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Is my Employer Obliged to Let me Return to Work?

By: Emma Jones - Updated: 15 Jul 2018 | 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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@Womble- glad you found a new job though. An employer can dismiss a person if they can't do their job properly and they give them ample chances and don't have any alternative duties.
RaN2 - 17-Jul-18 @ 1:58 PM
I have been off work for just over 4 months and been on ssp after the first six weeks. Up to then I was struggling and put on light duties which wasn't really light duties. This may of aggravated the pain in my groin. I had a couple of meetings with my employer during my time off and they were waiting for a medical report from my doctor. While waiting for my doctors report the results of my test came back all clear. I still have the pain but nothing more can be done. Work backed me in a corner saying I can only come back to my contracted duties. I was told before about driving the forklifts as we have two permanent drivers. But have since been told there is nothing they can do to let me come back. No light duties or forklift driving. Was told to go back to my doctors with a description of my duties and see if he will let me lift. I know he won't because I can't. I had to put my months notice in as found a new job. I don't think they wanted me back even after 10 years of hard work.
Womble - 15-Jul-18 @ 6:06 PM
Hi I am currently undergoing tests and scans to determine a lump I have which I have history of cancer. I was signed off work because of illnesses I’m having plus stress and depression. I’ve gone back to work after 3 weeks still no clear on what my lump is due to waiting times for the NHS. On a return to work meeting I told my employer I was unfit for work but came back because of money. They told me I can work because it’s not an illness which is a risk to others etc.. and I said I was ok but said I was working to earn money so forcing myself. I went back to my doctors who have now given me 2 weeks off work which I don’t want to take. Do I need to inform my employer about this and can my employer force me to take it?
Lee - 13-Jul-18 @ 10:23 PM
2- Your Question:
Good evening I sprang my thumb 2 days ago and I have to keep a splint on it to keep it safe.I am a pastry chef and I can't handle a knife but I can measure the product such as milk and flour. Also I am able to work as experditor to send the food from the kitchen to the restaurant. The company is low on staff so there are plenty of duties that I'm able to make to fulfil my shifts as I prove to them this morning. But the problem is that, the head chef found keeps finding reasons to not allowed me at work, such as hygiene or health and safety. I try to found solutions about everything but she doesn't want to hear and send me back home unfairly. As the head chef of my section said, the company try to cut the spending in the restaurant and she found a reason to pay one less chef on that way but I think it's totally unfair to do that! Also, she allowed few months ago another chef to work with a broken thumb and it wasn't a problem, I presume because budgets were not tight. I call that discrimination. What do you think about this situation and what do you think I can do to get my money? I was there ready to work this morning and I don't have any doctor note telling me I have to stay home. The doctor said I can work but protect my finger and not lift heavy things.Thank you

Our Response:
Much depends also on what type of contract you have with your employer. You may wish to give Acas a call to find out as it also depends upon whether sick pay is part of your contract.
WelfareAtWork - 13-Jul-18 @ 11:39 AM
Good evening I sprang my thumb 2 days ago and I have to keep a splint on it to keep it safe. I am a pastry chef and I can't handle a knife but I can measure the product such as milk and flour... Also I am able to work as experditor to send the food from the kitchen to the restaurant. The company is low on staff so there are plenty of duties that I'm able to make to fulfil my shifts as I prove to them this morning. But the problem is that,the head chef found keeps finding reasons to not allowed me at work, such as hygiene or health and safety. I try to found solutions about everything but she doesn't want to hear and send me back home unfairly. As the head chef of my section said, the company try to cut the spending in the restaurant and she found a reason to pay one less chef on that way but I think it's totally unfair to do that! Also, she allowed few months ago another chef to work with a broken thumb and it wasn't a problem, I presume because budgets were not tight. I call that discrimination. What do you think about this situation and what do you think I can do to get my money? I was there ready to work this morning and I don't have any doctor note telling me I have to stay home. The doctor said I can work but protect my finger and not lift heavy things. Thank you
2 - 12-Jul-18 @ 3:15 PM
Jon - Your Question:
Hi allI obtained a hernia through lifting a ram (male sheep) onto to the quad for my employer, I've been for an operation and it feels to me as if the operation was not a success.my doc gave me a note to go on light duties but they have told me there is none for me and they only want me to return when I can do everything! Thing is before the op and since they have told me there is light duties but when my doc gave me the fitness to work note they changed there mind. Firstly there is light duties there but they are generally given to female staff, also I should mention that I think my employer is deliberately being awkward because I refused to go in while I was in the recovery period post operation.seems like they are trying to force me to leave?

Our Response:
In this case, you may wish to ask Acas directly, as there are a few issues to address here. Much depends also on how long you have been in your employment and other variables, please also see link here.
WelfareAtWork - 6-Jul-18 @ 10:50 AM
Hi all I obtained a hernia through lifting a ram (male sheep) onto to the quad for my employer, I've been for an operation and it feels to me as if the operation was not a success...my doc gave me a note to go on light duties but they have told me there is none for me and they only want me to return when I can do everything! Thing is before the op and since they have told me there is light duties but when my doc gave me the fitness to work note they changed there mind. Firstly there is light duties there but they are generally given to female staff, also I should mention that I think my employer is deliberately being awkward because I refused to go in while I was in the recovery period post operation..seems like they are trying to force me to leave?
Jon - 5-Jul-18 @ 8:55 AM
@Dude - you would need to go back to work if your doctor is refusing to sign you off!
Fee - 4-Jun-18 @ 3:49 PM
Hi, If I want more medical leave (sick leave) rather than light duties, however, the doctor refuses to issue medical leave and insists of placing me under light duties, what should I do?
Dude - 4-Jun-18 @ 3:26 AM
Hi I have been off work with a broken ankle that had to be pinned nd plated, my doctor has advised that when I go back to work (I work in an engineering firm and ll be on my feet 7 1/2 a day , 5 days a week ),, I that MUST return on a phased return or she will issue another sicknote if I want ,,, my employer is not the most understanding,,, my concern is I’m contracted to 40 hours a week,, if I request a phased return can he reduce my hours permanently ?.. having struggled on SSP,, I really can not afford in the long run to have my hours cut ,,, TIA
Mrspanny - 23-May-18 @ 3:51 AM
Snowy- Your Question:
Hi I am currently on light duties work are trying to bully me in to returned to full duties is this legal?

Our Response:
Light duties are not considered a permanent. Light duties are arranged to give the individual with a temporary injury or illness the opportunity to do meaningful work while they are recovering. The goal is for the employee to return to their usual and position. Light duties determined by the department on an individual basis which should be laid out by your department head/ employer. If you feel you are being treated unfairly, then you should speak to your employer directly regarding this matter. If you feel you are being bullied and you have tried resolving this issue informally, please see link here .
WelfareAtWork - 22-Mar-18 @ 11:20 AM
Hi I am currently on light duties work are trying to bully me in to returned to full duties is this legal?
Snowy - 21-Mar-18 @ 5:30 PM
Iv been of work 18 months due to collapsing with sheer pain n exhaustion , after lot of tests , mri ,I was diagnosed PSA on top of endo Iv had 10 years , they also think fibro , Iv bn a home carer fr nearly 20 years in my present job 17 , I don’t want be on scrap heap I’m only 53 but finding need help with lot more now , but my work is now pressing me saying they can’t keep my job open any longer but my dr has said she would agree to me going back on light duties n altered hours , but my work have said no they would only agree me going back if I’m fully 100% fit n want to end my contract , what do I do it making me stressed
Fee - 20-Jan-18 @ 9:18 AM
redsetter - Your Question:
Hi if I return to work on light duties a different work load can they reduce my salary and if so can they reduce it below the minimum wage

Our Response:
An employer cannot legally be paid under the minimum wage rate for their age. If you have signed a different contract, for a different job, then your employer can change the wage to reflect the duties of this job (if you have agreed). If you haven't agreed to any changes to your contract, you may wish to give ACAS a call in order to explore your rights and options.
WelfareAtWork - 5-Jan-18 @ 11:39 AM
hi ifi return to work on light duties a different work load can they reduce my salary and if so can they reduce it below the minimum wage
redsetter - 4-Jan-18 @ 5:18 PM
Hi I had double surgery on my leg ankle arthroscopy and calf muscle, now it's coming five months when I'm off work went to see my employer and he stated that I might come back only when I'm 100%, I feel so stressed I got about one and a half months left and I don't know what's going to be with my wages I'm fully paid now only for 6 months worry how can I pay my rent later my physician not allowing me to work either doctor I know there was so many people haven't I do this in my workplace why didn't give it me one please need your help?
Deivis - 2-Jan-18 @ 1:35 PM
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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