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Work contacting you when off sick

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by blueskies31, Oct 2, 2015.

  1. blueskies31

    blueskies31 Occasional commenter

    Are Heads 'legally' allowed to contact you when off sick?

    I have been signed off by the doctor with stress and anxiety. I have followed the school's absence policy by contacting them as I should and forwarded sick notes from my GP.

    My Head however has rung my mobile and emailed me requesting a meeting and saying he is going to make a referral to Occupational Health.

    This is adding to my stress and making me feel even more anxious.

    I thought if you had been signed off by your doctor then you weren't allowed to be contacted?

    If I am signed off sick do I have to attend a meeting with him and do I have to attend an Occupational Health appointment?

  2. stmha

    stmha Established commenter

    How long have you been signed off sick.

    I am not sure if the HT is doing anything particularly wrong as one could argue if no contact was made at all he would be ignoring the schools duty of care towards you.

    I understand the panic this creates. There is nothing to fear from an Occupational Health Doctor, much to fear from an OH advisor/nurse...find out who you will be seen with. You should receive the referral form with the questions the HT wants answered by the OH doctor.

    Just remember the OH team DOES NOT have a duty of care towards you but to the paying customer. In the case Kapfunde v Abbey National the Court of Appeal stated

    "They emphasised that there was no duty of care because the fact that a persons actions were likely to cause damage to another if there was failure to take due care was not sufficient by itself to create that duty of care. In this instance, there is insufficient proximity between Mrs Kapfunde and the doctor. It was the employers to whom the doctor owed a duty of care."

    The OH referral is an important part of the process in order to make a full return when you are ready..but should you trust them 100%..I dont think so.

    Lots of walks, do things that are healthy and drink lots of water.

    good luck
  3. har1her1

    har1her1 New commenter


    I am currently absent from work with a stress-related condition. My employers referred me to Occupational Health and the OH nurse was extremely understanding and helpful. I suppose my situation may be a little different in the sense that my stress is related directly to a situation at home and not at work. Therefore, I appreciate contact from HR and colleagues. One of my greatest stresses at the moment is that I fear I will not be able to return to work.

    However, I can understand. I was very worried about the OH assessment and very relieved when it was so supportive.
  4. stmha

    stmha Established commenter

    Yes I think this is a good point. Tell the OH the truth about how you feel and don't let it stress you out. It's normal procedure.
  5. blueskies31

    blueskies31 Occasional commenter

    I've been signed off sick for 2 weeks with WRS, returned for a week and been signed off again.

    I'm not too worried about the OH appointment as I have nothing to hide and intend to be honest with them.

    I am more worried about the meeting request with the Head, do I have to attend if signed off by my GP? Is he 'allowed' to ring and email me even when I've followed the school procedure for absence as this is genuinely making me feel really anxious?

    I'm not feeling any better despite already having several weeks off and thinking of resigning. I just don't feel well enough and think a break to recover and then a fresh start may do me good. Any advice?

    Thanks everyone
  6. snowyhead

    snowyhead Lead commenter

    No, your head is now allowed to telephone, email or write to you using parchment and a quill pen. If you had been hospitalised following surgery or a sudden acute illness then what would the head do, phone you via the ward phone. I may be wrong, but I don't think your head can make you come into school for meetings whilst you are signed off sick. They might request a 'return to work' meeting once you are deemed to be fit for work by your GP, but that should be a supportive meeting to ascertain what adjustments you might need to phase back into work.
  7. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    The HT should not be contacting you.

    Any contact should be done through HR/Personnel.

    The school does have the right to request an Occ Health meeting - but this is to assess if you are "fit to teach", and part of the Duty of Care.

    Contrary to belief, HTs do not have the right to ring people whenever they wish when they are on sick leave.
    judomum and snowyhead like this.
  8. snowyhead

    snowyhead Lead commenter

    Tried to edit but ran out of time :mad:. Should read:

    'No, your head is NOT allowed to telephone...'

    As with everything keep written records in the form of a diary. GLsghost always recommends buying a bound book so that it's obvious when pages have been removed. I would recommend buying a digital recording device to keep by the phone just in case the head tries to ring again. Current English law does not prevent you from recording private telephone conversations on your home phone and you do not need to seek permission from the other party to do so. However, you would not be allowed to present the recordings to a third party, but there's nothing to stop you making a typed transcript of the recorded conversation.
    notsonorthernlass likes this.
  9. stmha

    stmha Established commenter

    I think you need to try and identify what the problem is it sounds quite serious if you feel your only option is to move school.

    By third party one assumes snowyhead means court hearing. Actually informing a judge that it exists and disclosing such evidence in the normal way is fine (best not to introduce it on the day of a hearing unless you have an exceptional reason). So if you feel your relationship with your head is a problem recording conversations maybe worthwhile.
  10. blueskies31

    blueskies31 Occasional commenter

    Thanks everyone for your advice/support. I know you say the Head is not allowed to contact me if I'm off sick - who says? Is there legislation that I can refer to?

    Many thanks
  11. snowyhead

    snowyhead Lead commenter

    Your head or their representative can make enquiries as to when you might reasonably be expecting to return to work and the onus is on you to keep them up-dated, but they cannot demand you tell them, in many cases of WRS the end date is unknown, neither can they demand you set cover work in your absence. Just searching for relevant legal info.
    notsonorthernlass likes this.
  12. blueskies31

    blueskies31 Occasional commenter

    Snowyhead, you seem to know what you're talking about in regards to my situation. Please could I private message you with a few more details? I could really do with some more advice.
  13. snowyhead

    snowyhead Lead commenter

    You can. I really am no expert. It's a shame GLsghost is away at present, she has much more learned knowledge relating to employment law. Can't find any legal info. ACAS says that contact by employer must be reasonable, in that they should keep in contact with you to up-date you on any workplace changes etc but they should respect your right to a private life under Human Rights legislation. The fact remains though that they cannot demand you provide cover work, because you are deemed to be unfit for work by a medical professional, which is a big issue in many schools.

    I guess it all boils down to what you consider to be reasonable frequency of contact versus what the head considers to be reasonable frequency of contact. You might want to email them to clarify what you consider to be reasonable eg once a week on a Friday afternoon or offer to make contact with the office manager every Friday afternoon by way of an up-date. Personally, I would do the latter as that puts you in control.
  14. Middlemarch

    Middlemarch Star commenter

    Just to clarify - no, there's no legislation to say that the head "cannot" contact a person who is off sick; as others have recently indicated, good practice says that an employer should keep in touch with an employee who is signed off, but this should not include demanding to know when they're coming back or demanding that they do work or set work.

    We sometimes get people complaining on TES that their employer has NOT contacted them and they feel abandoned and uncared for.
    DaisysLot and snowyhead like this.
  15. Dragonlady30

    Dragonlady30 Star commenter

    I know that there is a variety of opinions about OH but on the 2 occasions when I was off due to stress, I found them caring of my position. I remember having their report sent to me before a copy went to the school so that I could clarify any points they made. I then telephoned the nurse and we discussed changes I thought appropriate.
    Middlemarch and snowyhead like this.
  16. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    I don't think people are saying that blueskies. As Middlemarch says (in post #14) there is no law that says that your employer (ie the head) cannot contact you while you are off sick. On the contrary the official advice is that your employer should keep in contact with staff on longer term sickness. See

    --- the ACAS guidance (page 20)

    --- the HSE guidance

    What the employer should not do is ask you to do work when you are off sick (eg on another thread someone reported being asked to set cover work while off sick). Whether your employer is contacting you appropriately depends on the specific circumstances. Contacting you too often or too aggressively could amount to harassment. Contacting you to say they'd like to refer you to OH is likely to be OK.

    You can refuse to be referred to OH but most posts on TES from people in similar situations to you say that they found it useful
    snowyhead and Middlemarch like this.
  17. snowyhead

    snowyhead Lead commenter

    I own up. Initially, I did tell the OP that the head should not be contacting them, but I did follow this up by advising that they could make reasonable contact, as you suggest Rott Weiler. Personally, I would try to take control of the situation and advise the school that I will provide up-dates at certain points in my absence eg every Friday morning.

    PS @blueskies31 in GLsghost absence Rott Weiler is pretty good at these things too.
  18. DaisysLot

    DaisysLot Senior commenter

    Simply convey politely that you need peace to recover from your stress related illness. You can do this by email. Indeed conversely we so often hear from colleagues who feel abandoned and upset that no one at their workplace cares enough to contact them so it seems a head teacher cannot really win in such instances.
  19. blueskies31

    blueskies31 Occasional commenter

    Thanks everybody for your replies and clarification on this.

    Snowyhead did you get my message?
  20. snowyhead

    snowyhead Lead commenter

    I did. I have sent you a reply - hopefully.

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