In line with Government guidelines for safe working during the COVID pandemic, access to our office is strictly by a pre-arranged appointment only, and only where absolutely necessary. We are open for business with some staff working in the office and others from home, they can still be contacted in the usual way either by telephone or email.
In respect of your pre-arranged appointment, if you develop symptoms of COVID, or have in the last 14 days come into contact with someone with COVID or symptoms of, we ask that you contact the office by telephone/email to arrange a new appointment or discuss if there is an appropriate alternative to your meeting.
The safety of our staff and clients is of paramount importance to us and so thank you for your continued co-operation during these unprecedented times.
If you are on sick leave, your employer is likely to keep your absence under review. Depending upon the length of your absence, you may find that your employer will consider terminating your employment on the grounds of your incapacity.
If you have been continuously employed for two years or more, you will have unfair dismissal rights. (Depending upon the nature of your illness, you may also be deemed to be disabled under The Equality Act 2010 and have rights under that Act.)
The recent Court of Appeal case of O’Brien v Bolton St Catherine’s Academy made some important points about when a dismissal for long-term sickness will be fair.
In this case, Ms O’Brien was the head of a department in a school. She was attacked by a pupil but did not suffer serious injuries and returned to work; however, she felt unsafe and had over a year off work for stress.
The employer enquired as to when Ms O’Brien may be returning to work and whether any adaptations were required. This information was not forthcoming and Ms O’Brien simply referred the employer back to her GP who did not feel able to confirm a return date.
The employer held a formal medical incapacity hearing under its internal procedures and dismissed Ms O’Brien. At that hearing, there was nothing to suggest that she would be returning in the near future. Ms O’Brien appealed the decision to dismiss her and there was then an internal appeal hearing which upheld her dismissal.
The principle matter for the Court of Appeal in respect of Ms O’Brien’s unfair dismissal claim was the consideration by the appeal panel of new medical evidence. At the appeal hearing, Ms O’Brien had produced a GP fit note and a letter from a psychologist that recommended courses of treatment. The appeal panel had concluded that the sudden production of this note was suspicious and was concerned about the inconsistent nature of the evidence.
The Court of Appeal held that the dismissal was unfair and provided valuable guidance about the fairness of dismissals in long-term sickness cases, as follows:
In O’Brien the Court of Appeal held that the employer should have sought additional medical evidence before making a decision about the appeal; the dismissal was therefore unfair.
The above is not intended to provide advice.