Tughans Employment Law and Difficult Workplace Scenarios; Unclear Medical Evidence
One of our employees is currently signed off work with a medical condition which does not reflect the condition which the employee has informed us in emails that he is suffering from, being severe depression. What are our options – can we rely on the sick-lines, or do we need to seek a medical report?
Rachel Richardson from the Employment Team in Tughans writes:
In circumstances such as this, where there is a clear disparity between what the employee tells you about their condition and what the doctor informs you on sick-lines, then I recommend that you carry out further investigation into the matter. As I’m sure you are aware, depression can, in certain circumstances, be a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, as amended. Therefore, you need to understand what the employee’s condition actually is. You should explain to the employee that you need to delve deeper into the reason for their absence, given the absence of the condition that they refer to being present on the sick-lines and that you will be seeking their consent to obtain a medical report from their GP, on their specific diagnosis and future prognosis.
In your letter of instruction to the GP, you will need to set out the history to the matter, that there is conflicting information coming from the employee, which does not tie in with the sick-lines. You should ask the GP to provide a full report, covering all areas, including what their medical condition is, whether in the doctor’s opinion that employee may have a disability under the DDA 1995 as amended and if so, what reasonable adjustments they would recommend in the circumstances.
If the employee doesn’t give consent to contact the GP, then you should consider referring the employee to an occupational health specialist for a report on their condition and how that might impact their ability to carry out their duties at work.
You have been put on notice by the employee, that they may have a serious medical condition and so you will not be able to argue later that you were not aware of it, because the sick lines did not refer to it. Remember that you have a duty of care towards your employee and it is important therefore, that you can demonstrate in any subsequent tribunal proceedings that you acted swiftly, to deal with the issue as soon as it arose.
While great care has been taken in the preparation of the content of this article, it does not purport to be a comprehensive statement of the relevant law and full professional advice should be taken before any action is taken in reliance on any item covered.