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From the HR files

Post date: 03/11/2017 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 15/03/2019

HR experts Croner share a case where a practice sought their advice to deal with an employee with a disciplinary issue who was on long-term sick leave.


Read this article to:

  • Learn how to appropriately deal with an employee on long-term sick leave
  • Find out more on how to conduct employee disciplinary proceedings
  • Discover the advice and support Croner can provide you as a member of Practice Xtra
Mr B, a long-serving key employee of the practice, who had a history of suffering with panic attacks and severe depression, had to take several months off work. During this period, Mr B failed to communicate with Mrs H, the practice manager. Prior to Mr B’s long period of absence, there had been a breach of confidentiality issue in relation to a patient’s file, which the practice had needed to address with Mr B. An investigatory meeting was initially conducted, after which Mr B did not return to work and sent in a Fitness for Work Statement, stating that he was suffering with depression. This resulted in a difficult situation for the practice to manage − one of capability and potential disability issues along with a possible conduct issue. The practice sought expert advice on how to deal with the situation.

External support

The Croner consultant guided Mrs H on the process for obtaining medical information about Mr B and helped her to interpret the information provided in the report. Advice was given on how to conduct a meeting with the employee to discuss the report and the type of questions to ask and points to consider, namely:

  1. The employee’s medical condition and the prognosis for the future
  2. Absence to date and assessment of the impact on the practice
  3. Consideration of reasonable adjustments to the role to assist their return to work and ongoing employment
  4. Consideration of alternative job roles to assist their return to work and ongoing employment
  5. The way forward and ongoing review. 

Further complexities arose when Mr B claimed that he was too ill to attend the meeting and raised a grievance stating that he felt he was being harassed by Mrs H, the manager handling the process.

The advisory service helped the practice to manage this by recommending a grievance hearing. The advisor explained how this should be conducted and the types of questions to ask and points to discuss.

At this meeting, it transpired that Mr B felt harassed but the advisor concluded that there was no evidence to support his claim. This issue was closed and a further meeting was then organised to discuss the medical report with an aim to facilitate a return to work as soon as possible.

A phased return was agreed with Mr B and he was offered ongoing support and counselling by the practice to support him going forward. Reasonable adjustments were discussed and agreed with the advisor and put into place for Mr B to help facilitate his return to work − this included reduced working hours and a revised workload.
Subsequently, an investigatory meeting was arranged with Mr B to discuss the breach of confidentiality issue and errors made in this regard. Due to mitigating circumstances, training and supervision were put in to place for Mr B. With the help of training and ongoing supervision, he successfully returned to work. 

Find out more

Croner is the UK’s leading provider of information, advice and support in the areas of employment law and health and safety. Their qualified specialists have the experience to fully understand the issues and concerns you face working in general practice. 

Advice line

All Practice Xtra members can benefit from free access to the Croner helpline, for legal advice and support with matters including sickness and absence, holiday, pay and employee rights. Whatever you need to know they will provide you with information you can trust, whenever you need it. 

Time-saving resources

Gold Practice Xtra members can benefit from free access to the Croner-i Professional Practice Manager website. It’s a resource for everyday management, with a range of templates you can download and customise for yourself, including model policies, ‘how to’ guides, sample letters and forms. 

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