didn't read the note properly and jumped to conclusions. I should point out that this person in the office is known for being a gossip and has on several occasions informed members of staff about other people’s pregnancies without their permission due to information on sick notes.
So my question is how confidential is the information in a doctor’s note? Can office staff be discussing this information with other members of staff without the person involved being asked or involved in some way?

Many Thanks
Emma
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is Ben and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Do you actually know who this information was disclosed to?

JACUSTOMER-3zwztbft- :

IT was the Head of the Department who then informed other members in the department

JACUSTOMER-3zwztbft- :

hello, sorry forgot to say this first :(

Ben Jones :

Every employment contract contains an implied term of mutual trust and confidence. This places a duty on both parties to act in a way which would be in keeping with the spirit of the employment relationship. So part of this would be to keep confidential information about the other just in that way - confidential. If an employee has submitted a doctor's note, there would be an implied expectation for details of the note and the reasons for their absence to be kept confidential and to be released only to those who need to know about it, for example managers, administrators, etc. However, general dissemination of this sensitive information can certainly amount to a breach of the duty of trust and confidence by the employer. Your partner is able to raise a grievance in respect of this and request that they investigate what has happened and deal with those responsible as necessary. Apart from the grievance her last option is to resign and claim constructive dismissal but it is a drastic step to take and should only be used as a last resort if she strongly believes that she is no longer able to work there as a result of all of this.

JACUSTOMER-3zwztbft- :

Would the grievance be a legal process? The reason I ask is becuase we (my partner and I) have arranged to meet with her line manager tomorrow for a meeting. Just wondering how to start this. I would also like to raise that the Head of the Department said in a presentation to a leaving member of staff at the end of last term, "we are likely to see you soon to cover maternity leave"

Ben Jones :

No, it is an internal process. The employer may have a grievance policy in place which you would be expected to follow. Otherwise it is simply started by raising your concerns with her line manager and stating that she wishes to raise a grievance in connection with them

JACUSTOMER-3zwztbft- :
  1. So what can I realistically request. For instance I would like both people (the office person and Head of Department) to be reprimanded as we feel they have failed on with "the duty to act in a way which would be in keeping with the spirit of the employment relationship".
Ben Jones :

what action is taken largely depends on the employer - what their investigation reveals and what they feel is appropriate in the circumstances. It could result in disciplinary action against the member of staff who have been found to have acted in contravention of express or implied terms

JACUSTOMER-3zwztbft- :

I guess the main issue here is us needing proof and we can't prove who was told unless they are happy to admit it?

Ben Jones :

Not necessarily, the employer could interview other employees too, for example those who have been told this information and they could admit that they have heard it from these specific people

JACUSTOMER-3zwztbft- :

how can we be sure this grievance is fully investigated and taken seriously? What do we do if we feel nothing is either going to happen or has happened?

JACUSTOMER-3zwztbft- :

I mean they could come back saying "we found" nothing but didn't actually do anything?

Ben Jones :

An employer has a duty to deal with a grievance in accordance with the ACAS Code:

www.acas.org.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=1047

If they have failed to do anything about it then unfortunately the only other option left for her is to resign and claim constructive dismissal. As mentioned this is really a last resort though as it is not an easy claim to win and she will be giving up a lot in the process

Ben Jones :

Please let me know if this has answered your query or if you need me to clarify anything else for you in relation to this?

Ben Jones :

I hope this has answered your query. Please take a second to leave a positive rating, or if you are unhappy for some reason with the advice - please get back to me and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you very much

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