When an employer called his Solicitor seeking guidance on how to deal with a long-term protracted issue of stress within the workplace – which the employer believed to be false – the solicitor advised the need to find firm evidence to confirm the employee was indeed falsely absent from work.
It can often be difficult gathering evidence to prove somebody suffering from stress and depression is falsely absent from work and making false allegations of the illness. Often doctors will prescribe the “feel good factor”, suggesting to patients they should do all of the things they enjoy doing, things which may help reduce their stress and depression.
This can include things such as sport, socialising with friends, spending time on their hobbies and interests. Clearly this can make gathering evidence difficult, as you can place somebody under surveillance and simply watch them undertaking these activities.
When a Solicitor contacted us with just such a case, we asked for information in detail as to what the employee stated their limitations were due to their illness, and how was it was effecting their daily life?
The employee had documented with HR, they had no self-esteem, no confidence, had no ability to go outside unless supported by a friend or family and wished to have no interaction with anybody on any level. The employee had stated they had no enthusiasm and had become virtually housebound. The employee was employed as a shift worker in a bakery.
We advised the Solicitor his client would be in a stronger position if he knew the daily activities of the employee, and to see if what the employee was doing was at variance with what they had said they could or could not do. The short simple surveillance operation identified the employee, whilst absent from work and during the shift hours they should have been working, was actually working on the checkout at a large supermarket. Covert video footage was obtained which included surveillance officer making purchases at the employee’s checkout and engaging in polite conversation.
This surveillance was conducted over a three-day period and it was clear during that time the employee was clearly able to interact with the public, was clearly able to hold down employment, was not housebound and had enthusiasm to go to a place of employment.
The surveillance showed that the employee was undertaking activities that contravened what they had stated they could or could not do; therefore identifying and supporting the suspicion that the absence was indeed false, and for fraudulent reasons.
Armed with this evidence the Solicitor was able to advise his client as to the most proactive method of dealing with the employee, who for the previous six months had been off long-term falsely absent on full pay.