If you experience difficulties at work (and many of us do at some point in our lives) this can lead to stress and sometimes result in a period of stress-related sickness absence. If you raise a grievance prior to, or during, stress-related sickness absence how should this be handled?
Firstly, your employer should tread particularly carefully where the reason for your absence is directly related to the workplace issues which form the basis of your grievance. It is important for your employer to keep in contact with you but that contact should not be overbearing or intrusive.
You may feel unwell enough to attend a grievance meeting. In those circumstances it may be appropriate for your employer to obtain a medical report (usually a referral to occupational health) covering the nature of your condition, whether you are well enough to attend a grievance hearing and any adjustments that could be put in place. This will allow your employer to assess whether it is appropriate to consider your grievance at that time and any adjustments that may assist you in relation to the grievance process.
It is possible that stress could amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (although it does not always). A medical report will help your employer to determine whether this is the case. Your employer has additional obligations under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments if required. Even if you are not disabled, it may still be reasonable for your employer to adjust the venue or other arrangements for the hearing in light of your stress-related illness. For example, you might agree to conduct the hearing by video call or telephone rather than in person, or you might agree that a friend or family member will accompany you to the hearing, rather than a colleague or trade union representative.
Your employer should be aware of its express and implied contractual duties, including the implied obligation to offer reasonable and prompt redress of your grievance and the implied duty of trust and confidence. If the way in which your employer handles your grievance breaches these terms you may have grounds to resign and claim constructive dismissal. You should take legal advice about your specific circumstances before you take such a step.
If the medical report confirms you are unfit to engage with your employer then it may be necessary to delay the investigation until you are well enough to participate. Your employer would be unwise to conclude a grievance without meeting with you and giving you the opportunity to explain your concerns.
Can we help you?
If you have an employment law issue please contact one of our specialist employment law solicitors at LincsLaw on 01522 440512 or visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk for more details on how we can help you.
Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
LincsLaw Employment Solicitors