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Occ Health has own very restricted definition of ‘disability’ - is this legal?

MrsMagpie Community member Posts: 2 Listener
OK.  So, I’m going back to work tomorrow after a 9-week absence due to depression and anxiety, which I was diagnosed with in 2003, and I’m facing an Absence Review meeting at some point in the near future.  However, first I had a referral to Occupational Health, which was earlier this afternoon (by phone).

The advisor was actually very nice, and we agreed on a few tweaks to the workload till I get settled back in, and time for counselling, when that starts (April).  We also clarified a few things my ‘manager’ (actually an HR person I’ve never met in person and who clearly doesn’t understand my job) got wrong on the referral.

However…I was expecting that this meeting would confirm that I should have a ‘disability’ flag placed on my personnel file (which might lead to the Absence Review being discontinued). But when I mentioned that, the lady told me their policy is not to declare anyone disabled unless they’ve had at least two absences for that condition of more than 6 months each.  (I’ve had 4 periods of sick leave for this before, all prior to 2014, but I don’t think any of them were that long.)

This doesn’t tally with the Equality Act 2010, and I wonder: Is it legal for an Occupational Health company to set restrictions like this, or for an employer to knowingly use an OH firm with those restrictions?  Because, given that I got a letter for a meeting at which they could give me a first formal warning at only 9 weeks, I can’t see how anyone can get to more than 6 months’ sick leave in my workplace currently and still be employed…let alone twice.  It sounds like a catch-22.  Anyone come across this before?


  • janer1967
    janer1967 Community member Posts: 21,964 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi and welcome to the community 

    There is no legal obligation for employers to discount absence due to a disability.  They can set their own rules in their absence policy . 

    However it is good practise as advised by acas to do so 

    I was a hr manager for over 30 years in numerous companies and implemented absence policy . 

    I would have meetings with disabled employees but may agree on adjustments for absence due to disability 

    Employers are permitted to issue warnings for absence to disabled employees they can only operate a business with employees who attend work on a regular basis it is an employees contractual obligation 

    It would be nice to see adjustments made to account for disabled bur doesn't always happen 

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