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What should I do if I'm too ill to work?

It may become apparent that your health is not getting any better or that your employer is unwilling or unable to support you.

If you have to stop working, you may be eligible for welfare benefits.

Before stopping work, particularly if your employer is supportive, ask yourself:

  • have all possible reasonable adjustments been made, as required under the Equality Act?
  • has any phased return to work been realistic enough, in M.E. terms?
  • have you and your employer sought advice from an occupational therapist or disability employment adviser at Jobcentre Plus?
  • have you and your employer considered redeployment to an alternative job within your organisation?
  • is there any possibility of early retirement on medical grounds (like Jenny) or voluntary redundancy, with pay in lieu of notice (tax free)?
  • have you explored the possibility of very part-time or even voluntary work, or re-employment at a later date when you have recovered sufficiently?

If your employer has acted fairly and made reasonable adjustments and it is just not feasible for you to continue to work for them, your employer may have grounds to dismiss you on grounds of capability (ie. because you are no longer capable of doing the job you are contracted to do).

If this happens, or seems likely to happen, speak to an experienced adviser, such as Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) or your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, as soon as possible.

They can advise you about whether your employer has acted reasonably and tell you about welfare benefits.

If you are advised that your employer has not acted fairly and made reasonable adjustments, you may have grounds to take your employer to an employment tribunal on the grounds of disability discrimination.

If you give up your job because your employer has put you under unreasonable pressure, you may have grounds for constructive dismissal.

It is essential to get experienced advice right away, because any claim you wish to make to an employment tribunal must be made within three months of the date of your dismissal.


If your employer is unsupportive

If your manager is unsupportive, is there someone else you can talk to to try to improve matters? This could be your manager’s manager, someone in your Personnel or HR deparment, an employee representative or trade union official.

Seek advice from an organisation such as ACAS. Keep a record of any discussions, meetings, emails, letters or other communications and actions you take to try to remedy the situation.

If speaking to your manager and others doesn’t work, you may wish to consider invoking your company's standard grievance procedure.

You may be required to have raised the issue in this way if you later take legal action against your employer.

If your employer has failed to meet the requirements of the Equality Act and you do not reach an agreement through ACAS (or a similar organisation), you could take your employer to an employment tribunal and claim disability discrimination.

If you wish to do this you must get experienced advice as soon as possible, as a claim to an employment tribunal must be made within three months of dismissal.