Hypochondriacs in the workplace.

Peninsula Team

April 07 2014

I have an employee who is what we would class as a hypochondriac, they complain about ailments and their absenteeism is concerning me. What action can I take?  An employee who complains a lot about ailments isn’t really someone who warrants action being taken against them until their consequent absences hit a level you consider to be unacceptable. In this case, you would deal with them according to the same procedure as anyone else who hits the same trigger point. Whether the absences are in relation to minor ailments, for example, coughs and colds, headaches or stomach upsets, or they are due to more significant complaints, for example, arthritis or diabetes, you should address the issue and speak to the employee involved. Minor ailments resulting in several absences which are one or two days long each are likely to instigate a disciplinary procedure based on the impact that the absences are having on the wider workplace. You are entitled to expect a level of attendance from an employee which enables them to perform their role at an acceptable level, regardless of the reason for the absence. Long term absences, depending on the reason for the absence, are likely to trigger a capability procedure which will involve different stage and input from you as the employer, but both procedures are intended to monitor the situation and bring it to resolution. This resolution can be either maintenance of an acceptable level of attendance, or dismissal as the ultimate sanction. Investigation into the employee’s health status may be required in some circumstances, and determination of whether the employee’s ailments constitute a disability may also be required. If disability is a factor, consideration must be given to making reasonable adjustments to the employee’s role to try and overcome the barriers that the disability creates. Only reasonable adjustments are required, but this may include financial input from you. Overall, it is important not to take the employee’s complaints on face value. They may be hiding a serious condition that they are reluctant to divulge and are masking as other less serious ailments, which you perceive as hypochondria. Communication is key, and you should start by informally speaking with the employee, which may be the start of discussions to discover their real health status. For any further information regarding hypochondriacs in the workplace, please call us on 0844 892 2772.

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