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Is my Employer Obliged to Let me Return to Work?

By: Emma Jones - Updated: 5 Dec 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Is My Employer Obliged To Let Me Return To Work?

Q.I have been off sick from my job as a carer for 6 months with a bad back and am keen to return to work. My Dr has signed me back to work, but on light duties only. My employer says that I have to be fully fit for work or do not return at all. I thought that my employer was obliged to offer me "suitable" work if it was available until I am fully fit. Can you please help?

(Mrs Suzanne Morris, 26 September 2008)

A.

Being forced to take time off work because of an injury or sickness can be difficult to cope with, both financially and emotionally. After being signed off for six months I can understand your keenness to get back to your job and it is good that you want to return to work as soon as you are able.

As a carer the nature of your job will probably involve a lot of physical activity and lifting which could be harmful to your back. Whether your injury was caused by your duties or not, returning to work could exacerbate it. Due to the nature of your sickness, your employer may be wary about allowing your back to work, in case you injure yourself further. Your employer will want to protect themselves from any accidents and has the right to carry out a health and safety risk assessment to decide whether it is safe for you to return to work.

You mention that your doctor has said that you are able to go back and do ‘light duties’ but this will obviously be dependent on whether such duties are available in your line of work. As you suggest, your employer is obliged to offer you suitable alternative work if it is available. However, they do not have to create suitable light work for you if there isn’t anything that is already in place. If they would still need to employ someone else as well to do the parts of the job that you are unable to deal with and would have to create specific duties for you, then they may have a valid argument.

Talk to your employer about the situation and find out exactly what their concerns are. If you still have no resolution then the best thing to do is to seek advice on your specific situation from the citizen’s advice bureau or through ACAS. If you feel that your employer is treating you unfairly then you should follow the grievance procedure, as laid out in your contract. If you have no luck dealing with the dispute internally then you have the right to take your employer to an employment tribunal if you think they are discriminating against you because of your sickness.

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I have been experiencing pain in my knee. I work in a hca. My doctor said I should have a meeting with occupational health and discuss light duties. I don't think there is such a thing in my place of work. I saw the physiotherapist today and she said I am unable to do my job as it stands and again to contact occupational health. I have been referred for an mri scan and she believes I will need surgery. My issue for getting in touch with occupational health is if there are no alternative jobs that they may dismiss me as its not straight forward as being off for an injury and I aim to be back on this date. My gp said I have to go through the referrals and they take time and this should be enough for my employer . At present I'm working with the pain but struggling big time.
Flo - 5-Dec-17 @ 1:09 PM
I want to go back to work and went in on Friday past to arrange starting back on Monday Nov 20, 2017. I have been off work for 8 months with Stress caused by a drug overdose prescribed by my GP followed by stress caused by my employer mistreating me after my return. I now want to return but I feel my employer is again being unreasonable and refuse to take my feelings into account. Basically, they have set the terms of my phased return which include half days for the first week, I didn't want to return 5 days a week, then on to 6.5-hour days for a further 3 weeks before returning to my usual 7.5 hourly days. They have also specified my starting time to be 8.30am whereas this is normally flexible, and I always started at 9am before. In addition, I am to take two weeks leave at Christmas, but I am not allowed to book any other leave during this period, these terms are ridged. I also wanted to be able to leave my desk if I started feeling compromised, this could take the form of lashing out in anger or breaking down in tears. I was told I would not be allowed to do this either. I really need advice, I am stressing out about it already and I have not even started. I feel the Company are trying to break me completely, so they can get rid of me. I also have 17 days leave that I offered to use, this is after the Christmas leave is discounted, but I am told it wouldn’t work because I will be working 6.5-hour days and the leave booking system only allows me to take leave in half day increments. Any advice would be precious as I don’t think I can manage this and not having any control over this is scaring me.
Kinglouie - 19-Nov-17 @ 12:23 AM
Kai - Your Question:
Ive been off work with plantar fashiitis, im a carer, can I ask my employer for shorter hours my contracted hours are 8am-8pm

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here which should tell you all you need to know.
WelfareAtWork - 24-Oct-17 @ 2:51 PM
Ive been off work with plantar fashiitis, im a carer, can i ask my employer for shorter hours my contracted hours are 8am-8pm
Kai - 20-Oct-17 @ 10:07 AM
Neil - Your Question:
Hi I have been off work for 2 months after a brain heomarage the only contact I have had from my employer is threw his personal phone.I haven't had a meeting to discuss my sickness and every time I contact him on his work phone he dosnt reply. I have asked on several occasions if my employer can forward the company's sickness policy and procedures onto me so I can make sure I follow the correct procedures but still not received them I first requested these 2 month ago.I recently contacted my employer to discuss my options of returning to work I asked if I could return on light duties asI feel well enough to return to work on light duties but not well enough to resume full duty (workshop wielding supervisor my employer asked what I would consider to be light duties. I suggested office work/ ordering consumables for the site my employers reply was if there was a job for this position then the company would employ someone to do this which left me somewhat confused as the company employees office staff and a site manager who is responsible for ordering consumables I asked where this left me and I was basically told I would need a full fit note to return to my full position as a workshop supervisor and would look at a return to work phase but expressed that he had concerns about me lone working. My work van was taken off me the second day I was in hospitalI I asked if I would get my works van back when I resumed full duty I was told that there wasn't a van available as they are short however this was drawn up in my contract that work wud provide a van in order for me to carry out my job role.I feel that I am being unfairly treated but do not know where to start and what my rights are. Cud you help me please.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. I can only direct you to the Jobsite link here,and here which outlines what shape a phased return to work can take. However, it is very much a two way negotiation and much depends upon how long it may take you to get back to your original role and of course, every company is different. A large company may be able to find an alternative suitable position regarding light duties, a small company may not. If you feel uneasy about your employer's attitude or your rights, then you may also wish to give ACAS a call to help explore your options.
WelfareAtWork - 17-Oct-17 @ 3:26 PM
Hi I have been off work for 2 months after a brain heomarage the only contact I have had from my employer is threw his personal phone..I haven't had a meeting to discuss my sickness andevery time I contact him on his work phone he dosnt reply.. I have asked on several occasions if my employer can forward the company's sickness policy and procedures onto me so I can make sure I follow the correct procedures but still not received them I first requested these 2 month ago. I recently contacted my employer to discuss my options of returning to work I asked if I could return on light duties asI feel well enough to return to work on light duties but not well enough to resume full duty (workshop wielding supervisor my employer asked what I would consider to be light duties.. I suggested office work/ ordering consumables for the site my employers reply was if there was a job for this position then the company would employ someone to do this which left me somewhat confused as the company employees office staff and a site manager who is responsible for ordering consumables I asked where this left me and I was basically told I would need a full fit note to return to my full position as a workshop supervisor and would look at a return to work phase but expressed that he had concerns about me lone working. My work van was taken off me the second day I was in hospitalI I asked if I would get my works van back when I resumed full duty I was told that there wasn't a van available as they are short however this was drawn up in my contract that work wud provide a van in order for me to carry out my job role. I feel that I am being unfairly treated but do not know where to start and what my rights are. Cud you help me please.
Neil - 13-Oct-17 @ 1:28 PM
Bez79 - Your Question:
Hi, my employer is refusing a return to work until I have had a function capacity assessment. I have been signed by my GP to do no lifting duties of which the company has allowed previously. They are. Ow saying these duties don't exist which is rubbish because 90% of my job is desk based anyway. Because they are keeping me away for this assessment surely they are obliged to pay me. Legally

Our Response:
All would depends upon the terms and conditions of your employment contract, which you would have to read to find out whether you are paid sick pay or not.
WelfareAtWork - 28-Sep-17 @ 11:52 AM
Hi, my employer is refusing a return to work until I have had a function capacity assessment. I have been signed by my GP to do no lifting duties of which the company has allowed previously. They are. Ow saying these duties don't exist which is rubbish because 90% of my job is desk based anyway. Because they are keeping me away for this assessment surely they are obliged to pay me. Legally
Bez79 - 27-Sep-17 @ 5:00 PM
David - Your Question:
Hi, im off work from 7 months slipdisc, my gp advice me to go back to work on light duries but my employer said they not offer light duties anymore. I feel treated unfairly because two people on different shift are on light duties.Before I go off sick it was about 5 people on light duties (bad back notice from doctor). I dont know what to do ? I feel discriminate what I can do ? Could you help me please

Our Response:
If you feel you are being treated unfairly, I suggest you give ACAS a call to see whether you have a case to follow the grievance procedure. Much depends upon whether your employer has given you the support they need to get back to work quickly and safely. Your employer needs to be able to show he/she look for ways to support you - eg considering whether the job itself is making you sick and needs changing. However, please also keep in mind you can be dismissed if you have a persistent or long-term illness that makes it impossible for you to do your job, please see link here. As specified in the article, your employer is obliged to offer you suitable alternative work 'if' it is available. However, they do not have to create suitable light work for you if there isn’t anything that is already in place.
WelfareAtWork - 30-Nov-16 @ 1:45 PM
Hi, im off work from 7 months slipdisc, my gp advice me to go backto work on light duries but my employer said they not offer light duties anymore . I feel treated unfairly because two people on different shift are on light duties.Before i go off sick it was about 5 people on light duties (bad back notice from doctor) . I dont know what to do ? I feel discriminate what i can do ? Could you help me please
David - 29-Nov-16 @ 10:08 PM
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