Throwing a ‘sickie’ - therapeutic or foolish?

By now you will have probably read about the recent case of PC Jonathan Adams who was dismissed from Gloucestershire Constabulary as a result of taking sick leave on three occasions in order to watch the horse racing.  Unfortunately for him, he was spotted on the third occasion enthusiastically celebrating a win in the Winner’s Enclosure at Royal Ascot.

PC Adams claimed that his visits to the races were ‘therapeutic’ and helped alleviate the ‘work related stress’ that he was experiencing, which included symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

The clincher was probably that on the third and final occasion – Royal Ascot – he had requested annual leave for that week, but the request was denied for operational reasons.  Instead, he told senior officers that he was too sick to come to work on the 17th June – suffering from IBS symptoms – which happily coincided with a race in which a horse he had a syndicate interest in, winning the Commonwealth Cup.  Subsequent film of him celebrating the win with great gusto was filmed and aired by Channel 4 racing.

The question is – is there ever justification for an employee who is on sick leave to be anywhere but in their sick bed?

Well, yes there might be, depending on the nature of the illness and the type of activity.

For example, an employee suffering from stress or depression might benefit from certain activities; maybe a trip to the beach or a day in the countryside.  It is also well documented that exercise – the gym for example – has a beneficial effect for those suffering from depression.

However, in this case, the ‘sickie’ wasn’t isolated: he had called in sick on two previous occasions and both times had been identified (via ANPR on the car park – oh the irony) attending Nottingham races.  Once he claimed diarrhoea and the second time with a claim of a migraine.  I suspect that anyone who has ever suffered either wouldn’t be inclined – or capable of – attending anything away from the sanctuary of their home.

What’s the moral of the story?

It pays to ask for a GP or specialist medical report that can give you, the employer, insight into what might be useful and therapeutic for an employee who is ill, to enable you to work with the employee to regain their health and their ability to perform in their role.

Working together with a sick employee and their medical practitioner or an occupational health specialist can pay dividends in the long term, but in this case, there was clearly a cynical attempt by the officer in question to simply disregard the duty of trust and fidelity that he owed to his employer.

If in doubt, we can guide you with advice in your particular circumstances.

Kate Foreman
Director of People and Learning

About the author

Kate is the chairman and co-founder of RWA and has worked for the company for nearly 20 years. She is a fan of developing practical, workable, business-led policies and procedures. Kate has specialist training experience within the financial services sector, including major general insurers, and the Lloyd’s underwriting and broking market. She has researched and developed numerous training programmes, both for commercial and in-house use. She has extensive experience of developing in-house and public training programmes for business skills, including Diversity, Employment Law, Management and Leadership, Motivation, Coaching and Feedback, Communication Skills and EQ.

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