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Following a recent legal decision, employers may need to revisit policies on contacting employees on sick leave, particularly if they have a mental health problem. Solicitor Rory Lynch explains.
A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision highlights the care that must be taken by HR managers and business owners when contacting employees on long-term sick leave.
In the case of Private Medicine Intermediaries Ltd and Others v Hodkinson, the EAT held that an employee was constructively dismissed because of the content of a letter she received from her employer while she was on sick leave.
The case serves as a warning that employers could face a claim for a fundamental breach of contract if care is not taken to ensure that the contact made is reasonable and for a proper cause.
The claimant, Miss Hodkinson, was an employee of Private Medicine Intermediaries (PMI). In October 2013, she was signed off on sick leave due to work-related depression and anxiety as a result of alleged intimidation and bullying by her manager and another director of PMI.
The employer needs to set out how it will communicate to employees about absence triggers and targets, and their use and inclusion within a wider absence policy. The use of absence triggers and targets should be an open and transparent process and promoted as part of an overall absence management or wellbeing strategy.
Absence triggers and targets should be seen by staff as a proactive way of improving the health and wellbeing of employees and reducing unnecessary sickness from work, rather than a way of putting pressure on employees to come to work when they are genuinely ill. Employers should also stre