My wife has been working at the same UK office for about five years but recently the atmosphere has turned toxic. Some of it is due to increased workload for all involved, but most of it is caused by a new manager's inexperience.

Due to work problems my wife has seen a doctor, who recommended her to take time off work. She has no problem with that, but since she is planning to leave the place it worries her that this would be added to her sick record and may become an issue when applying for new jobs.

My assumption is that the answer is "no, they can't", unless you tell the prospective employer yourself. But since it is just an assumption I wanted to ask people who are likely to be better informed than I am..

  • If it's a leave recommend by a doctor, why would it be an issue even if it were public knowledge? Would breaking a leg in an accident be the same problem? Just trying to figure out the differences between EU states.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 5:35
  • 1
    @nvoigt - Not sure about that. I presume it is a similar difference between "I was injured in a car accident" vs "I was injured while kick-boxing". In the latter case a prospective employer may be afraid it could be a regular occurence and therefore decide not to hire this particular applicant.
    – Edders
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 9:03
  • 1
    Would the old employer even know the reason for the sickness? In my country that's protected information, the employer only gets to know "certified sick by a doctor" and the actual reason is none of their business.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 9:57
  • Just want to add that it is a good idea to take the sick leave, and find another job during it. Few people keep their jobs after returning from an extended sick or stress leave.
    – Trevor
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 12:35
  • @nvoigt - In a nutshell that is exactly what I'm asking.
    – Edders
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 12:50

2 Answers 2


Quoting from fitforwork.org:

While there is no law governing absence management, employers must make sure that recording their employees’ attendance data is in compliance with data protection laws. Sickness absence data is sensitive information and must be kept private and confidential.

If your employer is clued in about what constitutes sensitive data, they should be smart enough to withhold that information. This implies that prospective employers will be smart enough not to ask about it in the first place, so if they do ask about it, you probably want to keep looking.


Technically no but in the real world people usually do whatever they want in these sorts of scenarios as long as it isn't in writing.

Technically they aren't allowed to ask me if I'm married but at every single interview I have been to I have either been asked if I am or I have caught them glancing at my finger at some point.

Against the law doesn't mean jack.

There are other ways to ask about attendance without coming out and asking "how many sick days did Edders' Wife have? They can simply ask "how was Edders' Wife's attendance ethic?" which would have a "good or bad" response which is all they need.

Don't put much faith in laws, they only work on paper.

  • Though if the employee finds out, and can prove it, the penalties for violating the GDPR are pretty severe.
    – user
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 12:32
  • @aCVn if they find out. There's the old saying: if it isnt in writing it didnt happen. And since nobody will admit to anything and the damage is already done nothing will happen. This is how the real world works: in the gray area.
    – solarflare
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 21:39
  • Right; hence why the second word in my comment was "if", not "when".
    – user
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 6:29
  • @aCVn finding out is not enough, you also need to prove it ;)
    – solarflare
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 22:13
  • Which part of "if the employee finds out, and can prove it" did my initial comment fail to convey?
    – user
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 6:43

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