0161 850 1122 admin@khes.co.uk

We have recently seen an upsurge in staff having significant amounts of sick leave for reasons associated with mental health, and this has started to negatively affect the company, their work and put additional pressure on their colleagues who have to do extra work whilst they are off sick. In many cases we advise that you seek a medical report on the persons medical condition before taking any further steps. 

The problem with this is that many see this as merely a first step towards dismissal. However, in my experience I have found this to be a vital step to helping somebody get back to work. When I was a manager of a large legal department, one of my staff had a significant amount of time off sick with stress and anxiety. We arranged for him to be seen by a local psychiatrist who was an expert in stress related issues and the psychiatrist came up with a plan for him to return to work which we immediately put into place. Within six months this person was working productively and happily in his job. As an added bonus this person became a loyal member of staff as we had helped him through what was a difficult personal crisis. 

I consciously decided that sending him to an occupational health specialist would not be helpful in that circumstance as it was vital that we understood exactly what was wrong with this employee before putting together a support package. Often people feel that the first step is to get an occupational health report I tend to disagree particularly regarding medical conditions such as mental health where often the GP may not be an expert in the field and will provide a fit note on mental health grounds based on a self-diagnosis of the patient. It is vital that a professional with expertise in mental health is allowed to assess the situation and give us guidance on how to get this person back to work and feeling better about themselves. 

It is also true that when people have just decided that they were no longer motivated enough to turn up, they often use stress and anxiety as a reason on a medical report without having any real symptoms of these conditions. In these circumstances a meeting with a psychiatrist is often helpful to help them appreciate that they are not actually suffering from a mental health condition and that other matters have to be taken into account. 

This was true of another employee in exactly the same department whom we had asked to go to a psychiatrist for an assessment and he decided that he simply did not wish to continue working in the organisation and left. 

So, in short, the message is medical reports should not be seen as a way of removing somebody from an organisation but should be seen as a way of you investigating an issue before taking a decision. To do anything else could not only cause problems within your organisation and probably mean that you fail to get the appropriate result should the case go to an employment tribunal, but also cause you to lose a valuable member of staff who would otherwise have been an asset to the organisation.