A recent case before the Employment Tribunal highlights the potential risks of communicating with an employee on sick leave and how even well intentioned inquiries can backfire.
The case involved a woman who was disabled and had frequently taken long spells off work because of health issues.
In 2013, she suffered bouts of depression and anxiety after claiming that two senior colleagues had bullied her. This resulted in her taking a lengthy period of sick leave.
After she had been off work for a month, the company’s chief executive wrote to her saying that he had looked at her claim and had identified six points that he wanted to discuss with her. She regarded this contact while she was ill as a breach of her employment contract. She resigned and brought a claim of constructive dismissal.
Her claim was upheld by the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal. They held that although the company had been well intentioned in trying to resolve matters, it should have appreciated that the employee was very ill at the time and it was not appropriate to contact her over matters that were not urgent.
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