I am writing this blog post in the hope of totally discounting the Governments view of returning to work early after illness and against the advice of ones GP using first hand experience of this during my Stroke Recovery because there are untruths in there statements.
Firstly ill add this from the void:
New advice issued to doctors, patients and employers on sick pay shows just how far the Government intend to push the brutal regime for people on disability or sickness benefits into the workplace.
The DWP recently renamed ‘sick notes’ as ‘fit notes’ which in the new guidance has led to some genuinely Orwellian gobbledygook in the guidance such as: “if your employee’s doctor thinks they are fit for work, they will not be issued with a fit note.”
Just like the despised Atos run Work Capability Assessment, doctors can now declare a patient ‘fit for work’, unfit for work, or capable of some work but not necessarily the job they usually do. This means that if an employer makes some changes to a staff member’s working conditions then they may be forced back to work.
The new rules, which were devised in consultation with the Confederation of British Industry, seem little more than an attempt to bully people into work when they aren’t really well enough. The document is littered with bold claims that work is good for your health such as “People can often come back to work before they are 100% fit – in fact work can even help their recovery”.
Nowhere in the documents does it warn that people’s conditions may also be made far worse by going back to work before they are ready.
Bosses have welcomed the chance to force their sick employees back to work with one quoted as calling the new system ‘a joy’:
“The joy of the fit note is that it’s flexible enough for us to interpret and fit the GP’s recommendation within the context of our business.”
The truth is that the DWP are playing a dangerous game and could tempt employers into a legal minefield. One stark warning says: “You may need to carry out a risk assessment to accommodate the clinical judgement in the fit note (eg if it states that your employee should avoid lifting, you are liable if you give them work that involves manual handling).”
In a further complication, according to guidance from Citizen’s Advice, if employers refuse to make changes to an employee’s working conditions to accommodate doctor’s recommendations, then they are still liable to pay Statutory Sick Pay. The confusion doesn’t even end there. ‘Fit Notes’ are advice only and bosses are not legally obliged to follow that advice. They can sack you even if a doctor claims you are too ill to work. They could however then be taken to court. Employment tribunal lawyers will be rubbing their hands in glee at the DWP’s meddling with an already complex legal situation.
The DWP have already shown they are happy to play fast and loose with the Courts. Bosses who act the same way may be in for an expensive shock.
The guidance can be read at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/fitnote/
Now looking further at the legal aspect of this we have this:
Re Lord Freud’s slip remarks, he is talking baloney If you are unfit for work and you have medical evidence to prove it and you are employed, both yourself and your employer are committing criminal offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. By reducing your benefits as a result of an opinion by an ATOS medical
professional and the decision of the Decision Maker at the DWP, you are being coerced into seeking employment and committing a criminal offence. You and your employer face a fine of up to £20,000 and/or 1 year in prison if convicted summarily or up to a £2,0000 fine and/or up to 2 years in prison if found guilty on indictment. We need a legal campaign and/ or a test case. Any appellant who won at Tribunal can prove that the assessment was inadequate and should be compensated for the mental and possible physical ill effects on them, so to should the next of kin of those who have died. Every guilty individual involved in each case can be prosecuted including civil servants and ATOS staff AND corporate bodies i.e. ATOS and the DWP.. A Judicial review would also come in handy. If ATOS aren’t giving diagnoses how come they are giving prognoses? They are, according to Lord Freud eggs not deciding what’s wrong with you but saying when you’ll get better. Only a Doctor’s job I believe and only one who knows the full details of your medical history and carries out a thorough and proper medical assessment.
Now lets move forward further and put some first hand experience to how this would affect someone with an illness and returning to work early, for this I will use my own experience as it is very relevant and includes both mental and physical illness due to an SAH that caused a stroke I will not go into the details of that here but will concentrate just on the post stroke recovery but suffice to say my story can be read here for anyone that wishes to read it.
Now I came out of hospital without any Occupational Therapy and very little Physiotherapy and my only concern was getting my life back to how it was and wrongly thought in my case that returning to full time employment was a big factor in achieving that goal so I had just 4 weeks at home then decided to go back to work against the advice of my then GP, he said you have had a major traumatic event and thus need at least a year out to get your life back on track as their is more to life than just work.
Indeed thinking back now I understand what he meant, but at the time I did not understand the value and worth of life. The values of personal growth and development. The values social evolution and progress indeed my stroke took all this away and I was again on a steep learning curve. So I went back to my job as a valeter for a main dealer it was an 8am to 5.30pm labour intensive job and putting my right sided spasticity body in all manner of positions indeed 5.30 could not come soon enough by midday and I crawled home in so much pain where I would just sleep until the following morning then this process would start again.
I did this because it was all I knew but in hindsight I now understand it was wrong and should have put more faith in my GP and perhaps got guidance from an Occupational Therapist, maybe I would have done though if it was offered which it was not I was very much left to fend for myself after the six month post operative appointment at hospital.
I now live with joint damage to my wrist, hand, fingers, hip and foot plus a curvature to my spine all because I pushed myself to hard and fast in those early years of recovery and had I of had more Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy and took longer to recover and fit back into life I would not be suffering as much as I am now and maybe still be in employment.
So to sum up whilst we all agree that work is good for you on many fronts, returning to work to soon during recovery from an illness is bad advice/instruction from the Government because it could very well have a negative effect in later years in both a health and/or legal capacity and any instruction to return to work should be down to the real medical professionals your GP and/or Consultant.