EDIT: To clear up confusion as to the point of this. Travelling into work is a big no as I have a high risk of infection. However, I do feel as though I could do limited amounts of work remotely from home - I just want advice on talking to management, as I'm worried they will try and enforce me working normal hours and be expecting my normal output rate!

I've been signed off from work (based in the finance sector) for a month for health related reasons. It has been suggested by management that I could work remotely and if I'm interested I have to phone my manager to arrange this shortly.

However due to the painkillers that I'm taking and the constant discomfort I am in I do not want to work as I'm concerned that I am not able to work full time or to 100% of my capability.

Any suggestions how to tell my manager this? Also what are my rights? I'm signed off with a fit note, with no recommendations as to returning to work for the entire period (UK), do I in fact have to work at all if I'm feeling too tired/dazed?

  • 35
    If you've been signed off work then don't work. You could be exposing your employer to legal consequences by working. People working while signed off sick causes accidents. Nov 12, 2015 at 16:31
  • 5
    And if you do decide you want to try working part-time, get a doctor's letter detailing how much and for how long.
    – mkennedy
    Nov 12, 2015 at 18:01
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    @mkennedy on my fit note there is place for the GP to put requirements which could be met to allow return to work sooner however she did not enter anything in here and said that i would not need to review the fit note her again.
    – edin1232
    Nov 12, 2015 at 20:08
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    I think it's less "can you work sometimes" and more "when you work, will you be able to work effectively". Saying later "oh, I made really bad decisions because of the painkillers" won't be good for anyone. It's not worth the risk for you, or for your employer.
    – Móż
    Nov 12, 2015 at 21:38
  • 2
    What's your employer's (and yours) opinion and/or policy on doing financial work under the influence of narcotics? This will likely influence the ultimate decision.
    – corsiKa
    Nov 12, 2015 at 23:24

3 Answers 3


There are several reasons why you should not contact your manager:

1. Liability

You're off sick. I'm going to assume some sort of insurance is involved here. Sometimes the "time off" is guaranteed only because you are unable to perform your duties. An insurance company might claim that because you are able to work, they shouldn't have to support some of your expenses, etc. Analyze your situation from this point of view.

2. Perception

You've taken a not insignificant time off of work. I'm sure that it's impacted your office quite heavily. The only reason so much time off would be approved is for a very serious medical reason, with the understanding that you simply cannot fulfill your duties. And then your manager gets an email saying:

"Hi, I could do some work. But not all of it. And not full work-days, or maybe not even during business hours. In fact, give me something to do and I'll chip away at it. I'll finish it soon. Maybe. If I feel well. If."

Your manager/team/company may think you are not as sick as you claimed you were. This could be ruinous to your future in that company.

3. Reliability

Consider the above text. Your manager might be in a bind with you gone, but what he needs most is not just that the job get done, but that it gets done reliably. You will, of course, express yourself far more professionally than I did up there, but what it comes down to is that you can't offer stability or reliability. You may feel well, or you may not. You may put 5 hours into a task today, or 2, because you're sick, or need to go to the doctor. You're not in a position to guarantee productivity, work hours, etc. Accepting your help would just throw an extra wrench in the manager's daily routine, as he wouldn't know when to expect your work to be done, or how to tell you to hurry up, since you're sick and he can't really ask anything of you.

4. Give them a finger ...

Your manager might be truly swamped due to your absence. They can't wait for you to get back. Then you volunteer your help. They thank you profusely, and assign you a minor task to get done. You feel useful, and chip away at it when you can. But then your other co-worker calls in sick.

They had a big deadline coming up, and them not finishing their task will set the whole project back. Well, bnjmn knows how to do that stuff, right? And he volunteered to help, it's not like we're in the wrong to ask. So bnjmn, there's this task .. not much needs to be done .. just fill in a few details .. can't be more than a couple of hours worth of work, and it's really urgent! Do you think you could help us out? Yes? Fabulous! Oh, can I get the revised version before the end of the day? OK, great, thanks.

Do you want to end up in that situation? Because you very well may.

5. Your health

You're off because you're recovering from a medical condition. Your "job" during this time is to get better. Relax! Read some books, learn something new, get involved with a hobby - within your current capabilities, of course. You'll be working your whole life!

Take the chance to rest and recuperate when it is offered to you - it's not like you don't have a good reason for it! Forget the office, forget work. Just focus on getting better.

That's my (long winded) 2 cents. Hope it helps, and get better!

  • 22
    I think you missed "making decisions while fuzzy-brained on painkillers". Which is important. With many painkillers you're not allowed to drive or operate other dangerous machinery... should you be working?
    – Móż
    Nov 12, 2015 at 21:39
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    @Mσᶎ: exactly, it's the second leg to the issue of "liability". The employer has a responsibility to the employee, and it also has a responsibility to its clients. Putting it bluntly, would a company in the finance sector knowingly have its work done by someone on heroin? Or tell its clients that its staff are on smack? Probably not, when you put it that way, now consider the specific painkillers the questioner is on... Nov 13, 2015 at 0:30
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    " I'm going to assume some sort of insurance is involved here." That's not a good assumption. The asker states they're in the UK, which means their employer is legally obliged to pay them a certain minimum amount (statutory sick pay) for the first 28 weeks of their absence. Medical costs are covered by the National Health Service, which is paid for through general taxation. Nov 13, 2015 at 9:56
  • @DavidRicherby Just clicking on the link you've provided, it says: "You need to qualify for SSP and have been off work sick for 4 or more days in a row (including non-working days)." - If he is working every once in a while, the same idea may apply - it could be argued he doesn't need/qualify SSP since he's working every once in a while. (depending how long "while" is) - and granted that would be a pretty strange/unmoral action for a company to do to a employee just trying to help. Nov 13, 2015 at 16:12
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    For some reason I read number 4 as "give them the finger" and thought BEST ADVICE EVER. Nov 13, 2015 at 16:56

Since management is pushing this, you need to immediately go to your doctor and have him put in writing what you can and cannot do. I suspect he will tell you that even working remotely is not acceptable. Follow your doctor's orders in this case. You need the documentation from your doctor in case they get pissy about you not working remotely.

In general your management is unacceptably out of line to be pushing you to do this. No you can't work remotely when you are in pain and on pain medication and it is cruel to even suggest you do so. Depending on the strength of the meds, you might not even be able to work effectively at all and will just cause the project to get further behind.

A year after the deadline on the project, no one will care that it was missed, but you could still be in pain for the rest of your life if you don't follow the doctor's orders. Don't risk your health for a short-term goal, ever.

  • 22
    Don't risk your health for a short-term goal, ever. Especially if it's not your goal.
    – Jane S
    Nov 12, 2015 at 21:08

If you've been signed off from work, then don't work and get better. That's the whole point of the doctor saying that currently you are not fit to work for X period.

On the other hand, if you want to work remotely part-time to transition back to working full time again after your sign-off period is over then your manager should be able to accommodate you as you're making a reasonable effort to overcome any limitations which may remain.

  • my job is computer based (finance) i am able to do everything remotely, does this change anything?
    – edin1232
    Nov 12, 2015 at 17:20
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    Why are you signed off work? If it's because you are not able to do your job in your current state (or you need the time without work to recover), then you are not able to do your job, and doing it 'remotely' doesn't make any difference. The only reason remote working might help is if it's just the travel you are unable to do. Nov 12, 2015 at 17:39
  • Travelling is a big no, risk of infection is high so physically working is off the table. However, I do believe I could do limited amounts of work from home - I just want to know good ways of approaching management at work as i'm worried they will try and make me work normals hours and be expecting my normal work rate!
    – edin1232
    Nov 12, 2015 at 17:48

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