Return to Work Interviews after Sickness

This thread has been locked so no more comments can be added.

tua tua022012
Member - 0 posts
4 Feb 2012 3:07PM

This post has been removed because it contravened our guidelines.

tua tua022012
Member - 0 posts
29 Jan 2012 2:43AM

This post has been removed because it contravened our guidelines.

Member - 418 posts
25 Jan 2012 10:45AM

We ask if medication is being taken and if so whether there is any medication still being taken that the company needs to be aware of, i.e. if there are any side effects related to it.
Since we are an engineering company and someone dropping off sleep while operating a lathe, or driving a fork lift truck with blurred vision would be dangerous, we feel justified in obtaining the information. The question is not intrusive, and does not request excessive details but helps to ensure the person is safe to do their job.
We have Occ health, but not on site, and even so, they would need to know what medication is being taken to provide an informed opinion.
This has worked for us for years.

David Ransome
Member - 272 posts
24 Jan 2012 8:29AM

What Carole says is correct. Medication details are private and to an extent irrelevant, the important issues relate to their effects and how they impact on you, your work and the workplace environment.

Having the medication question as a feature of an RTW form/interview is intrusive.

Carole Simmons
Member - 610 posts
20 Jan 2012 10:14AM

I don't know about a legal time limit but surely the clue is in the name! The whole point of doing these interviews is on the day they rtw and preferably before they start work.
If its been a return from a long term sickness absence you need to establish what the needs of the employee are, if there are adjustments that need to be made etc. Without this interview you really cannot hope to mange this employee appropriately for which you have a duty of care.

joe jones
Member - 2 posts
20 Jan 2012 9:56AM

Does anyone know is there a legal time limit as to when to carry out a rtw interveiw once a employee returns to work.

Jim Taylor
Member - 70 posts
9 Apr 2009 4:23PM

Employers CAN legitimately ask to see a letter, or appointment card for individuals who ask for time off for disability reasons, however it is likely to be unlawful to ask questions relating to likely progress, in particular, for the purposes of restructuring a department, for example.

Tony Williams
Member - 178 posts
9 Apr 2009 11:00AM

Some further comments about asking hospital specialists for advice on fitness for work. A study compared the answers from the hospital specialists with the evidence from research, and in 53% of cases the hospital specialist was wrong. He hadn't looked up the research evidence, he had just given his own opinion.

That is why occupational physicians don't usually ask the GP or hospital specialist for their opinion.


Sheena Farenden
Member - 176 posts
2 Apr 2009 7:02PM

Your wifes employer should be paying her full pay and if they do not want her at work they must give her some form of Disability Adjustment Leave. They are in the wrong here. Do as the others say. I presume she is not a union member?

graham morrissey
Member - 4 posts
2 Apr 2009 3:35PM

thanks carole.

Carole Simmons
Member - 610 posts
2 Apr 2009 2:50PM

Graham please call Equality and Human Rights Commision - Helpline nunber is 0845 604 6610 they will be best advised to give you all the help and advice you need and will if you have nobody else take your case for you.

Tony Williams
Member - 178 posts
2 Apr 2009 12:46PM

If her employer is being unreasonable, then arguably she would be entitled to full pay. See Nottingham County Council v Meikle.

graham morrissey
Member - 4 posts
2 Apr 2009 12:09PM

another twist the the storey. my partner is ready to go back to work after her brain tumour operation and confirmation by her doctor and consultant that she is fit and able to retrun to work, but her employer is delaying things. she is paid only SSP when off work.

her doctors sick note expired on 13th March so technically she is not off work through sickness at the moment but is unable to return to work as her employer will not commit to a return to work date.

if she is able to return to work, and is not covered by a sick note, should she be entitled to her full salary and technically be on garden leave as it is her employer delaying things through not committing to complete the risk assessment and is still citing the requirement for additional insurances to cover her disability outide of employer and plublic liability insurance.

i would be interested in reading your comments

Jennifer Chapman
Member - 79 posts
28 Mar 2009 12:00PM

Whilst I agree for most 'easy' conditions eg broken leg fit notes are fine - sometimes it's terribly subjective particularly with mental illness.

A GP wouldn't have a clue! - even an OHC, who hopefully would have more of a clue does not really know how a situation will be met by the patient. Even the patient hasn't a clue, a lot of the time - it's always 'suck it and see' and I think employers find this terribly difficult to grasp.

You can think you are ready to return; you can go to see your GP and tell him you feel fine and are now willing to 'give it a go' - he may be surprised - but after asking you whatever questions he thinks are appropriate that morning and believing they are well-covered, is pleased for you and agrees.

But it sometimes doesn't work because the patient's perspective is very much influenced by what has happened previously and indeed some of the (maybe erroneous) conclusions and prejudices they had drawn about situations and individuals, that may have been present all along and may have added to their collapse originally. It's all very well saying 'put it behind you and move on' and 99.9% of people will genuinely try to do that.

But in practice - it can be SO much easier said, than done.

You actually spend more time in work and with colleagues, than you do in any other situation and so will influence the subsidiary elements of your life whilst it shouldn't be the main element - how does that compute then? It's totally illogical, isn't it? - so it needs to feel and be JUST right. Or at least a lot more right than wrong!

Mike Pinsent
Member - 29 posts
27 Mar 2009 11:05AM

I had an employee who wanted time off they were not due - promptly went to the doctor and was signed off for two weeks. The doctor has to be very brave to refuse such a request (or demand) by their patient. I am sure we all know similar episodes which make it harder for the genuine.

About sick certificates - as far as I know it is legal for a patient to come back early - but may not be covered by the employers insurance. The need for a 'fit note' can be a sensible precaution. Any thoughts?

Carole Simmons
Member - 610 posts
26 Mar 2009 5:47PM

My personal advice would be to turn up to work - if the employer sends her home then she does so on full pay or if on no pay she would then have grounds.

My lawyer told me that was what I should do. You have time so call the old DRC now Equality and Human Rights Commision - Helpline nunber is 0845 604 6610 and they will give you the advice you need on this before Monday but I still think you put the ball in their court.

graham morrissey
Member - 4 posts
26 Mar 2009 3:52PM

further developments. my partners employer is saying that a workplace risk assessment has to be carried out and then sent, along with her job description, to her eye consultant for him to confirm that her vision impairement is not going to affect her job and that her eyesight will not be affected by VDU work or deteriorate further as a result of her doing her job (i'm not sure that an eye consultant will be able to do this when her eyes are OK, its teh optic nerve damage and brain tumour that has affected the eyesight!)

her employer also says that her business insurance companies will not insure my partner as an employee and that additional insurance needs to be taken out to cover the unlikely event that my partner will spill a cup of coffee over a customer (which in my mind is no different from a customer with a disability walking into the shop and spilling a cup of coffee over over a staff member!)

i presume that her employer has public and employers liability insurance which covers these eventualities and i ask if her employer is being 'reasonable' in her citations or just being awkward and sailing very close the wind in terms of descrimination under DDA?

my partner is able to return to work on monday as she has transport in place and should she not be able to return to work because of her employer (not because of medical advice) has stopped her returning to work, is there a case for consequential loss of earnings. she is only getting SSP at the moment.

comments please

Carole Simmons
Member - 610 posts
26 Mar 2009 12:40AM

Tony - Thank Goodness - sadly too late for me despite having the backing of my GP and "a" OHA. As you say you cannot force somebody to take advice and if they have made up their mind about something or someone then sadly they can look for excuses. I wanted to go back to work and with reasonable adjustments could easily have done so to an alternative role as there were no H&S concerns - but if there is another agenda..........they will always find reasons.......too stressful, too pressurized, too much of this or that, cant adjust this operationally to suit the business! You get my drift. I can see that you are usually working with an employee with an opposite attitude - how do you "advise" employers you don’t follow your opinion or does your job end once your report goes in?

Tony Williams
Member - 178 posts
24 Mar 2009 10:01PM

As a specialist occupational physician, my role in relation to the employee is to help them return to work while ensuring that work does not cause them significant harm. I have a duty to the employer to explain any significant risks to the employee and their business, to identify the types of activities that are safe and recomend adjustments. There is a balance to be struck, but generally the greater the experience and expertise of the OH practitioner, the more likely they are to recommend a return to work. OHAs may be cautious and that is perfectly reasonable. If in doubt, seek a specialist opinion from a specialist occupational physician.

It is very rare indeed for an employee to criticise my opinion because I have advised against a return to work; the only times I usually meet criticism are when I state that they have a condition which is listed by the DVLA as either unfit to drive or needs to inform DVLA before a decision can be made about driving.

In the great majority of cases where an employee disagrees with my opinion it is because I have advised that they are medically fit for work (often with adjustments) but they do not want to return to work. As occupational health practitioners, we just advise; we cannot stop anyone from working, nor can we make anyone work. It is up to the employer to decide how to interpret our advice, and whether to follow it or not. It is always possible to seek a second opinion.

Sadly, many employers are of the opinion that employees can only work when they are '100% fit'. I don't think I know anyone who is '100% fit'; not even all Olympic athletes are 100% fit. What is needed is a clear understanding that may people who have medical conditions or physical problems can do some work even when significantly impaired, and by returning to work on a rehabilitation programme they will recover more quickly. A rehabilitation programme may well involve a temporary redeployment. It would be most unusual for an insurer to refuse to insure someone unless there was a very clear and significant risk identified. In Graham's case it sounds as if the employer has agreed to a very sensible process, seeking advice from the RNIB and Access to Work in order to make an appropriate risk assessment. Once this is done, if there are any remaining concerns it would be sensible for them to contact their insurer, explain the outcome of the risk assessment and ensure that the business is covered.

The DWP is now working with the Royal College of GPs to deliver training workshops around the country with the aim of helping GPs understand more about OH, and the advice they need to give employers. I have just been selected as one of the trainers and am very hopeful that as a result of these workshops we can help resolve a number of the types of difficulties identified in this very complicated thread.

Carole Simmons
Member - 610 posts
24 Mar 2009 12:05PM

Employer is treading dangerously - Under DDA has to make reasonable adjustments or at least will have to show that a big effort has been made to do so. If after all that it is still impossible to carry on employment then the employer may be able to terminate but they will have to have a very strong case.

Keep going and good luck!

Same thing happened to me after an accident - three surgeries and finally ready to return and employer on advice from OHA turned round and said I could not return to contractual role but an alternative should be found. Only problem was every "alternative" the OHA found a reason to turn that down too as not suitable despite my protests. Contract now terminated on medical incapacity! Its a slippery slope. I was good at my job and I could have done something had they really wanted to be bothered. Sometimes you have to consider if thats the type of company they are do you really want to work for them?

graham morrissey
Member - 4 posts
24 Mar 2009 8:38AM

my partner is going through this at the moment. she has been off work since end of october after having a brain tumour operation which has left her with 30% tunnel vision. she is 45. her employer is putting all sorts of obstacles in her way to put off her returning to work, citing additional insurance requirements, she could be a hazard to customers and staff if she for example spilt a cup of coffee, she is a health and safety risk etc etc. my partner can return to work next monday as she has full medical clearance, she has had her return to work interview with her employer and she has transport arranged through access to work scheme under the RNIB. my partner has an meeting with her employer next monday in attendance with the RNIB to carry out a risk assessment, beyond that there is no reason for her to not go back to work, firstly 2 days per week then back to her full 4 days per week on the hours she did before. she will be registered partially sighted in a few weeks.

i would welcome your comments as i (i am an employer myself) believe that her employer is treading very dangerously with DDA by coming up with no end of excuses to avoid my partners return to work.

the main issues are:
additional insurances?
she says her business insurance will not cover my partner and we should take out our own insurance!
health and safety risk

my partner is a receptionist and office manager in a beauty salon and is in good health apart from her now partially sightedness.

your commenst will be very much welcomed.

Carole Simmons
Member - 610 posts
23 Mar 2009 1:20PM

Janet I am glad you agree with me but the point I was TRYING to ask was what the legality was as far as what an emplyees rights were in seeing a report and having the RIGHT to get it changed.

As we have seen here it seems that an employee has little or no rights as far as the law is concerned as far as seeing a report before it goes to an emplyer or asking for any changes to be made. Ethically it would seem it is the right thing to do and of course there is Data protection etc etc but it is not the same as having the same rights as you do under the Medical Records Act.

I understand that in the majority of cases the system probably works ok however for those that is does not or has not there is no redress and then it is too late. Working backwards is NOT the best way for anyone especially if you are the person who is already probably already in a vunerable position. Frankly I think the Medical Records Act should be made to cover OHA's too.

janet burton
Member - 180 posts
23 Mar 2009 8:07AM

Re the issue of not agreeing - there are too many areas of confusion which can arise not to give the employee the chance to put it right.
For example, a colleague recently returned to work after a period of sick leave related to a recurrent disability. The OH specialist discussed a range of issues, sent the draft report to the manager. The manager said 'it doesn't mention working from home'. The OH specialist amended the 'gradual return to work' to include a comment on reducing home working.
But the home working was due to caring responsibilities, not the disability or the sick leave!
Any such report should always be shown to the staff member first and signed off as seen and understood. Then at least they get the opportunity to refuse to sign it if the OH person has got it wrong.

Jennifer Chapman
Member - 79 posts
19 Mar 2009 11:23PM

Tony - I do take that all on board - but - you have PM !!!

Peter Hough
Member - 3 posts
19 Mar 2009 2:07PM

This post has been removed at its author's request.

This thread has been locked so no more comments can be added.

Forum disclaimer