Sicknesss absence triggers - you gotta laugh!

I was off sick from mid Jan16 - mid May 16 during which time I was diagnosed with MS. Upon my return to work I was told that I had been put on sickness monitoring. The trigger levels where I work (NHS) are about 3.5% of your yearly working hours OR three episodes of absence. I thought this was a bit unfair given the diagnosis but there was little I could do about it. I even asked for meetings with Line Manager, H.R. Occupational Health and Union but nothing really changed although they did say they ‘might’ look upon absences more favourably in the future given that I am technically ‘disabled’.

In August this year I had about 3 days off. In Sept/Oct I had a few weeks off, with a couple of days in the middle when I tried unsuccessfully to go back to work.

I have heard from my line manager today that I have been put on monitoring again. Apparently HR HAVE taken into account my MS in that I actually had three episodes of sickness, but as two were close together they’ve only counted it as two. I still trigger on hours though.

Fat lot of good that has done me!

Juls (actually feeling amused at the irony!)

Their conditions of employment come after the Equalities Act; the Law.

If you feel you are being victimised; because you cannot help having time off; it’s time to put your foot down with a firm hand.

Your Union should know better and be in there fighting your corner

Read Making sure an adjustment is effective | Equality and Human Rights Commission

A disabled worker has been absent from work as a result of depression. Neither the worker nor their doctor is able to suggest any adjustments that could be made. Nevertheless the employer should still consider whether any adjustments, such as working from home for a time or changing working hours or offering more day-to-day support, would be reasonable.

Has your employer done this?

Further on Reasonable adjustments in practice | Equality and Human Rights Commission

An employer allows a disabled person who has recently developed a condition to have more time off work than would be allowed to non-disabled workers to enable them to have rehabilitation. A similar adjustment would be appropriate if a disability worsens or if a disabled worker needs occasional treatment anyway.

A worker who has cancer needs to undergo treatment and rehabilitation. Their employer allows a period of disability leave and permits them to return to their job at the end of this period.

Don’t forget Access to Work; lots of benefits Get support in work if you have a disability or health condition (Access to Work) - GOV.UK


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Thanks for that George - i’ll have a good look over the weekend. When I went back to work following my diagnosis I had a meeting involving my line manager, HR, Occupational Health and my union rep. Unfortunately the union rep was as much use as a chocolate fireguard so I doubt he’d be much help.

I work for a govt. department and have had MS 15. years. I have been given an extra 2 days on top of the statutory 7 standard sickness figure before further action is taken. Whay hey!! Aren’t I lucky. Paul

[quote=“NanaJuls”] I thought this was a bit unfair given the diagnosis but there was little I could do about it. I even asked for meetings with Line Manager, H.R. Occupational Health and Union but nothing really changed although they did say they ‘might’ look upon absences more favourably in the future given that I am technically ‘disabled’


Might look upon it favourably?? i would think your protected characteristic of Disabled under the Equality act may have a bearing on how you should be treated in this respect.

I would definately be speaking to your union rep and if they don’t seem to be much use try higher up that chain.I don’t know about Nhs disciplinary procedures but i would think that being told you were on some kind of monitoring process involved some kind of disciplinary meeting? and that you would have been entitled to to be accompanied by a colleague or union rep to this?Perhaps thats not the case and the procedures make this a ‘standard’ thing on return after trigger point? In which case it may be that the union cant really do much as yet and would wait until it goes to next stage.

Failing that or just to be more informed and ready get onto the,they have a helpline you can ring for advise i think.

Good luck and try not to let the bastards get you down!

My company HR and Health & safety managers both told me that there are 3 illnesses where a company have to fully recognise that the illnesses are unique to other illnesses when looking at sickness records, these illnesses are Cancer, HIV & MS.

I’m not really sure in what context these 3 illness will effect a persons sick record, but I believe it’s something to do with the wording of taking either Disability Leave as opposed to taking Sick Leave.

Also during as assessment to see if I needed to change my role within the company, which I did, even the company doctor suggested that if I needed to take sick leave for another reason, “why not say it was the MS playing up”. I took this comment as a bit of a heads up that being off for MS is not the same as being off for another illness.

If I’m honest though, I always try my very best to go to work, even on days when I know that maybe I should of rested, I think my company have recognised this and it reflects in how good they have been.

This link might also help ?

I’m exactly the same. I have had perfect attendance for about 10 out of the 14 years I’ve worked there. I have never ‘thrown a sickie’ and i’m not about to start. Doesn’t seem to count for much in most firms now.

Where I worked there was sick leave and disability leave; if you had an illness and your sick note said so it was sick leave, if the reason for not being at work was MS related and the sick note said, MS relapse, MS fatigue etc it was disability leave and didn’t count.

Also they couldn’t object to any appointments for MS related treatments, where they might make you rearrange a dental appointment for instance

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I am allowed to take time off for MS related appointments for “free”. However all my sickness absence over the last few months has been MS related - and it’s still just counted as sick leave. I did mention to them last year that a reasonable adjustment could be to not count any sickness absence related to MS in with my absences. They don’t seem to be doing that though. I’ve had no other absences from work other than MS related over the last few years.

Hi Nana,

If you feel they are trying to have you over; contact the Disability Law Service Multiple Sclerosis Legal Advice Line | Disability Law Service

The society pays for free legal advice and representation.

Good luck; don’t let them get you down.


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Maybe they are classing everything “sick leave” just for their records, but cannot or at least should not include any time off within your sickness if it has been documented as MS related, when for instance using your sick record for disciplinary purposes for instance. I would suggest that if for instance you took 30 sick leave days in a year, and 20 of them were documented as MS related, then in reality you were only off on “sick leave” for 10 days, the other 20 would/should be classed as Disability Leave. ALWAYS get a sick paper from your GP, or if doing a self cert clearly indicate if its MS related, and keep copies.

I have only been off with MS fatigue this year. The first time was only for a couple of days so I self-certified. The last time was over a few weeks with a little spell of me trying to go back to work in the middle which didn’t work out! For those weeks I had sick notes from the doctor, which stated MS. They are still counting it all as sick leave and have put in place monitoring which will mean if i’m off again within the next 12 months I ‘might’ get a first letter of concern. They won’t say one way or another whether that’s the route they’ll take so i’m just hoping I can keep going. I am keeping copies of everything.

Hi Nana,

I don’t care what they say; they are committing indirect discrimination; see 3/2nd point. Equality Act FAQs | Equality and Human Rights Commission

As I said get the DLS if the Union are useless.


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As jactac says, you can ask for reasonable adjustments which can include having MS related sickness classified as disability leave and counted separately or so I believe. I’m NHS too and have somebody making enquiries to HR about this.

Can you get a different Union rep or call their Helpline for advice?

we have a similar thing in my work place. Three periods of absence totalling four days and it’s an informal absence review which goes on your record, after that any other sickness in the same 12 months it’s a disciplinary. Thing is only officially diagnosed in Sept so no protection until then. So I too am in a position where if I have any absence over the next 10 months I will face a disciplinary. Been told “don’t worry” we may not discipline you! Hardly reassuring. I think my work place still take into account ms absences if reasonable adjustments have been made. Haven’t seen occupational health yet. Mind you what can you do? I guess make a note of things and cross the bridge when it comes I guess, or win the lotto! Doesn’t help everyone comes in with all their bugs and spreads it round the office because of the polices in place.


I’ve contacted the union and i’m waiting for a reply at the moment.

Let us know how you get on. I’m still only CIS but guessing that’s about to change ( see my other thread as I won’t bore you again with details ). I’ll let you know what I find out from HR. Do you have a disability policy at work?

I’m not aware of a Disability policy at the moment - I have looked to see if there is one. I do know that NHS England are planning to bring in new Workforce Disability Equality Standards from next April though. I know this trust is not as up to date with Disability information as they should be.

I’m in a similar situation with the NHS scoring system re sickness. Was booked for a laparoscopy today which was cancelled due to low WBC probably caused by Rebif which the neuro has said to stop until I see her in Feb. GP has signed me off for 2 weeks as was feeling rough anyway ?rebif ?low wbc and infection risk with low WBC as I’m a health professional. My dilemma is that my laparoscopy has been rescheduled for 18th Jan. Now if I go back before my op and then off sick again my score will be something like 176 whereas if I just stay off now until after op it’ll be 60 approx. It’s the system which is totally screwed in my opinion. I will go back before op if I’m fit but there’s no incentive to as I’ll be on sickness review which will likely include a meeting with my Line Manager and HR. Who makes up this systems?

I’m off work at mo so can’t check and my colleague hasn’t got back to me yet. Did you get joy with the Union?