When I started working in occupational health (OH), a long time ago admittedly, we were constantly told not to police sickness absence. But things change over time, and now we’re supposed to work closely with HR to do just that – in fact, it seems that’s all we do.
I don’t know what conversations take place at the point of referral, but I spend most of these consultations trying to calm people down, dry their eyes and generally convince them that they haven’t been sent to me to be given their P45 or the directions to the Jobcentre – sooner or later, someone will sue for work-related stress due to being sent too frequently to OH.
At the other end of the spectrum, I have a few people who are too ill to work, but no-one has the bottle to get rid of them. One client has been off sick for three years and has letters from half the medical profession stating that he’s unfit to work, but still he’s left hanging in limbo and gets sent back to see me twice yearly just in case he’s made a miraculous recovery. I’m waiting for the day when I have to write ‘RIP’ on my management report. Maybe then I can add a PS: ‘I told you he was ill’.
In case the penny hasn’t dropped, I haven’t got much time for HR and still can’t figure out what useful purpose they serve. They’re really good at making workers’ lives a misery, and if you upset them or they just don’t like your accent, then you’re subject to a performance review, which of course will be unfavourable and will require ongoing subtle intimidation tactics, scrutiny and persecution dressed up nicely in an M&S twinset and pearls. Then with a wry smile they will send you on your way, with a stab in the back and an appointment for OH of course – just to establish why exactly you’re so stressed.