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I am a software engineer in one of the big tech hubs in Canada who was poised to move across the country to the other. A couple of months ago, I accepted a new job with a firm there to start in the middle of February. However, I badly injured my left shin and ankle back in November. I hoped it would be better, but my doctor told me that it needs more time and potentially surgery if things do not improve. Well, it has not improved and I am in the middle of booking various medical treatments and additional physiotherapy.

I live with my parents in this city, so I don't need to do anything in terms of mobility. They can get groceries and packages for me and we live in the suburbs, so deliveries come straight to the door. They can make the big meals for me as it is hard for me to stand for more than a few minutes. I am still capable of working for my current employer as my existing job requires nothing of me than that I code and being a progressive workplace, has all the accessibility requirements met like elevators and large desks. They also moved the standups to the closer boardroom. It also works because my father has a job nearby and can drop me at the door every morning in his car. This job also pays for all the drugs and physio, something I wouldn't get right away with the new company.

In the new city, I would not have this level of support. My current condition does not allow me to drive and the new city is very dense and getting to the job will require transit and I cannot walk very far even with the crutches. I can't even drag a suitcase behind me in my current state, so I am not exactly sure how I would move. If I shipped my goods via Fedex, I am not sure I could get them into my prospective condo if they left them at the front desk. I also have no medical network there.

I informed them of this potential problem early on (late December) and told them that I may have to delay my start date. Their response was that "plenty of people come to work on crutches and painkillers." I felt somewhat guilty for making excuses, so I got a perscription for painkillers and those allowed me to somewhat walk on the leg at the cost of a lot of extra swelling when I do that. I can live with it if needed.

My doctor has a very dim view of all this. His view is that I need to stay in the city until at least mid April unless I want to limp forever. Historically he has overestimated things because he has been my doctor since I was 3, but even if I changed it to end of March, that is still a big shift.

How do I handle this with the company? It is a bit awkward explaining how my current employer works because of my city but not a different employer in another city.

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    Have you given notice with your current employer? – Matthew Gaiser Jan 19 at 21:49
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    The response to "plenty of people come to work on crutches and painkillers" is "I'm sorry I wasn't clear. This is way past crutches and painkillers. I can't live alone in your city and I can't navigate a downtown/transit commute until April at the earliest." – Kate Gregory Jan 19 at 22:21
  • I attended university with a broken leg and ribs – Kilisi Jan 20 at 0:03
  • Key factors are how long someone can stand, and how far they can walk, both of which depend on the medical details, something the doctor should be able to evaluate. – Patricia Shanahan Jan 20 at 1:11
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    @Kilisi your point? – undefined Jan 20 at 9:43
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Given the way your issue has been handled by each company, I'd be revisiting the decision to leave. A supportive company is often worth more than a couple of dollars in the paycheck.

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    This. Why would you want to work for a new company that is already asking you to risk your long term health, before you've even started? I would be inclined to pull the plug on the move, be grateful for the support from your current company, and start looking for a new job again once you're back to 100% if you still have the impulse to move. – fubar Jan 20 at 1:26
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Accepted a job in a new city, but then badly injured my leg. My doctor told me not to move now. What does professionalism require?

Professionalism requires that you follow your doctor's directions. Give your new employer the worst possible April estimate (or a May estimate in case it takes you a couple of weeks to move cities once you're able to).

Clearly, your doctor knows better than you do. You've been super foolish thus far trying to walk on that leg. And you're gearing up to do the same foolish thing again (because of some weird narrative you've constructed in your mind about your family doctor). If you keep on ignoring your doctor's advice, it probably won't be until December that you recover.

It is a bit awkward explaining how my current employer works because of my city but not a different employer in another city.

Do not volunteer more information than you need to right now.

Just tell them your physical predicament and provide a picture of the doctor's note, so that they can verify it if they want to.

If this issue of your end date comes up during your reference check, then explain it at that time. But personally, I wouldn't worry about that if I were you. After seeing the doctor's note, no one is going to ask you anything.

  • Yeah, I admittedly don't have a good track record of taking care of myself. The narrative is probably more optimism on my part than anything factual. – engineerliteral Jan 19 at 21:35
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    I worked at a very abusive company. I gave them a doctor's note and they went out of their way to do the opposite of what my doctor said. You need to look after your health first. – CJ Dennis Jan 19 at 22:52
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    @CJDennis, Well, if he does lose the new job because of this, it will be a bullet dodged if that happens. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 20 at 1:18
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The professional thing to do is to keep your new employer informed of all the advice your doctor gives you as well as what you decide to do in accordance with that advice.

Since you haven't even started, asking for a temporary remote position might be a tough sell, but it's worth asking for. You can still do 1-on-1 learning though conference calls and video chat. There are ways to share screens and code so you aren't completely in the dark as to what's going on. This isn't a "magic pill" to solve all the problems you're facing, but it's something to show them that you are still interested in the position. If they agree, you know they are still interested in having you as well as knowing they are willing to work with you during situations like this.

Not every company allows remote work, especially for a new employee, so it may not work.

Don't let them bully you into coming sooner than your doctor allows. If this means the job disappears, then feel lucky you aren't stuck in a possibly toxic work environment, where they don't let you take time off for personal health reasons. Granted, you haven't started yet, but it's a clue as to their normal mindset. There are definitely times when an employer needs the new hire immediately or they otherwise can't wait months for the new hire, however, this isn't something that you did on purpose or are just "on the fence" about the job.

A reasonable employer will let you delay your start date a reasonable amount of time. A month or two shouldn't be unreasonable due to the circumstances. More than that becomes tougher to determine. If they are willing to work with you on any of this, that's a good sign this is a decent employer. Maybe they can't wait, so see if they are amicable with you applying for another position when you finally get healed enough to make the move. Even if they say it's ok, don't be surprised if you don't get that job, though. The hiring manager might be different and HR might (likely will) have a different view on the situation.

Good luck and I hope things work out for you in a positive manner!

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The professional thing is to keep personal issues from affecting your work as much as possible.

So my first recourse would be to talk to the doctor. Explain your situation and see if there is anything that can be arranged. I'd go see another doctor if the first can't solve issues like this.

After that you can move forwards depending on the doctors advice.

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    Keeping yourself healthy is more than just a "personal issue", and needs to be dealt with at any job. There's a reason for all the ergonomic devices, services, and requirements at jobs. And something as important as the ability to walk is more than just a "personal issue" on it's own. Being professional doesn't mean ignoring doctors orders or going to another doctor just to see if they are less stringent on the "orders" part. Your advice is setting up the OP for failure, unfortunately, by them trying to work out what's best for the company, rather than themselves. – computercarguy Jan 20 at 19:48
  • @computercarguy location specific as well as utter drivel.... your plan is more likely to see the OP unemployed... or off any fast track in career terms – Kilisi Jan 21 at 17:22
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    Your plan is likely to see the OP working like a slave and dead at 40 from a heart attack, or burnt-out at 35. Also, your perspective seems to be more from an employers perspective than an employees perspective. Regardless, I'd much rather be unemployed than working for another employer that doesn't care about employee health. – computercarguy Jan 21 at 17:54
  • @computercarguy you make sacrifices and do the hard yards if you want to get ahead..... not drama.... it's old school mentality, but valid in it's own way – Kilisi Jan 22 at 13:22
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    There's a huge difference between working hard for your company and killing yourself for your company. Too many people forget this. We rationalize the extreme hard work by comparing it to "our forefathers", yet we refuse to see how bad it is for us and was for them. “No one ever said on their deathbed ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’ ” It's more true now than ever before. Also, old school businesses actually rewarded their employees, which doesn't happen anymore. Today isn't 30+ years ago. Long tenures and pensions are now the exception instead of the rule. – computercarguy Jan 22 at 17:06

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