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My friend is working in a big company. She used to be pretty autonomous and self managing. After restructuring her job responsibilities were completely changed and she was placed under an extremely micromanaging and controlling manager. The manager has no business knowledge about the job but does not listen to suggestions from my friend. Previously she was free to work remotely but now it is completely forbidden - she has to be in the office at 9am sharp for no reason other than pleasing the manager.

All this is of course creating lots of tension between them. As a result my friend takes somewhat more sick days than usual, sometimes mainly to cope with the stress and anxiety. All these absences have been accepted by the company and any proof of illness was not required.

Recently my friend was told by her manager that "the HR has noticed a pattern in her absences and require an interview". When asked for confirmation over email to have this in writing, it turned out this was really a meeting between her and the manager, with a random third party friendly with the manager noting everything down:

Hi Friend,

Thanks for speaking with me just now, as discussed - I think there’s been crossed wires here.

To be clear, the meeting on Thursday is a meeting to discuss your levels of absence, and to establish whether there have been any patterns or anything which merits a formal investigation.

Following the meeting, should the outcome be we decide formal investigation will be required, the investigation will be led by HR.

This is not a disciplinary matter as of yet, however should l the matter be raised to a formal investigation it may result in a performance improvement plan or other measures to see what we can do support to you with managing your absence levels.

XX is another sector head who is going to be joining the meeting to take notes so we can ensure that everything discussed is noted down correctly and fairly, she will not be participating in the meeting but rather taking notes.

Let me know if you want to discuss this further.

Thanks, Manager

Judging from the manager's past behaviour, this will likely be an interrogation asking about exact details of all of her sick leaves, all in the presence of another unrelated person noting everything down. Needless to say this makes my friend extremely uncomfortable.

Is it even legal for the manager to organise something like this? Can the meeting be recorded by my friend and should it be, either openly or secretly?

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Yes, its legal

Your employer could start formal disciplinary action against you if they have concerns about your work, conduct or absence.

Before taking formal disciplinary action or dismissing you, your employer may try to raise the matter informally with you. However, they can go straight to their formal disciplinary or dismissal procedures.

The employer has stated that this is not a "formal investigation", however, they are withing their rights to raise it "informally" even if their way of doing so seems a bit ... formal in structure.

Can the meeting be recorded by my friend?

Yes and it can either be done openly or secretly. Doing it openly will change the dynamic of the meeting - this may be a good thing. Doing it secretly may mean that the recording can't be used in court.

Should it be?

Yes.

Let's not muck around, your friend is in trouble - justly or not.

Sick leave is for when you are "ill". "Stress and anxiety" may or may not be illness that justifies the taking of sick leave but it is by no means clear that your friend has been entirely honest that stress and anxiety has been the illness that caused them to take the leave.

Telling lies to your employer is something you can be disciplined for. Particularly when there is a workplace health and safety issue here - if work-related-stress is happening then this is something your employer is legally obliged to address and they can't if its not raised with them.

  • When taking sick leave is it a requirement to disclose the malady? In many states in the US, they cannot ask you what you were sick with. However, longer absences (a week typically) may result in a request for a physician's note to show that you did have a problem, but often explained as "wanting to ensure that you are safe to return to work." – mongo Nov 6 at 19:35
  • My employer's absence policy guidance for managers (which staff have access to) includes a section on 'patterns' of absence, for example frequent 'colds' on Fridays. – Michael Harvey Nov 7 at 19:42

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