I have a member of staff who has been with the company for nine months. In that time she has now had twelve weeks off sick, and is currently signed off for a further three weeks meaning that her current period of sickness absence will have lasted nine weeks.

Previous incidences have been for a variety of reasons but this current period is the one causing me concern. She is signed off with anxiety. I have tried to ask her to come in and talk with me so as to offer support and to establish if she would like to come back on a part time basis or in any other way that might be useful to her.

She didn’t turn up to a first meeting and said she didn’t receive my letter, then refused to attend a second meeting. She has refused me permission to receive any information from her GP and will not discuss anything with me over the telephone (in fact she put the phone down on me!)

What she did tell me on the phone is that she can’t come back at the moment as she is leaving her husband and needs to do things like find somewhere to live.

Whilst I am sympathetic and I don’t want to add to her stresses, I am struggling with how to handle this.

Firstly – it seems to me that looking for a new house doesen’t warrant being off sick – but I don’t know how I can challenge this as she has a GP Certificate. Does anyone have any thoughts that might help me?

Secondly, due to the nature of her job and her lack of cooperation, I am now being pushed by my managers to dismiss her on the grounds of capabiliity. They are saying that as she has been employed for less than a year it will be no problem to do this as as she can’t claim unfair dismissal. But I am thinking that a condition such as anxiety may be protected by the DDA – does anyone have any info that might help me with establishing that?

Then I wonder whether any such protection offered by the DDA is still valid if she won’t discuss any options with me? If so – what do I do – do I just have to wait it out until she decides to either come back to work or to come and talk to me?

Any help or advice gratefully received.
Sam Swinstead

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