31

I have a chronic condition that my workplace is aware of. For what it's worth I am a developer and have worked at this company for five years. I am in the UK and the condition is covered under the equality act. It is a small company, less than ten employees.

The condition has been managed through this time and I have never had to take time off sick for it until the last two months during a flare up of the condition. Total time actually off sick in these months is two days.

Last week I deemed myself to be struggling to cope with worsening symptoms and working at the same time. I saw my doctor and was signed off as unfit to work for two weeks. I duly sent the form via email same day to the two directors of the company. One was away on leave until the following Monday.

I received no reply to this message or any acknowledgement of the sick note last week.

My condition worsened and I ended up in hospital in the early hours of Monday morning and was admitted where I have been since, making improvements and generally feeling better in myself as soon as treatment began soon after I arrived.

I duly updated my workplace in the afternoon of Monday, still having received no reply or acknowledgment to my previous message. In this email I suggested that I will have some special considerations to be considered before I return to work to aid my return.

Later that day I received a reply. This reply informed me that they will try to schedule a meeting to discuss the return to work before I am back. Which is fine. It also informed me that the two directors had discussed the situation that day, decided that they were going to hire a contract replacement for at least the time of my sick leave perhaps longer. I later found out from a colleague that actually they had already held two phone interviews, decided which developer they were hiring and he was due to start the following day.

This is where I'm not particularly happy about the situation and feel like it has been mismanaged. Before a reply had even been written to me, they had already deemed it appropriate to start a hiring process and hold interviews, then lied to me about the stage they were at.

I expressed my disappointment the following morning. The reply was that there would be no further contact until I return to work. So I'm guessing I won't get a meeting to discuss my return to work.

My question is that, is this a standard procedure? I feel rather let down by my workplace by the whole situation. It feels as if there's no compassion or care for staff members at the best of times but on a personal level this time it feels almost like it was done on purpose.

Should this situation have been handled in a different way or am I over reacting emotionally to business decisions? How should I handle my return and voicing my opinion on the situation? For context I've heard that the contractor isn't working out and hasn't actually been able to make any changes thus far, this is something I've voiced a concern over when the idea of contractors has been brought up before.

Edit - thankyou for all replies and comments. I will get back in due course but please know everyone has been useful in some way. There's some confusion on the timeline I've set out which is the main source of this question. Essentially I was waiting for five days for any acknowledgement of my leave during this time it escalated.

  • @Blueriver If I get the timeline right, OP sent email about his situation on Monday afternoon and got a response email Later that day. I can hardly call that does not answering an email. – tweray Sep 6 at 17:58
66

First, I am sorry for your condition, and I wish that you get well soon.

However, I do not see a real problem in what happened, even if your assumption / worries are (partially) founded. Please keep in mind the following information:

  1. A company has the right to hire (fully) anyone at any time, without informing employees.
  2. A company has the right to hire (contract) anyone at any time, without informing employees.
  3. It is normal that the company needs to cover for your absence. If the workload is not that high, one or more colleagues might be able to take the burden. If the workload is high enough, and the deadlines close, then bringing externals might seem the better choice.
  4. Managers do not inform the employees about many things. Whatever colleagues might say, even if it is true, might be out of context.

My advice:

  1. Right now, deal with your health problems, they are your highest priority. Get well soon.
  2. After you return to work, assess the situation. Have discussions with directors. Ask for work. Ask for the "roadmap" ahead of you regarding your responsibilities.
  3. Don't express your worries to your directors yet. It is possible that they are honest in their intentions (even though the handling of the situation is apparently less than good), and your worries might sound like under-cover accusations.

Bottom line: Wait until you return to your job, and react according to real-world information, instead of gossips or worries.

  • 22
    Added to this, you had a defined sign-off period which then got unexpectedly extended when you went into hospital. Based on the uncertainty of your return in the short term, it doesn't seem productive to go ahead with the return-to-work meeting until you're fully recovered, hence (I guess) the cancellation of that meeting. Still, the management could have been clearer and more supportive in their communication. – Snow Sep 6 at 6:56
  • 2
    Thankyou for your comment it's reassuring in the mean time. I agree with what you've said. There's a fairly long line of history of management decisions in the company that add to some of my thinking but nevertheless, you've convinced me to be a bit more open to reasoning. The only other thing is the mentioning of deadlines, part of the poor management in the past is deadlines never being set and by extension, there are none to meet now so external help hasn't got any direction. As mentioned, I've raised these concerns before. – GojiWash Sep 6 at 7:00
  • 2
    Yes, this is the correct answer. They made a business decision to hire someone in the short term to cover for the POTENTIAL case that the OP may not be able to work. – Gregory Currie Sep 6 at 9:13
  • @GregoryCurrie Which is, after all, the whole point of Contract Workers - to provide short-term "overflow" staffing when urgently needed, without having unnecessary numbers of staff twiddling their thumbs when not! – Chronocidal Sep 6 at 15:17
  • 1
    Speaking as a developer, it's often pretty hard to become productive at a new position, or even a "new to you" legacy project, in just a few days. Bringing in short term help can actually slow progress down, as others are usually needed to train the person. I understand mgmt wanting to hedge their bet, but IMO there's little to warrant that need, from what the OP has stated so far. – computercarguy Sep 6 at 16:46
10

This is where I'm not particularly happy about the situation and feel like it has been mismanaged. Before a reply had even been written to me, they had already deemed it appropriate to start a hiring process and hold interviews, then lied to me about the stage they were at.

They simply don't need your permission to seek for a cover for your work. I didn't say replacement because it may be interpreted like if your position was jeopardized.

No, that's not what I ever meant. Your company, according to your worsened health conditions, is taking action on re-planning projects and resources. If they didn't, you would be a bottleneck.

Two more things:

  1. Be prepared to the event that your company may intentionally (and partially) redound you, so that in case of future health events someone may quickly cover you. This is normally done by hiring one resource that (partially) covers your fields of competence, and/or by asking you to train other employees on your task, write more docs, etc.
  2. Do not necessarily expect bad things. Especially if you have law from your side, don't think, again, that your health will necessarily jeopardize your job. Simply and realistically, you may just become a non-critical resource. Or the company may simply work to increase their bus factor

Your description does not necessarily indicate a poor management. For what concerns me, if I was one of the directors I would have acknowledged with a "get well" email just for a matter of human factor.

Get well, anyway!

4

I have a chronic condition that my workplace is aware of. For what it's worth I am a developer and have worked at this company for five years.

From the look of things, they weren't really aware of. Yes, you have told them and they probably remembered it, maybe even had some note on your file or something saying "GojiWash has a chronic condition", but they considered it some kind of theoretical thing that wasn't going to impact on your work.

Then, suddenly, the theory becomes reality: your condition starts having a very much real impact on your work. Now they are aware of your condition and are doing what they should have done five years ago: taking the steps to have a substitute in line should your condition prevent you from working.

My question is that, is this a standard procedure?

This is not standard procedure, this is probably a panic reaction. They clearly underestimated your condition and its chronicity and are trying to set up a "fix" as quickly as they can.

I feel rather let down by my workplace by the whole situation.

They are not letting you down now, they let you down when they decided not to plan in advance for something that was bound to happen.

Should this situation have been handled in a different way or am I over reacting emotionally to business decisions?

Both. This should have been handled in a different time (like, five years ago), but at this moment this is the only business decision they could make. You should stay calm, take care of yourself and concentrate on getting better. Maybe, when you get back to work, they will have learned from their mistakes.

How should I handle my return and voicing my opinion on the situation?

Once you return, you should ask a meeting with the management to discuss the fact that they are not able to cover for your work in case something really possible happens. You should offer to train somebody so they can cover for you if this happens again (who this somebody is going to be, either a colleague or a contractor, is up to them).


From the tone of your question, it seems that you fear you are going to be replaced. With the information you have now, it's not possible to say. While having your resume updated and ready to be sent is always a good idea, you should not worry about this until you come back and start having first-hand informations about what's going on with this contractor. In fact, you should be able to tell if they are considering replacing you the moment you suggest to start training somebody else (and, since they now know it's hard to just drop in a replacement, this will give you time to prepare, with trusty informations at hand).

3

Reading your post, I was a little surprised at the escalation. To recap:

  • You informed the company of your condition at some much-earlier point.
  • There were basically no problems preventing you from work until recently.
  • Your condition worsened and you took off two days.
  • <2 months later, your condition worsened again and now you're off for weeks.

No communication?

There's two conflicting truths here. One is that you work at a small company with a small number of staff. The second is that nobody seems to be aware of what's happening with you.

Maybe you're a super-private person. Maybe you can't stand your co-workers. Maybe there's a religious or ethnic barrier. But I'm somewhat surprised that you don't have one good work-pal that you chat with to keep the office informed, unofficially.

The Trend

If you're actually doing important work, and I'm the manager, and your condition flares up, knocks you out for two days, then worsens and takes you out for 2 weeks, I'm going to take steps. The trend here is not "oh, there's no problem." The trend is "next time it will be 2 months."

Cross-training

What's worse, it doesn't sound like there's an adequate substitute in the office. I don't know if the office is running short-handed, or if you are afraid to train a replacement, or if everyone lives in their own little silo. But hopefully management will learn from this incident the benefit of having some cross-training. If they don't, you should probably bring this up at some appropriate time. Perhaps when you're requesting a company-funded trip to a conference in some sunny place. ;-)

Your questions

You ask a bunch of questions, but it seems you already know the answers. If this is a small company, then of course this is not "standard procedure" because they will have never seen this before. If they are making mistakes, they're quite likely to be fresh new mistakes!

There's nothing you can do about this. What you should be doing is prioritizing your health first; keeping them informed; and keeping copies of all correspondence about this. In particular, make sure you archive your correspondence off-premises to somewhere you control.

If you get illegally or unjustly terminated, it sounds like you'll have recourse. But keeping a copy of the relevant documentation will make the whole process easier.

The Good News

As others have pointed out, requiring immediate replacement and having a replacement struggle to do your tasks is good thing at one level. It's also an indicator that your tasks aren't adequately documented.

I'd expect to be having some unusual conversations with your management when you get back. It might seem like they're preparing to terminate you. (And they might be, but you're protected, right?) But they have an obligation to fix these issues, so try to keep that in mind.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.