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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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Does my employer have the right to ask me about my medication?

Customer Question

Does my employer have the right to ask me about my medication?
Also if I feel as if I am being picked on should I contact the Chair of Governors as there is no-one else to turn to. Will they blindly support the head? I am a teacher in an independent school.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 4 years ago.
Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to be able to assist with your question today. Please let me know how long you have worked there?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

This is my 3rd academic year.

Have just heard from colleague that there have been other incidents of people being picked on and the focus is usually on 1 individual at a time.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 4 years ago.
My apologies for the delay in getting back to you I had some connection issues yesterday which I have just managed to resolve. Are you an employee or self employed? Also what is the reason you take medication?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I am an employee and my medication is for anxiety/depression which I had 3 weeks off for last summer term and have been great since but the constant nit picking at the meeting on the last day of term has caused me to become anxious again (its the hols now).

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 4 years ago.
Thank you and finally in what context is he employer asking you about the medication you are on, what is the purpose of their questioning?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I am afraid your very minimilistic answers and the fact that you do not take in any information I gaive you already is not at all helpful. They are just being nosy and as I made it clear to you that I was ok and the main point is that I am being picked.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 4 years ago.
Please note that I have not actually given you any answers yet, all my posts have been requests for further information which I need before I can give you my professional advice.

What you have described is tantamount to bullying. Bullying is unfortunately something that not uncommon in workplaces. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) defines bullying as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.” Whatever form it takes, it is unwarranted and unwelcome to the individual.

Under law, specifically the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, an employer has a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees. That includes preventing bullying behaviour occurring in the workplace and effectively dealing with any complaints that have arisen as a result of bullying.

In terms of what an employee who is the victim of bullying can do to try and deal with such problems, the following steps are recommended:

1. First of all, and if possible, the employee should try and resolve the issue informally with the person responsible for the bullying. 

2. If the above does not work or is not a viable option, the employee should consider raising a formal grievance with the employer by following the company's grievance policy. 

3. If, following a grievance, the employer fails to take any action or the action they take is inappropriate the employee would need to seriously consider their next steps. Unfortunately, employment law does not allow employees to make a direct claim about bullying. As such, the most common way of claiming for bullying is by resigning first and then submitting a claim for constructive dismissal in an employment tribunal (subject to having at least 2 years' continuous service with the employer). The reason for resigning would be to claim that by failing to act appropriately, the employer has breached the implied term of mutual trust and confidence and that there was no other option but to resign. However, that is not an easy claim to win and there has to be a reasonable degree of certainty that continuing to work for the employer in the circumstances is no longer possible.

In general, try and gather as much evidence as possible before considering making a formal complaint and certainly before going down the resignation route. As bullying often takes verbal form, the best way is to keep a detailed diary of all bullying occasions so that there is at least some evidence in written form that the employer and/or the tribunal can refer to.

If the bullying behaviour is serious enough and has occurred on at least two occasions, it may also amount to harassment, which can be a criminal matter, although it can also be pursued as a civil matter. However, it is advisable to try and stick to one claim only so if constructive dismissal is being pursued then try and concentrate on that.

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