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Should I answer work calls while on sick leave

On sick leave

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Dear all,

I am a qualified accountant who has recently been signed off from work with stress.

It's been a very challenging few months at work, with no support, long hours, unrealistic demands, co-workers not acting like a team, staff leaving, and more and more work .We had a new accountant start recently who can help out, but she needs time to settle in. I got to the point where I was so stressed out with the job, that I ended up having panic attacks and threw up. I decided to see my GP and he advised I take time off from work (3 weeks). I gave my employer the sign off note. They have wished me a speedy recovery and have asked for a short handover which I have given. They also asked whether I can take any phone calls to assist with work. I reluctantly said yes, I mean, I will only be able to assist with basic things. I don't really want to be disturbed while I try to recover mentally. 

I have not been in this situation before and I do feel quite scared of the prospect of going back. I am also dreading the prospect of being roasted and possibly fired. (My top boss is impatient). 

My health comes first. When I recover, I will go back and see how things are. I suspect a lot of the work won't be covered and I will have a huge workload to deal with again.

Replies (19)

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By frankfx
12th Dec 2018 21:30

a great resource

you could ring ACAS

are you ACCA/ ICAEW/ other body

ring them ……….. they will listen and empower you

you are not in a unique situation, though you may feel that you are isolated , and can not rely on your employer to understand you.

Thanks (8)
By andy.partridge
12th Dec 2018 22:22

Good advice from Frankfx.

You don’t sound ready to go back to work and when you do you have to have a plan to ensure you stay healthy.

Thanks (1)
Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
13th Dec 2018 09:46

Agree with the above.

Frankly it's disgusting that your employer even asked you to take phone calls whilst you are off with this.

My advice to you would be to use some of the time off to spruce up your CV.

Thanks (5)
By bernard michael
13th Dec 2018 09:53

If they do make your life unbearable and you are forced to go it sounds like constructive dismissal and an Industrial Tribunal case
Your health both present and future come first

Thanks (1)
By slipknot08
13th Dec 2018 10:14

Agree with all of the above. It is completely unreasonable of your employer to expect you to take work calls (especially as - from your description of your situation - it sounds as though these could quickly devolve into you working full time whilst signed-off for much needed recuperation.)
I just wanted to add that you aren't alone - I have suffered from depression and stress in the past, and I'm sure many others here have also.

You're NOT alone.
You're NOT weak, or defective.
Your health and wellbeing ARE important.

Please take good care of yourself (and as other peope have said.. it wouldn't hurt to dust off the old cv, when you feel up to it)

Thanks (3)
By tugwilson
13th Dec 2018 12:07

As you said it's health first, everything else is secondary. Taking work calls will delay your recovery. Find a more considerate employer when you're fully back to health. Best wishes

Thanks (2)
By accountantccole
13th Dec 2018 12:19

Health first - stop working or you'll never recharge the batteries.

Thanks (2)
Lisa Thomas
By Insolvency Practitioner
13th Dec 2018 15:35

I agree with the other comments - the point of you being signed off sick was to have a break from work. Taking work calls is completely contrary to this.

For your employer to even ask, when the reason you are off sick is due to work stress, and for them to expect you to continue to work is disgusting and probably goes some way to show why you are stressed in the first place.

Personally I would email to say you are not able to take any work calls or deal with any work matters whatsoever whilst you are off sick.

Thanks (2)
By andy.partridge
13th Dec 2018 16:09

There is the other side to this. Imagine you have managed to make yourself indispensable. Nobody understands quite what you do. It's technical. Should your employer be so understanding that your function should be allowed to operate poorly or not at all in your absence? What is potential the knock-on effect to the business as a whole?

It's easy for me to say now, but ideally no business should be dependent on a single individual. A regularly updated procedures manual and a trained 'deputy' are the longer term solutions to problems like this, but I quite understand that many businesses just don't plan like that.

Thanks (2)
Replying to andy.partridge:
By mrme89
13th Dec 2018 16:50

That's not for the employee to worry about.

Thanks (4)
Replying to mrme89:
By andy.partridge
13th Dec 2018 16:59

I don't want the employee to worry about anything, but to concentrate on getting well as indicated in my earlier post.

Thanks (1)
Replying to andy.partridge:
By Paul Barclay
14th Dec 2018 09:53

They call it a SPOD - single point of dependency. (I just love being married to a HR Director).

Companies never realise what they have until it is gone.

Thanks (2)
Routemaster image
By tom123
13th Dec 2018 16:47

Off sick with broken leg - yes perhaps.

Off sick with mental health issues - no way.

The employer is actually opening themselves up further by suggesting this.

Thanks (2)
Replying to tom123:
By neilbowler
14th Dec 2018 10:50

Taking that one step (pun intended) further, if you were off sick with the broken leg, you wouldn't expect them to call up and ask you to walk somewhere.

Thanks (3)
By Tax Dragon
14th Dec 2018 08:08

There is nothing more intimate, difficult or powerfully emotive than what goes on in a person's head.

I salute both you and previously Manchester_man for raising the issue of mental wellbeing in this forum.

I wish you well as you recuperate - and agree with the others that you should most likely down tools completely. You would not have asked the question had you been finding the calls helpful.

Thanks (2)
By Paul Barclay
14th Dec 2018 09:50

If you are signed off, you are not allowed to work - no discussion needed.

As a slightly more militant take on this, will they appreciate it or are you just a "part of the furniture - good old Joe he will do it for us"

Get better, take stock, speak to HR and ensure any concerns about hours etc are recorded, then if it keeps happening well............

Take care

Thanks (2)
By [email protected]
14th Dec 2018 10:48

I’ve been there, even with the new resource is it really likely to get better? Think long and hard. Use the support networks, think hard about changing jobs. Think about staying off longer than 3 weeks, with panic attacks I doubt 3 weeks is long enough. Consider whether this has caused you depression? If yes seek help for that, again it is normal.
Do ask to be sent to an occupational health doctor, he will make recommendations back to you employer. Which will either help if the employer takes them up, or will help you on an exit strategy.
Personally I would be working on leaving, either immediately or within a short time frame.

And get out of the house, do what you enjoy, walking, shopping, anything but do it. It is essential to help you get through this.

Thanks (4)
By bernard michael
14th Dec 2018 11:10

Back when I was a young articled clerk ( age??) I got injured playing rugby and couldn't walk. Knock on my front door and there was the office boy with several files and a note from the senior partner which read
" If you can't come to work the work will come to you"
The office boy took an hour to get to my house and 3 hours getting back He could drink that lad

Thanks (2)
By kalaika
14th Dec 2018 16:15

If you are an ICAEW member or student, I would recommend contacting CABA

It'll cost you nothing and they would be able to assist you in your road to recovery (all in strictist confidence.)

If you are not ICAEW, other institutes may have similar services.

As for answering the phone, it's a no. You've been signed off, end of story. You've given a short handover to assist them, now focus on yourself. Your impatient boss will just have to deal with it and if he fires you for not doing it you might well have a case for unfair or constructive dismissal. If this happens, speak to ACAS ( and/or your institute.

Best wishes.

Thanks (2)
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