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Reason For Absence - Informing Manager


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I just wanted to check other people's opinion as I am both worried and very angry with the attitude of other professionals.

 

I had member of staff didn't turn up one day for work and got another family member to phone up for them and give some vague excuse about why they were not in. Later that day I received a sick note giving the staff member 4 weeks off - no call from the employee - which is against company policy.

 

The reason on the sick note was very vague and didn't actually say what was wrong with her. I then found out she is actually off with a mental health issue, but this was only via another staff member who had spoken to her.

 

I phoned up the Practice Manager at the surgery and complained in general terms and should doctor's not be more specfic about why patients are signed off, especially when that patient is in a 'Position of Trust' and that some illnesses could affect vulnerable people. I got a very polite but firm 'Its up to the doctor', and there seemed to be no understand of the implications - even when pointed out - that not informing an employee about a person's state of mind may have. she also said that an employee doesn't have to disclose to the employee

 

My questions are: Shouldn't an employee have to disclose what their problem is given the nature of their work

Shouldn't a Doctor have a duty to disclose or not?

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Are you allowed to phone the doctors? I would have thought that whatever your opinion of the doctors note it is not your business to follow it up without permission from your staff member. I thought that if someone is signed off, for whatever reason you should not try to contact them, or anyone connected to them until they return to work.

 

It would be my understanding that they don't have to tell you anything while they are signed off - except that they have a sick note. Why is it company policy that they have to phone? If they were in hospital (or even off with a throat infection and no voice) they might not be able to phone? As long as someone telephones you that should be enough (I think)

 

If it were me I would be livid if you phoned my doctor without my permission on the hearsay of another person! Maybe you can find out from ACAS where you stand but I think you may be on very dodgy ground.

 

Sorry

 

pw

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I just wanted to check other people's opinion as I am both worried and very angry with the attitude of other professionals.

 

I had member of staff didn't turn up one day for work and got another family member to phone up for them and give some vague excuse about why they were not in. Later that day I received a sick note giving the staff member 4 weeks off - no call from the employee - which is against company policy.

 

The reason on the sick note was very vague and didn't actually say what was wrong with her. I then found out she is actually off with a mental health issue, but this was only via another staff member who had spoken to her.

 

I phoned up the Practice Manager at the surgery and complained in general terms and should doctor's not be more specfic about why patients are signed off, especially when that patient is in a 'Position of Trust' and that some illnesses could affect vulnerable people. I got a very polite but firm 'Its up to the doctor', and there seemed to be no understand of the implications - even when pointed out - that not informing an employee about a person's state of mind may have. she also said that an employee doesn't have to disclose to the employee

 

My questions are: Shouldn't an employee have to disclose what their problem is given the nature of their work

Shouldn't a Doctor have a duty to disclose or not?

 

I am not sure why it is against company policy for for an employee not to call in when sick? Surely as long as you are notified at the earliest opportunity about an employee being off sick that's all that matters? There must be many occasions when the nature of the illness prevents the staff member phoning themselves?

 

As for notifying the employer of the nature of the illness I'm not totally sure that is necessary, the medical note stating unfit for work should be sufficient. I have recently had three weeks off work, involving 2 admissions to hospital in that time - my relationship with my manager is such I had no objection to her knowing the exact nature of my illness but I can understand that perhaps not all employer/employee relationships are such.

To be honest I am surprised that you phoned the practice manager and think she acted professionally in her reply.

In general terms I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about 'mental health issues' - it is a huge spectrum. Whatever your employees current illness is, she is not fit to work, she has provided you with evidence stating that will be the case for the 4 weeks and if it were me I would be happy with that. It's a shame that another member of staff has 'filled you in' with the exact nature of the illness which, I am sorry to say, I don't think is very professional:-(

 

I think mental health issues are illnesses just like any other, I know of someone very highly respected in the field of Early Years who has 'mental health issues' and was off work for 9 months.

She has now been back at work for some time and is the excellent practitioner she always was.

I 'fought her corner' many times. Had she had any other injury/illness people generally would have been concernced and sympathetic but because it was 'mental health' there were lots of ohhs and ahs and is she fit to work with children comments.

 

Sorry! not having a go at you at all and in answer to your question: no, I don't think doctors have a duty to be specific about illnesses, only a duty to decide whether they are fit to work or not.

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I just wanted to check other people's opinion as I am both worried and very angry with the attitude of other professionals.

 

I had member of staff didn't turn up one day for work and got another family member to phone up for them and give some vague excuse about why they were not in. Later that day I received a sick note giving the staff member 4 weeks off - no call from the employee - which is against company policy.

 

The reason on the sick note was very vague and didn't actually say what was wrong with her. I then found out she is actually off with a mental health issue, but this was only via another staff member who had spoken to her.

 

I phoned up the Practice Manager at the surgery and complained in general terms and should doctor's not be more specfic about why patients are signed off, especially when that patient is in a 'Position of Trust' and that some illnesses could affect vulnerable people. I got a very polite but firm 'Its up to the doctor', and there seemed to be no understand of the implications - even when pointed out - that not informing an employee about a person's state of mind may have. she also said that an employee doesn't have to disclose to the employee

 

My questions are: Shouldn't an employee have to disclose what their problem is given the nature of their work

Shouldn't a Doctor have a duty to disclose or not?

 

I can understand why this is worrying however I believe that the answer is no a member of staff does not have to discuss with you nor does their doctor the precise details of their illness...I believe it falls within the remit of the disability discrimination act...I think this because we have a member of staff at the present with a chronic serious health issue and our local EY dept have suggested we do a risk assesment however when I went online to find out the kind of things to cover etc. the support groups for this particular major health issue mention that whilst they recommend that patients discuss the situation with their employers in view of having time of etc...they do not have to do so and for an employer to ask intimiate questions about a persons health is disriminatory unless you are ringing up everyones doctor for the same info. Many years ago I had IVF treatment which my employers were aware of however the hospital could not even divulge info to my GP unless I had authorised it. So whilst I can see the one side of it I can also see the other too.

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I have to say that if you phoned my doctor to question my medcial certificate, you'd get very short shrift from me and I'd probably make a formal complaint about you doing it. A doctor's note is a statement of their professional opinion and not for you to question.As to the other member of staff telling you it is a 'mental health issue', you must ignore that, as it is only hearsay unless you hear it directly from the member of staff herself. Mental health issues cover a huge swathe of symptoms, from stress to deep psychoses. I probably would have been classed as having 'mental health issues' when I was diagnosed with my serious illness and couldn't sleep for weeks because of it, so was given mild tranquilisers to help me through. Not once was I a risk to anyone and I have to say, I think it's a bit rich for you as a 'professional' to question another professional! Has this member of staff given you cause for concern in the past as to her state of mind? If so, why haven't you acted on it? If so, why has she not been supported so she didn't get to the stage of needing time off? if you haven't noticed anything, then presumably she is doing her job well and simply needs some time out right now? four weeks is a very common period of time for a doctor to sign a sick note, especially for stress, as it's not usually something that will clear up in a couple of days. I'm sorry if i come across as a ranting old harridon on this, but why do people get so obsessed with 'mental health' and assume it means that anyone suffering will automatically harm the children? she's done the right thing and taken time away from the group and honestly, given your reaction to it, I think she's done the right thing!

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I have to say that I agree that all that is necessary is to know that someone is unfit for work. This is patient confidentiality, which is fundamental to a doctor's job; a doctor's first duty is to their patient, not their patient's employer. While I am in no way 'having a go' at you, ask yourself this question - would you be happy for everyone to be discussing your own medical issues?

 

Sue

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My question would be what difference would it have made if the sick note had been more specific about the employees illness? If she's signed off as not being fit for work, then that is what the doctor's opinion is whether its for an ingrowing toenail or a very serious mental health issue.

Beehive

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Personally if my line manager phoned my GP I'd be furious!! hatever is written on the fitness for work note from the GP - well you just have to accept it.

 

The third party hearsay is nothing to do with anyone and as a manager I would take no notice of this whatsoever. The person spreading unsubstatiated rumours is the one behaving unprofessionally in my humble opinion!!

 

This isn't about professionalism of the individual, it's about their rights as an employee really. To be pursuing them in this way could be construed as bullying behaviour by the employee.

 

Cx

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Hi Sheila,

Sorry to hear that you are feeling frustrated by lack of information, and there is no need for me to repeat what others have said in their posts above.

 

I think there is often a difference between what is legally correct and what is courtesy. I have always, whenever Ive been ill, called my employer personally (except when I have been in hospital and therefore unable to) and explained what the problem is, how long I have a sick note for etc. This is in my opinion the courtesy, even though I know I didn't have to. If I want my employer's support on my return to work, then they need to know what support I need and therefore common sense tells me to inform them. I wonder if it is this that is bothering you?

 

Sometimes dr notes are quite vague because the dr is still considering what might be an accurate diagnosis, and may have carried out bloods and other tests for which results are not yet available. Sometimes they might add query...xyz?

 

I think what matters now, if that you take the correct advice so that when the employee returns to work you can carry out your back to work interview properly and provide any support she might need to settle back in.

 

Good luck.

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Hi Sheila21

I just wanted to say that you have opened a can of worms and that people obviously have very strong feelings about this. I think you posted for advice and support and have come away with a torrent of strong feelings and opinions. It may not have been the right thing to do to call the practice manager but none of us is perfect and we all do things that seem right at the time, but when you are less stressed or upset and look back, you see that it might not have been the best move. I hope both you and the employee are ok and that the coming week brings lots of things to make you smile! I know what it is like to be a manager/employer under pressure.

Beehive

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Everyone has the right to confidentiality about anything they see a doctor about... not even the closest relatives have any right to information without the patients consent... when ill I always had to give permission for the doctors to speak when my husband was even present.. same for when my husband is ill... only reason they talk to me is because there has been permission for them to do so on his files.. which is renewed each visit.. they cite it as part of Data protection act... also had to sign a disclosure so hospital could send letters to GP... one of which allowed us a copy of every letter sent..

 

 

there are lots of rules and regulations around sickness.. one of which is that an employer cannot insist that you tell them:

in person

earlier than the first qualifying day or by a set time

on a special form

on a doctor’s statement of fitness for work (fit note), which was previously called a medical certificate or sick note

more than once a week during your sickness

 

and no need to supply a doctors fit to work note until after being off 7 days...

 

Most are so much more aware of confidentiality than they used to be... that said, I have come against colleagues (friends) who disclose private information with others at work and from then no longer disclosed any reasons for being off or away , doctor was willing to be very vague on certificates..

 

as a professional I would hope that any staff member would be aware of what is or is not an issue an ability to work and be safe in practice... I have often had staff who disclosed the fact they were on medication for one reason or another and it never went any further unless they said something..

 

I do believe we all have to think very carefully about the effect this has on others and particularly those who may need the most support..

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Hi Sheila21

I just wanted to say that you have opened a can of worms and that people obviously have very strong feelings about this. I think you posted for advice and support and have come away with a torrent of strong feelings and opinions. It may not have been the right thing to do to call the practice manager but none of us is perfect and we all do things that seem right at the time, but when you are less stressed or upset and look back, you see that it might not have been the best move. I hope both you and the employee are ok and that the coming week brings lots of things to make you smile! I know what it is like to be a manager/employer under pressure.

Beehive

 

I am sorry if this is how it looks - I'm sure no one had the intention of upsetting you, Sheila, but the fact remains that individual privacy and confidentiality is a very important matter, as I'm sure many of the postings here have indicated.

 

I add my own support to Beehive's closing comments regarding your and your colleagues' well-being. I too know what it can be like.

 

Sue

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I think I said in my original post that I wasn't 'having a go' at you but want to reiterate what Beehive said.

 

Just another thought, isn't there some fairly new legislation where job applicants do not have to disclose medical history or am I dreaming? just wondered if there are implications in that for current employees?

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Just another thought, isn't there some fairly new legislation where job applicants do not have to disclose medical history or am I dreaming? just wondered if there are implications in that for current employees?

No you didn't dream it, Gezabel, you can't now ask applicants for information about their health record, or their sick leave record. However you can ask them to complete a health declaration once they are employed (and to undergo a medical), I believe.

 

I'm not sure that this will affect existing employee's rights though - many settings ask employees to complete an annual health declaration which includes making a statement that there is nothing about their health status that is likely to affect their ability to work with children.

 

I'm only just catching up with this thread and so I've been able to consider the original question in light of the responses. We had guidelines for what employees should do when they need to take sick leave, which included calling (or getting someone else to call) to let me know that they wouldn't be in. I knew my employees really well so I think they'd feel able to tell me if the reason for their absence, but I can imagine situations in which employees might want to be more circumspect. There is still a stigma attached to mental health issues, and many people would seek to keep this private, especially if they felt their capacity to work upon their return might be called into question.

 

Many employers carry out a 'fit to return' interview to identify whether there are any special considerations needed when the employee comes back. Perhaps this might be an option for you, Sheila21 if you are concerned about the issues underlying your staff member's absence?

 

Good luck - managing staff is perhaps the most difficult aspect of our job and I for one know that I didn't always get it right!

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Are you allowed to phone the doctors? I would have thought that whatever your opinion of the doctors note it is not your business to follow it up without permission from your staff member. I thought that if someone is signed off, for whatever reason you should not try to contact them, or anyone connected to them until they return to work.

 

It would be my understanding that they don't have to tell you anything while they are signed off - except that they have a sick note. Why is it company policy that they have to phone? If they were in hospital (or even off with a throat infection and no voice) they might not be able to phone? As long as someone telephones you that should be enough (I think)

 

If it were me I would be livid if you phoned my doctor without my permission on the hearsay of another person! Maybe you can find out from ACAS where you stand but I think you may be on very dodgy ground.

 

Sorry

 

pw

 

I didn't even mention the name when I phoned the practice as it wasn't about the employee as such, it was more about the principle and I know better than to contact the staff member when they are off sick. The reason that the staff member has to phone in personally, unless of course they are incapable e.g. hospitalised is that history has shown that when I have allowed that to happen absences are higher than when staff have to phone in personally. If you just have a cold what would prevent you from phoning in. Our absence levels have dropped considerably since staff have to phone in.

 

You also have to look at the bigger picture and safeguarding. Unfortunately serious case reviews have shown that professionals not being open and honest and not passing information have led to the death of significant harm of a child. For an employee or doctor not to inform an employee that they have mental health issues and then they have a breakdown when working with a child and something happens to that child - who is more important staff or children when it comes to their safety.

 

I treat my staff with respect and how long my staff stay in my employee is evidence of that. However, I will never put a staff member above childrens safety.

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After reading all the posts I can see why you are all saying what you have, and I understand that. There is a lot more to this than I have put which is why it may seem unfair to the employee. However, I wouldn't have contacted the Doctor directly about the staff and always offer loads of support etc.

 

However, safeguarding is also very important to me and sadly I have seen first hand the effects of professionals not sharing information and the affect this has had on a child's life, which is why I probably am on my high horse and very emotive about professionals looking at the picture picture, especially when it involves people working with children.

 

I apologise if I have offended or upset anybody as from the posts it seems I have.

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It is an interesting question isn't it....if say an pilot had mental health issues or a heart condition but felt that if he disclosed this information he might lose his job but his employer has no right to ask about the employees health other than maybe a yearly medical how can the employer safeguard against the employee harming the people they are employed to look after/fly/care for etc

 

On the other hand as an individual I do expect my privacy to be protected at all times

 

Difficult scenario isn't it????

 

It is a shame that for whatever reason the member of staff feels unable to discuss the matter with you Sheila21....maybe in time she will feel able to open up to you and her explanation will put your mind to rest as to her ability to return to work.

 

The term 'mental health' is a bit vague and all encompassing.....she could just be stressed as a result of a family situation as opposed to serious issues that would prevent her caring for children.

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I really feel the need to restate that the rules about informing of illness to include one where the employer cannot insist that you tell them in person.. no mater what your policy or guidelines say...

 

telling your employer when off sick.

 

 

and without a back to work interview there should be no need to second guess anything until that point. still think confidentiality and a persons rights is important from other professionals dealing with them. back to work interview is where any judgement should be made on suitability.

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I think I said in my original post that I wasn't 'having a go' at you but want to reiterate what Beehive said.

 

Just another thought, isn't there some fairly new legislation where job applicants do not have to disclose medical history or am I dreaming? just wondered if there are implications in that for current employees?

 

Not sure, will find out and feedback about that if I do as I thought I had read the opposite.

 

Just hope everyone understands why I worry about not sharing information....

 

Think I will go away and hide for a bit....

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Not sure, will find out and feedback about that if I do as I thought I had read the opposite.

 

Just hope everyone understands why I worry about not sharing information....

 

Think I will go away and hide for a bit....

 

Ohh don't go and hide and please don't be put off asking questions......the forum is an open platform to discuss issues and sometimes there are differing view points. All of the contributors to this thread would applaud your absolute desire to protect the children in your care but they just queried the method.

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I really feel the need to restate that the rules about informing of illness to include one where the employer cannot insist that you tell them in person.. no mater what your policy or guidelines say...

 

telling your employer when off sick.

 

 

and without a back to work interview there should be no need to second guess anything until that point. still think confidentiality and a persons rights is important from other professionals dealing with them. back to work interview is where any judgement should be made on suitability.

 

Thanks for that link, which is interesting as the Employemnt Law firm I pay told me different - I will be having words....

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Can I just second Sue's post - PLEASE don't go away and hide!!!! This forum is all about sharing ideas and thoughts and we do applaud your desire to protect the children.

 

Sue :o

 

I too applaud your instinct to protect the children in your care.

 

However I was very interested in your comment about serious case reviews highlighting lack of professional communication. I am very aware of cases where professionals were criticised for not sharing information about the well-being of children but I can't think of any where it was felt that concerns over the mental or physical health of a childcarer should have been shared.

 

I'd be very interested to hear of there are any such cases but, in the absence of any examples, I think we should accept that practitioners have the right to confidentiality regarding an mental or physical health issues.

 

Perhaps any concerns could be allayed by a note from the GP confirming that the person is fit to return to work.

Edited by Upsy Daisy
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No need to hide ,all opinions and ideas are always useful ..

 

 

Employers are no longer free to ask such questions as they please. Under the Equality Act 2010, which came into force on 1 October, BUT also does allow for any medical questions asked before a job offer is made must relate specifically to the tasks involved in carrying out the role.

 

guardian article

 

what was interesting is the following at the end of the article...

 

What the Equality Act says about health-related questions

 

• Are pre-employment medical questions banned? No, says lawyer Paul Gaff. "But questions must relate to the parts of the job that are intrinsic. Employers still have a duty to make reasonable adjustments, so they can ask if you require any to attend the interview."

 

• How clear are the rules? Not very. "The government is not giving definitive guidance on what questions are appropriate. Some employers will be test cases, which is really not helpful. But those who are sensible will say, you know what, I don't want a disability discrimination claim."

 

• What about asking how many sick days you've taken? "That falls into a grey area, but an employer would have a higher risk profile if they asked."

 

• Can employers ask questions about physically obvious disabilities during interviews? "The only thing they should do is ask a generic question, such as: 'Would you foresee the need to make any reasonable adjustments to facilitate your performance of the role?' And leave it there."

 

• What if you disclose a disability after accepting the job and the employer wants to reject you? "If you reject someone at the application stage, that's probably one of a number of rejections." Once a job offer has been made, "you're going to need to work pretty hard to show you're justified".

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Can I just clarify? A employer cannot ask how many sick days a potential employee has taken in a specific time frame anymore? I happen to think that this is an extremely valid question in our line of work. I have had ex (and current) employees who have taken excessive sick days and would seek to avoid this in future employees. I have recently completed a reference for a children's centre that included this question

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I once worked with a lady who counted her paid sick days as extra leave, she was quite often heard saying to new members of staff "oh yes you get xx days holiday and xx paid sick days so don't forget to take those too"

 

Fortunately I wasn't her line manager at the time!!!!! The mind boggles!!!!

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Whoa that was a fairly strong discussion and an interesting one. I can fully understand why Sheila you are interested in what is wrong with your employee and whether that has implications for her suitability to do her job.

 

Safeguarding is definately an issue here, with good practice advised on the back of excellent reports by Laming and Bicham being somewhat undermined by the new Equality Act. It is a fine line between protecting the children we work with and protecting the rights of the employee. I think that an employer is right to have concerns about an Employee with Mental health issues, depending on what those issues are. Think of it from a parent's point of view, would you want someone who is potentially mentally unstable looking after your young child.

 

However, I would imagine in most cases then the Employee with mental health issues needs time to recover frowhem a current bout of depression, or related illness, and poses no threat to anyone.

 

This is about knowing your employees and trusting them, and them trusting you. People are right to suggest a return to work 'interview', to discuss whether there are any implications for her health, and anything you need to put in place to support her and ensure she is 'ok' to work with the children.

 

It is very easy to come down heavily on the side of the employee, but us employers do a very difficult job, often for little more money than the employees, and often employees are not in the right. Hope you don't feel too downtrodden Sheila, I think you were simply doing what you thought was right and with good reason.

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don't hide sheila LOL

 

But maybe the fact that in this profession people with mental health issues are often shown predjudice against because they are working with children is the reason behind the empluyees actions? Just because someone has a mental health problem does not automatically make them a safeguarding concern.

 

Perhaps dealing with the issues seperatly might help? I.e dealing with incorect following of compnay sickness procedure is the main issue really and i'm with you there we've had so many who can't be bothered to work n get their boyfriends/ girlfriends/ whoever to call in because they cant fake it over the phone so this cuts down on that.

and then maybe a return to work inteview where you can perhaps discover why the employee felt they could not inform you of the reason for their absesnce?

I know for a fact that in these cases the doctor will ask the employee what they would feel most comfortable with on their sick note which may also be a reason for the vaugeness.

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