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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 50179
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor
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I have an employee who has just sent a fourth doctors note

Customer Question

I have an employee who has just sent a fourth doctors note stating that due to stress at work she is (still) unfit for work. this will bring her total time off work to 8 weeks. her absence is putting stress on the other workers in her dept. who are having to share her
work between them, as we do not want to take on anyone in her place, as we do not know when she will return. I am now beginning to doubt that this is a continuing problem particularly as she took a fornights holiday in the Maldives and then said on her return that she had not been able to enjoy the break as she was worrying about work! can I ask for an independant medical assesment and if she refuses to cooperate what are my remedies?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 years ago.
Hello, my name is Ben and it is my pleasure to be able to assist with your question today. Please let me know how long has she worked there for?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

17 years

Customer: replied 5 years ago.


Customer: replied 5 years ago.

when can i expect a response?

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 years ago.
Sorry I was offline by the time you had replied. Do you have occupational health in place?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

not sure what you mean?

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 years ago.
do you have occupational health specialists in the workplace, are there nominated doctors that you deal with or do you just want to find an independent doctor to see this person and confirm she is as ill as she claims?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

no we do not have an occupational health specialist. we are only a small firm. myself and six employees. can i nominate a doctor and does she have to accept? if so when should i ask for a second opinion, I suspect she may respond that I am puting her under more stress!

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 years ago.
You should be able to accept her own doctor's report as that would be a report from a competent doctor. There is nothing stopping you from asking her to see an independent specialist but if she refuses ad there is nothing in her contract to say she can be expected to see one then you cannot really take any formal action against her on that point alone.

Instead you will have to consider taking action based on the information and evidence you have at present.

Dismissing or disciplining an employee due to their sickness record is a potentially fair action you as an employer can take. However, to justify it as being fair the employer needs to follow a fair procedure.

First and foremost the employer needs to comply with any workplace sickness or absence procedures and policies.

You need to conduct an investigation, which would involve:
• Investigating the nature, extent and likely duration of any illness.
• Asking the employee for information and/or obtain medical reports if necessary.
• If absences are short-term and intermittent, investigating whether there is any underlying cause (medical or otherwise). If necessary, follow a capability or disciplinary procedure instead, offering practical guidance and assistance, setting timescales for improvement, and giving warnings where appropriate.

The employer then needs to review the alternatives:
• Before deciding whether to dismiss, consider surrounding circumstances, age and length of service of employee together with action taken in respect of similar circumstances in the past.
• Consider importance of employee and/or the post occupied to the business, the impact their continued absence is having on the business and the difficulty and cost of continuing to deal with their absence.
• Consider whether the employee could take up alternative employment or whether there are any other options that would avoid the need for dismissal.
• If the employee has been absent long-term and is unlikely to return in the foreseeable future the employer should consider claiming under the terms of any Private Health Insurance policy or ill health retirement that is available.

Dismissal should always be the last resort, considering the courts may have sympathy with employees who have been ill, especially if the reason for their absences is a condition that amounts to a disability under law, which can also include stress if this is a long-term condition.

Please take a second to leave a positive rating as that is a very important part of our process. Your question will not close and I can continue providing further advice if necessary. Thank you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

I am concerned that the sick notes received merely state "stress - work related"

this could go on for a long time.

I have said that when she returns we will moniter the situation and

have even offered to swap her work station.

I do not know what is a reasonable period to allow before asking

for a second opinion or should I ask her to provide a more detailed

analysis from her own doctor?

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 years ago.
You may certainly ask her for a more detailed report if you feel this is necessary. You are basically not allowed to ask for a doctor's note for the first 7 days of sickness, when she can self certify. After that you can ask for further evidence to support her absence.

As your original question has been answered I would be grateful if you could please quickly rate my answer - it only takes a second to do. I can then continue providing further advice and answer follow up questions if needed. Thank you.