Home > Ask Our Experts > Rumours About Sick Leave: Has My Privacy Been Invaded?

Rumours About Sick Leave: Has My Privacy Been Invaded?

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 2 Dec 2020 | comments*Discuss
 
Rumours About Sick Leave: Has My Privacy Been Invaded?

Q.I have recently been off sick from work with a broken foot which happened as a result of being assaulted. I phoned in work sick and followed the company's procedure and asked to speak to the duty manager.

I reluctantly explained what had happened to the duty manager and asked if him to keep the information to himself and the HR department he would need to notify. He confirmed that he would but I have since gone back to work with rumours circulating about me and everyone not only talking behind my back but openly making fun of me to my face.

I feel really let down and feel my privacy has been invaded. Do I have a right to complain to human resources?

(N.A, 1 April 2009)

A.

Following Procedure

The procedure when a worker falls sick – whatever the cause – is to phone a manager. This is what happened in the instance given here.

What’s more, you asked the duty manager to keep the cause private. You wanted no one else to know. The only exception was the HR section.

From this, three issues are clear. You followed procedure; you acted in a reasonable manner; and the duty manager received a specific request for privacy.

The Feeling of Distress

Yet when you returned to work, you found that someone had breached the request for privacy. This became obvious when colleagues began making jokes about the cause of the sick leave.

The duty manager or one of the HR employees may have caused the breach of privacy. Either way, you returned to work after an injury and became understandably distressed.

This highlights two further issues. The first is a possible violation of any policy the workplace has about employee privacy. The second is a potential disregard of the Human Rights Act, and the respect an organisation should show to staff who want their private lives kept confidential.

Courses of Action

The cause of sick leave is private. The appropriate manager and the HR section need to know the cause because it may be work-related. They may also help an affected member of staff with occupational therapy and advice.

As for work colleagues, however, it’s reasonable to say that the cause of sick leave is none of their business.

A possible course of action in this example is therefore to complain to HR. The complaint could first take the form of a chat with a senior HR employee.

The result should be an investigation into who broadcast the cause of the sick leave to staff. HR or the duty manager should also give an apology to the affected employee.

If an investigation and apology don’t materialise, the next stage is to consider submitting a grievance. An employee representative such as a union official may be able to help. If not, the HR section can supply a grievance form to complete.

The grievance procedure should lead to an investigation and apology. It’s unlikely that any organisation would want to go beyond this to a tribunal.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
I’ve been working from home for last few Months and have this week tested positive for Covid 19. I recently left a project to start on another one and received a text message from an old colleague to say that our regional boss told her I have Covid. This has now escalated around the office and everyone is talking about it. Is my regional Manager allowed to do this even though I have nothing to do with this project or the team members
JAR1981 - 2-Dec-20 @ 5:01 PM
iWork in an office. I was due to return to work after a period of sickness, my symptoms have levelled out, they are much better but I am not 100%, but I have never been expected to be 100% when returning from sickness. I asked HR for a phased return as I don’t think I can manage a full day at work, the request was refused as I had one previously and I have been told I need to speak to occupational health. What followed was a barrage of questions like what medications am I on, why haven’t I been for a tests and a scan? It was very stressful. I was told if I was not fit for a full day at work then I’d need to stop working and continue with time off sick. I feel this questioning was unreasonable especially as it wasn’t part of a return to work interview, I’m not sure what the company “need” to know and what they “should not be asking” about my condition and medical needs.
Smile - 20-Oct-20 @ 8:39 PM
I have a friend off sick with note as she hurt her back she was seen in Asda gettingfood shopping as she has 2 children to feed And that person has gone back in to work and told everyone she don’t look ill I seen her in Asda pushing a trolly and now has been told by another employer that when she goes back to. Work the office wants words with her
Booboo123 - 13-Oct-20 @ 1:30 PM
Hi I’ve been off work for two weeks due to the passing of my motheryet I’ve had a couple workers test me to offer sympathy .... I only told my manager and one member of HR about Why I neededtime off . I haven’t published on any forms of social media or told anyone so wondering how it is people know as I’m not from the area either is this justification for a grievance ?
Ma - 18-Aug-20 @ 2:22 PM
Hi. I have just found out that my employer has videoed one of my colleagues she they are signed off sick from the doctor, my colleague was tending to there horses in a field near to work. Is this legal from my employer to have secret video of an employee while signed off sick?
Luke - 11-Dec-19 @ 6:37 PM
Hi , I work for a supply company that supply’s all grocery retail shops and I cover a big area and have been for 11 years. I am currently out on sick leave on stress and anxiety and depression due to my work as I have been under severe pressure from my rep I have been doing my own job and his for a long time now and I finally broke Under the stress and I am out the last 5 weeks. I have received calls from one of my customers and a work colleague asking how I was as my rep who has had to cover them store calls informed them of my reason for being out which is work related stress and anxiety and when the customer told him that he didn’t want to know the reason I was out he continued to inform him of my I’ll ness so now I am anxious about going back to work because I don’t know how many other customers have been told of my situation when there was no reason for them to know my reason for been out . I feel that my private life and I’ll ness has bee invaded and I don’t know what to do or what steps to take not know one what else has been said about me in my I’llness what should I do ?
Shane - 9-Jul-19 @ 11:24 AM
Hi, so a colleague is in hospital due to mental health issues and my boss has told everyone at work. We don’t have a HR department, it’s the owner and then two supervisors. What do you suggest to do??
AJ - 5-Jun-19 @ 8:02 PM
I work for a large public sector organisation and even though there are numerous procedures and how it's common for staff to be on long term sick leave, word always gets out eventually no matter what you do, people might know the facts but some gossip and talk a load of s*** it says more about them as individuals than you as a person. If the work is bearable I would continue to do it but be careful of who you interact with in future and maintain a boundary of professionalism always no matter how tempting it is to become emotional or question people of past behaviour. Time is a healer and all will be forgotten and things change eventually anyway so don't beat yourself up. Jobs come and go, the thought of having security is just an illusory thought.
Martin - 24-Apr-19 @ 11:38 PM
I have been dismissed from my job for breach of DATA protection laws..I am currently on sick leave, is it legal to dismiss me
serena - 5-Apr-19 @ 12:33 PM
I am employed as an MOD Civil Servant, recently off work sick due to becoming pregnant however with initial complications linked to my diabetes 1 condition, initially I provided my line manager with the required sick note and an explanation strictly in, confidence as to the nature of my absence from work, within an hour of informing my line manager my mother received a text informing her of my pregnancy, as well as informing certain individuals within my workplace, I did eventually suffer a miscarriage, since returning to work my line manager has offered no apology, is blanking me. I feel totally let down by my line manager and would like advice on how to react to this recent incident that has and is causing me great distress?Kind Regards, Kayleigh
Kayles - 15-Mar-19 @ 3:43 PM
I am currently off work and got a collegue to hand my sick note in . Today i found out that on the rota instead of putting sick they have put diahorrea and stomach problems for all to see . I am awaiting a picture atm . This is not the reason I'm off and my sick note doesn't say this . Where do I stand if they have done this . Help please
Tia - 5-Feb-19 @ 11:49 AM
Mylo - Your Question:
Hello,my boss has told another employee who he manages, that a referral he made to occupational health is because he thinks I have Alzheimer's and I am suicidal. I can assure you I am not, but I am really distressed and upset about this. I know he has discussed this with a second member of staff( neither are his line manager) What can I do about this action?He said this because I am really frustrated at the lack of support in a new role I have been appointed to, he is my line manager and does not understand the role, so I keep asking him the same question in different ways because he is not giving me any constructive guidance I can work with. The role carries a lot of responsibility and my actions , if not appropriate or carefully considered, could damage the organisation. I have only been in this role since June 2017 and feel completely isolated and without support.

Our Response:
If you’re a worker and you’ve tried solving a problem or concern informally by talking to your manager but you’re not satisfied, you can make a formal grievance complaint in writing, please see the link here .
EmployeePrivacyRights - 3-Aug-18 @ 2:05 PM
Hello, my boss has told another employee who he manages, that areferral he made to occupational health is because he thinks I have Alzheimer's and I am suicidal. I can assure you I am not, but I am really distressed and upset about this. I know he has discussed this with a secondmember of staff( neither are his line manager) What can I do about this action? He said this because I am really frustrated at the lack of support in a new role I have been appointed to, he is my line manager and does not understand the role, so I keep asking him the same question in different ways because he is not giving me any constructive guidance I can work with. The role carries a lot of responsibility and my actions , if not appropriate or carefully considered, could damage the organisation. I have only been in this role since June 2017 and feel completely isolated and without support.
Mylo - 2-Aug-18 @ 11:12 PM
PLEASE DELETE MY LAST POST - I put wrong email address! Please confirm urgently.
Recko - 20-Jul-18 @ 2:40 PM
I work in property law I was signed off sick from my previous email employer (***** Solicitors) for a fortnight until 13th July 2018. Prior to this I had handed in my notice which came with a three month notice period due to finish in September 2018. During my leave through sickness due to stress I negotiated and agreed with my previous employer that my last day was on 13th July 2018 and I have written confirmation that my employment ended on this date and my P45 is to follow. I have since started my new job however I have since come across evidence and had confirmed to me that my line manager of my previous job has been informing people that I have not left the company and that I am still signed off sick. I imagine this is to their benefit to work out how they inform my ex-colleagues, clients and business associates. Regardless of this, officially my employment with them has ended and my new employment has started. I work in property law so clients, business associates are very important to me hence why I have updated my business profile on LinkedIn etc. Furthermore, I have been told that when associates email my old address they get an out of office message saying I’m on leave. Obviously this is not the case. My concern is that my networking and privacy is being harmed by my previously employer saying I’m still on leave which misleads people to assuming I’m on leave and off sick when I’m in fact no longer working there and in employment with another firm. How should I proceed further?
Recko - 20-Jul-18 @ 2:39 PM
George- Your Question:
Hello, I am on stress leave related to work and have been signed off three months. I have just found out that one of my colleagues heard from my manager that I am on stress leave and told the other colleague it. I am worried that rumours spread around the work. it is clear that the manager breached the confidentiality of my stress leave, is it ? What should I do regarding this situation?

Our Response:
If you’re a worker and you’ve tried solving a problem or concern informally by talking to your manager but you’re not satisfied, you can make a formal grievance complaint in writing, please see link here . However, generally if someone is off sick it usually becomes common knowledge what the reason is.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 20-Jul-18 @ 10:25 AM
Hello, I am on stress leave related to work and have been signed off three months. I have just found out that one of my colleagues heard from my manager that I am on stress leave and told the other colleague it. I am worried that rumours spread around the work... it is clear that the manager breached the confidentiality of my stress leave, is it ? What should I do regarding this situation?
George - 19-Jul-18 @ 12:08 PM
@Bertie - there's nothing to stop a workplace discussion taking place over what to do under the circumstances.
Rlo - 11-Jun-18 @ 3:11 PM
I am currently on sick leave due to work related stress. I discovered this morning that one or more of the council members of the authority I work for have been discussing my absence, to the point of asking one of my team if someone should be put in my place to cover me and fill the breach. Surely the fact I am off sick should not be discussed with council members? And most definitely not discussed with any other members of staff?
Bertie - 8-Jun-18 @ 1:32 PM
I've been taken off sick for being bullied in workplace. Who I worked with I believe has shown my sick note to other people which it doesn't concern them what can I do as company I work for don't seem to actually care
Abc - 31-Mar-18 @ 8:17 AM
i have been off work due to low mood and anxiety for 3 weeks, took a lot of effort to go back to work , when there to find out I've been made fun of for being off work and everybody knows what was wrong with me , the result i felt sick and needed to go home , its come to my attention it was the boss who told his son who decided to tell everyone else .is there any advice you can give me please
PIP - 4-Oct-17 @ 5:17 PM
I am in the process of being diagnosed with ptsd, I have got an appointment in the next few days and have asked my employer for the time off. To begin with I just asked it off for an appointment which was denied(via phone), I then informed himvia email and asked him to keep it private and confidential that it was a medical appointment due time served in the armed forces. He has since emailed me back informing me he has passed my email on to his manager and the her department. And they would like to see an email providing proof of my appointment. I don't want to go on long term sick but feel my employer are pushing me that way by going behind my back and not helping me out with time off. Is this enough to raise acomplaint?
D - 21-Feb-17 @ 4:34 PM
Hi I fell down the stairs on Wednesday and hurt my back. I called in sick on Thursday and explained the situation to the manager who answered the phone, I felt like I was getting interrogated by him and he kept asking loads of questions like he didn't believe me. I called again today and I wan still in so much pain and this time a different manager answered the phone, when I told her why I was sick her response was "oh so it was you who fell down the stairs" now I feel like all the managers are discussing my absence and even worse I feel like work don't even believe why I am absent. Is it allowed for the reason behind my absence to be discussed between all of the managers?
Adm - 3-Feb-17 @ 8:20 AM
@Oneway - ignore the rumours, they are just rumours and may not even exist. Go back to work and all of this will blow over in a couple of days :)
IzzyBell - 14-Oct-16 @ 2:31 PM
Good morning. I have been signed off sick since last Tuesday due to acute stress. I have been feeling 100x better and was looking forward to getting back to work next week. However, I received a phone call yesterday from a colleague who told me that there is rumours going around the workplace about my situation. (I've tried to kill myself, I've been looking for a new job, I have been kicked out of my family home by my partner are just three). These rumours are totally untrue and has knocked my confidence in going back to work.
Oneway - 14-Oct-16 @ 8:33 AM
Peace - Your Question:
HiI have an ongoing chronic pain condition that my company are well aware of. On the 2nd day of a sickness absence relating to this someone in HR followed me of their own accord & then used this to issue a gross misconduct disciplinary for misleading the company & theft of pay against me. Is this even allowed? I feel my privacy has been wholly violated & was signed off with work related stress. I did nothing wrong in the activity they saw me doing & I was actually told to take sick when I was more than willing to work from home

Our Response:
I can only suggest you give ACAS a call regarding this to see whether your employer has worked within employment guidelines and to see what your rights are. It is impossible to advise from our perspective here without knowing the full story, which will be better explained to ACAS.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 26-Sep-16 @ 11:01 AM
Hi I have an ongoing chronic pain condition that my company are well aware of. On the 2nd day of a sickness absence relating to this someone in HR followed me of their own accord & then used this to issue a gross misconduct disciplinary for misleading the company & theft of pay against me. Is this even allowed? I feel my privacy has been wholly violated & was signed off with work related stress. I did nothing wrong in the activity they saw me doing & I was actually told to take sick when I was more than willing to work from home
Peace - 25-Sep-16 @ 10:17 AM
hello i Have been signed Off work for 3 weeks by the specialist doctor due to the stress reaction not related to work and my employer is pressuring me and forcing to tell him what was the reason of my absence he Asked me several times even when i asked him not to as it is a confidential information he made me cry and even knowing how much he is upseting me with it he was still asking ... He said to me that i cant just be signed Off work by the sicknote and not say what happened even that the reason was wrote on there ... He was suggesting that my sicknote was fake as it was written by hand and the stamp was from sussex not from the place that i went to ... It is a private clinic and this doctor works in many different cities i dont know what to do i am stressed and i feel threatened that i will loose my job i am on 40hour contract and i am there for 7 months ... Any answers what can i do ? Thank you
mal - 29-Apr-16 @ 9:45 AM
My employer has displayed a chart on the wall in the staff room for all to see of how many sickness days each employee has had off this year. Is this allowed?
tsj - 21-Nov-15 @ 9:09 AM
My company has asked there employes to fill a form in and on this it is asking for a complete list of all medication I am on.they know I am a diabetic my manager says it is incase I collapse at work they can tell the paramedic what medication I am on.can you put me right on my rights. Graham
locoman - 1-Jul-15 @ 4:36 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments