Professionalism | 'My colleague accused me of misusing sick leave'

'My colleague accused me of misusing sick leave'

In a work environment, it isn’t uncommon to hear some colleagues sharing their gripes and grievances about their peers and how they work.

For example, some may comment that their team members daydream too often, while others may notice when some are never on time and are repeatedly late to work.

One worker has felt the brunt of this, after she recently shared her story on online forum Mumsnet claiming a colleague accused her of ‘misusing sick leave’.

Writing on the forum, LondonLupie shared that she was in the seventh week of a high-risk pregnancy, suffering with morning sickness, insomnia and anxiety. As a result, her GP signed her off work for two weeks and instructed her to rest.

However, she claimed that she received an ‘accusatory’ text as a result of her absence from a senior member of staff, which read: “We don't know if you are on sick leave or 'holiday for time out' this week. If holiday, please ignore the below. If sick leave, then we're v uncomfortable that social media shows you out with friends for 2 reasons:

“These are seen by colleagues (potentially professional damage for you and very awkward when they ask us). Also if you're well enough to go out, then why aren't you working?

"We won't share this further and hope you receive this as friendly concern / a friendly alert (sic).”

The Mumsnet user went on to reveal that she didn’t actually have a Facebook account and doesn’t have any posts on her Instagram account.

“The only pics I have shared via WhatsApp status and Instagram stories are pics of my newborn god daughter and her older brother – which have been sent to me by their mum! I have no idea how this indicates that I've been "out socialising" – when the furthest I've been all week is up the road to see my GP, and to the pharmacy to get my prescriptions (sic),” she added.

Despite contacting the senior colleague to find out more and who had accused her of this, she was not told any more details.

LondonLupie then decided to text the colleague to explain her concerns over the accusations and revealed she had a limited social media presence.

She then received another message that read: “I'm very sorry if my very careful message to you was not level in some way. Please don't send me any more angry messages.

“I hope that you will come to see this not as accusation, but concern for you by people who care about you (sic).”

Confused about the conversation, the Mumsnet user revealed her concerns about involving HR or whether to escalate it to her line manager, to which another user replied: “She is your colleague, not your manager/ boss? Your sick leave is none of her business. I would keep any and all messages and speak to HR.”

What is the UK’s sick leave policy?

According to, employees can take time off work if they’re ill, but need to provide their employer with proof if they’re ill for more than seven days. Employees must give their employer a doctor’s fit note, or sometimes known as a sick note, if they have been ill for more than seven days in a row and have taken sick leave.

In this instance, as the employee had a sick note from a doctor, which instructed her to rest, the employer should have put in place measures to prevent other colleagues from sending accusatory messages that could prolong her illness and increase stress.

In addition, if HR are made aware of the situation, the department should ensure other colleagues are aware of how actions such as these will be treated.

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Comments (2)

  • Boris
    Mon, 20 Jan 2020 9:25am GMT
    What's not mentioned in this story is that pregnancy is one of the nine protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act, this also covers any pregnancy related illness. I had something similar happen with a member of staff I worked closely with because, despite being in and out of hospital with severe morning sickness, she tried repeatedly to come back to work but it just wasn't doable. In the end she didn't have a choice, she lost her eyesight as a side effect of her condition and had to spend the remaining days of her pregnancy in hospital. Her manager, and most of her team, were awful to her. They constantly spread rumours she was faking it and her manager kept trying to persuade her to got home as she'd not last a day. She ended up so ill that she wasn't in any fit state to progress with her grievance against her team, which was a real shame as they got away with making her feel even worse than she already did. People need to remember that pregnancy is hard on your body and can be the exact opposite of what you see in Hallmark films. No one knows how they'll be affected, but some understanding and sympathy can go a long way, instead of making them feel worse.
  • Abbie
    Fri, 17 Jan 2020 1:03pm GMT
    I don't think it's the employer's responsibility to "put in place measures to prevent other colleagues from sending accusatory messages that could prolong her illness and increase stress" as telling them not text them as it will increase their stress will be giving out information as to why the individual is absent from work and that's a breach of privacy, surely? It IS the responsibility of the employer to put in place measures to deal with bullying and that's what I think this should have focused on.
    If this were happening in my business, as HR, I would be asking the absent employee to inform their manager, and the manager speak to the individual sending the texts in a formal setting. Ultimately, if the mental health is work related, they can do what they want outside of work if it helps them to recover.

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