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Is my Employer Obliged to Let me Return to Work?

By: Emma Jones - Updated: 13 Feb 2019 | 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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My knee dislocated 2.5 months ago and I was off work during November December. Before I went off sick (first 2 weeks I had a fit note saying I could work from home. The. It went again when they changed it to not fit for work) they had already referred me to occupational health and day after I went on sick they advertise my role on 9 month contact. This has now been filled. When I saw the occupational health, they said I could return to work during January on a phased return starting at 30% and build up during the month. In the meantime I have seen a knee specialist who said the only option was a knee replacement and has put me on 5-11 month waiting list. I went to see my employer yesterday about increasing my hours and returning to the office and they are reluctant to increase my hours as they say there is not enough office work and as my job role is customer facing and I have to attend a lot of external meeting and they have a replacement for my role. They want me to use more sick leave on not increase my hours. My sick leave pay is only full time for 6 months. It could be up to 11 months before my surgery and at least 3 months before I would be able to do the external part of my role. Can your employer stop you working full time if the occupational health say is fit to work full time on office /home based activities?
Cherry - 24-Jan-19 @ 1:53 PM
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Nimo - 19-Jan-19 @ 8:06 PM
I had a accident at work.braking my elbow Itwo places I have made a claim against them.my doctor has said I can go back to work doing light duties but my boss says there are none.now he is only paying me sick pay but said if I had not made the claim against him he would of payed me a full wage.now I think he is just saying there is no light duties to punish me for making a claim against him what can I do
Mickeyboy - 2-Dec-18 @ 8:11 PM
Hi! I have been off work since 3/06/18 up to now, this month they won't pay me, having problem with my spine which they say i have a disease called spinal stenosis, spondylitis & narrowing of spine cervical c3 to c7. I am working as a warehouse operativepick & packer and i can't do this job anymore, company keep sending me to occupational health 3 times now & they will send me again i don't know when. I need to go back to work i don't have any income. Any help or advice what to do? Thanks
Moh - 22-Nov-18 @ 8:36 PM
My doctor stated that he did not need to see me again when my sick note ran out. Went to work my employer told me i could not come back to work without a return to work note from my doctor stating i am fit to work. I have been off for six months with an ulcerated foot it is healed apart from a dry skin on it.
Twixxydixxy - 28-Aug-18 @ 7:48 PM
@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
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Lee - 13-Jul-18 @ 10:23 PM
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
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
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
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
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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