I am asking this question on behalf of my mother, who works in a UK factory. She recently had an operation that impairs her mobility.

Situation before the operation

My mother had an admin role that is office-based. She is well praised for her efficiency and she enjoys it.

Situation during sick leave

When my mother had her operation, she gave advanced notice and trained a colleague to cover her work. The colleague did an OK job, but she prefers being on the factory floor. This involves being stood all day and is physically demanding.

Situation when my mother returns to work

When my mother returned to work, she was informed that her role will be swapped with her covering colleague. This is allowed in her contract.

Now my mother is asked to work a role that is too physically demanding for her, and her colleague is asked to work in a role where the colleague is unhappy and less efficient.

A few days after returning to work, my mother visited the doctor and was given a sick note for another 14 days.

The question

To compound all of this, my mother's immediate supervisor is not approachable at all (he doesn't want to hear about the situation described).

Given this, my question is how can my mother go about resuming her old duties?

  • 3
    Relevant... See section 15 and section 62 also
    – JohnHC
    Jun 7, 2017 at 8:36
  • 2
    I would also suggest discussing this with Citizens Advice as the employer should not be changing the job that your mother is returning to, and she may have grounds for a tribunal
    – JohnHC
    Jun 7, 2017 at 8:43
  • 1
    Your mother can't be forced todo work a docter wont allow her. So her Company can't give her factory floor if she gets a docters note. Jun 7, 2017 at 9:51
  • @JoeStrazzere: She would have been fit for work if it was office based, but not fit for work otherwise.
    – user27483
    Jun 7, 2017 at 9:53
  • For how long is your mother's mobility likely to be impaired? If it's a permanent or long-term effect, she may have additional rights in law. Is you mother a union member, and if so has she contacted her rep?
    – user52889
    Jun 7, 2017 at 20:45

1 Answer 1


A risk assessment is required under the law:

Under health and safety law you have to undertake a risk assessment of your activities to prevent people being harmed by your work activities. Further information about these risk assessment requirements is set out in paragraphs 5-8 in Appendix 1 and in the HSE publications listed in Appendix 6. You need to review your risk assessment and possibly amend it:

  • if there has been a significant change in your employee through illness, injury or disability that makes them vulnerable to additional risk; or

  • if you are introducing adjustments as outlined in paragraphs 54-61 that could affect the work and health of others.

There are safety related legal requirements related to employees returning from illness:

Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (HSWA) 1974

You also have responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act to protect employees, after they return to work, if they have become more vulnerable to risk because of illness, injury or disability.

There are legal precedents related to stress as well:

Mrs Wheeldon (part time job share manager) was signed off work for three weeks due to stress after suffering a panic attack at work. Alternative posts were offered to the claimant upon her return, but she opted to remain were she was. Despite a report warning of a reoccurrence of the symptoms her manager made no changes to her duties which ultimately led to Mrs Wheeldon's resignation. It was the court's decision that the employer had breached its duty of care and allowed her depression to “continue and flourish”. Damages were awarded and a further payment for pain, suffering and loss of amenities.


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