Back Pain Less Back Pay!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about stoppage in pay after disability:

I work for a large multinational company. I live in Spain and pay N.I and tax to the UK as I’m paid by the UK office of the company. I’m a UK citizen and passport holder and was born in the UK. My contract states that I get paid sick pay pf 1 months basic salary for the first month then 50% after that. I have been off work with a slipped disk, since August 17th 2005.

In December, they stopped paying me sick pay. No warning was given. It took two weeks of sending emails before I could get a response. They said they where waiting for a doctors note. I went to my doctor and got the required note. All of a sudden this note is now not good enough. So another week or so went by before they could tell me exactly what they wanted. My doctor filled in the questionnaire, and faxed it to them. The company has now said that it needs to be in English, this was never a problem before as they had stated that they could translate the notes themselves. They also said I wasn’t entitled to SSP but in December 2005 this was not a problem as I was off work then for 4 weeks and got SSP. They said this was due to me living in Spain, I went on the DWP website and they said that as I pay NI in the UK I’m entitled to SSP and certain other benefits. I pointed this out to my company and they have gone silent yet again.

I don’t want to phone them up as I know I will get too angry and may say something I might regret later. It’s now been almost 4 months without pay. The company doesn’t have a good track record with its staff, and there are quite a few strikes by various departments each year to complain about unfair conditions or pay. Many people I work with are unhappy about how they are being treated.

Signed, Back Pay

Dear Back Pay:

We’re not knowledgeable about UK labor laws, but I do have some general advice for you.

1. Since you have access to the Internet, check out the Department for Work and Pensions site again and look under the Statutory Sick Pay Section where you found the information about being entitled to SSP because you had paid your National Insurance while living in Spain. There is an FAQ on that site that refers to disagreement with an employer about having SSP discontinued. Perhaps the form they suggest would be the appropriate thing to send to your employer, along with a letter. The letter will provide you with documentation you need. Also keep in mind that likely the people who you are dealing with there are not acting on their own and probably are being advised by HR or others about what to do.

2. You mention there have been strikes about unfair treatment. Are you part of a labor organization? If so, perhaps they could help you deal with this. Send them a letter with the timeline.

3. Be sure you produce a clear timeline and fact sheet about the situation so anyone reading it will be able to understand the dates and times involved. You may want to produce a calendar with the weeks indicated, to show how long you have been off work. The total time may be a factor.

4. Having said all that, it seems to me there is something else happening here as well. For one thing, it doesn’t sound as though you were keeping in contact with your company while you were out, because you indicate that each of the events have been surprising to you. When you are out on paid leave one of the best things you can do is to keep in close contact with your company to ensure they know you want to come back to work as soon as you can, but are unable to do so. That also ensures that you can ask about any problems with pay, when it will end, what changes to expect and so forth. Sometimes just keeping someone informed and on your side is a big benefit!It may also be that there are questions about your status after this length of time. UK businesses may work differently, but in the states, companies often start looking closely at cases where workers are out for an unusual length of time. When that happens, they often begin picking at small matters, insisting upon extra documentation and so forth. That may be what is happening here. So, once again, a closer communication might help. If you don’t think you’ll ever go back to work, that’s one thing. If you think you have a date in sight that’s another. If you can do it, perhaps you need to make contact with someone who knows about these matters and tell him or her that you had no idea there were going to be problems and would like to be kept informed. Tell them you’ll check in every week to see if there have been changes or adjustments. Stick with it until you get answers and regular information about your status.

5. You may have to seek an attorney to help you, but I think for now you can achieve what you need by dealing directly with your employer. Be courteous but forceful about being given explanations. Use the forms provided by DWP to question decisions of your employer. Maintain communication. Look for other resources who might have additional information or who knows something about the way your employer often handles such things. I hope these ideas have given you a way to start. Being active in your efforts and interacting often is probably the best first step!

Tina Lewis Rowe