All posts by Inka

Truth or myth? Employee must be present at a capability meeting

This is a myth.

It is not uncommon for a capability procedure to stall or even come to a complete standstill because the employee is refusing to attend a capability meeting. Without the meeting going ahead, the employer is unable to continue with the necessary stages of the process and a resolution one way or another remains pending. This does not have to be the case, however, since a capability meeting can also be held in the employee’s absence. As long as the employee has been given reasonable opportunity to attend or to submit responses in writing, the employer can justifiably proceed without the employee present. Continue reading

Truth or Myth? You need to be referred by a doctor for mental health support

Myth. Mental health issues can be complex and vary widely in severity. It is not always clear to the sufferer if their symptoms amount to a defined illness and even if they would like to seek help, the prospect of being diagnosed with a mental health condition – and the stigma that goes with it – can be daunting. Therefore, it’s good to know that anyone can get help without it becoming a note on their GP records.

NHS mood indicator

If you are worried that you or one of your employees may have minor or even major symptoms of mental ill health, the NHS have an online ‘mood indicator’ that can help in the first instance. It asks questions on common causes and indicators of stress or depression and then gives you a possible diagnosis and severity rating with information on the next steps you should take to gain help or advice.

No matter if the worries stem from work or home, there are several government schemes which allow anybody to apply for free and impartial advice on how to cope. The levels of intervention vary scheme by scheme and can be accessed both via self-referral or referral by a GP.

Access to Work scheme

One of these resources is the Access to Work scheme, which aims specifically to help those suffering from mental health issues that are impacting on their work. As long as you are employed, if you have symptoms of stress or other mental health conditions and if you feel that those symptoms are impacting on your ability to do your job or continue attending work, you qualify for the Access to Work scheme. Without the need for a formal diagnosis.

The Access to Work mental health support service is free and offers employees support for a 26 week period. The employee seeking support may be absent from work or at work but concerned about their ability to continue working. Referrals can be made by the individuals themselves or with the help of a third party, such as the employer. The support is entirely confidential and although the consultants will aim to involve the employer in the rehabilitation process, this is done on the employees’ terms. Best and most lasting results can be achieved when the employee and employer work together to find a long term plan for maintaining the employee in employment so the consultants will try to help the employee achieve the necessary level of trust and cooperation with their management.

Anonymous helplines may also be a stepping stone toward resolving mental health problems. The Helplines Partnership lists all available mental health helplines and contact details for further advice and help. The NHS wellbeing pages also list many helplines and help centres as well as providing fact sheets for positive mental health and wellbeing.

Early intervention is most effective

It is best to get help as early as possible so even if you or your employee are suffering from only a few or only minor symptoms of stress or depression, it is best to research the options before the situation exacerbates. Where possible, managers should be mindful of the warning signs and help employees by signposting them to support resources where relevant.

Myth: You need to be 100% fit to return to work

There are two common misconceptions about return to work after illness: 1) that you have to be fully recovered to return and 2) that you cannot return until a medical certificate runs out. Excluding contagious diseases or health and safety reasons barring a return, “you don’t have to be 100% OK to return to work. The earlier you can return to work the better. Work is often part of treatment, and getting back to work is part of the recovery process” (Professor Burton, NHS). Continue reading

Myth: Contacting absent employees is harrassment

It is commonplace to think that if your employees are off sick, you should not ‘bug’ them with what could feel like ‘intrusive’ phone calls or e-mails. Some even think that it could be classed as harassment to keep in regular contact with a sick employee. This is a myth. Continue reading

Myth: Employers are bound by suggestions on a fit note

Fit Note was introduced in 2010. Since then, many employers mistakenly think that they are obligated to implement suggestions made by a GP on a fit note. In fact, this is a myth. The Fit Note is intended to issue guidance on how an employee can return to work in the short term before they are expected to be fully fit for normal working duties. This means that the suggestions made on the Fit Note are expected to be temporary and should not impact on the employee returning to their full duties, eventually. Continue reading

How to manage a repeat offender like Annie Excuses?

Using every excuse under the sun, Annie is rarely seen at work. One day her back hurts, the next it’s migraines, or her all-time favourite: stress. When she does turn up, it’s with a multitude of explanations for why she hasn’t done the work she was meant to do. Her boss is keen to help with her health but the GP simply keeps signing her off work to rest. And that is just fine with Annie – sick pay is part of her contract, after all! Continue reading