Contacting an employee while on sick could lead to breach of contract
staff absence management,
Communications while off sick,
constructive unfair dismissal,
In the recent case of Private Medical Intermediaries (PMI) Ltd and others v Hodkinson the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruled that contacting an employee who was off sick with non-urgent issues had contributed to her decision to resign and therefore upheld her claim for constructive unfair dismissal.
The employee was on sick leave due to depression and anxiety related to alleged bullying by her line manager and the managing director. Whilst she was off sick the CEO of the company wrote to her asking her whether she wanted to meet to discuss the issues or raise a grievance. She said she was too upset to reply but the CEO then wrote to her again informing her that he had spoken to the two members of staff about the allegations and would like to talk to her about concerns that had been raised in relation to her work.
The tribunal found that the second letter was a breach of trust and that the company should have reasonably known that given the circumstances it would cause distress. It had clearly contributed to her resignation. The issues were not classed as serious or pressing. It did deny the additional claims of discrimination and bullying.
The case highlighted the importance to review the reasons for contacting any employee on sick leave before acting. It would be wise to get professional advice before deciding on a course of action. You should still keep in touch with people on sick leave but you must ensure you are following the correct procedures and only contacting them about issues that are related to their leave or deemed serious or pressing.
If you would like advice about managing communications while staff are absent please call 01924 827869 or email email@example.com, one of the team will be happy to help. If you would like a free no-obligation demonstration of how SAM can help manage absence, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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