New Job - Occ Health

New Job - Occ Health

New Job - Occ Health Dear All,

Any advice/support would be greatly appreciated. In Oct 2005 I was diagnosed with early breast cancer (1cm, grade 2, no lymph nodes, ER+) I finish radiotherapy on Monday and it will be six months, to the day, since treatment started (lumpectomy and 6 x FEC). I had thought that I would have cause to celebrate this week as life finally seemed to be getting back on track.

Just before the Easter Holidays I was interviewed for, and offered, a job as an ICT teacher at my local school, commencing in September. I completed an Occ Health Questionnaire giving details of my breast cancer and saying that otherwise I have always been fit and well with an excellent health record. They sent the form back because they said that I had not put anything about how I was now. I sent them a letter saying I had just finished chemo and so was tired, but expected to be 100% by September. I also told them that I had just run the London Marathon to demonstrate that I was reasonably fit and healthy.

I heard no more from them until today, when I got a letter from the school. It asks me to attend a meeting on Friday to discuss my medical report from Occ Health and suggests I bring a Union representative. At the meeting will be the head of ICT, the head teacher, the head of HR and a senior member of the Council’s HR dept. I immediately phoned the school to find out more and was told that Occ Health had written to them to say that they could not predict how my health would be in September and suggesting that they meet with me to discuss it.

I must admit to being devastated and angry in equal measures. On further investigation it seems that Occ Health have refused to clear me for this job without ever contacting either my GP or oncologist and they have never asked me to attend for a medical. I feel discriminated against and angry that I am expected to discuss my medical details with all these people, non of which are medically trained.

I feel a bit in a dilemma because I really want the job and want this resolved quickly so I don’t want to upset anyone at the school. However, at the same time, I am cross as to how this is being handled and what they are putting me through. Frankly, I could do without the stress of it.

I have contacted my Union and they agree with me but there is no-one to attend the meeting and I don’t want to cancel because I want this sorted. Any advice/suggestions or just words of support would be greatly appreciated.


Feel angry on your behalf Hi Wynthorpe

I feel so…so angry on your behalf. It would have been reasonable for occupational health to contact your GP or a consultant and even to have called you for a discussion/medical but I think it is absolutely wrong for you to be called to a meeting at your school.

I would strongly advise you not to go alone, and if you do decide to go I think you should take a friend (this can be anyone…just so there’s someone there to takes notes on your behalf.) You can legitimately ask for a postponement of the meeting until your union rep. can attend.

Another route might be to phone occupational health and ask for an appointemnt with them, and ask them to take a report from your GP/comstltant prior to any meeting.

This all really sounds like very bad employment practice to me…and your union are letting you down by not providing a rep (but I think education unions are often hopeless at providing case work representation.)

Hope some others with more up to date employment law/HR experience than me will provide some ideas.

You could try the BCC helpline too…I know they have been involved in an employment project.

Best wishes


PS I’m still fuming on this one…so can imagine how you’re feeling…

I know you want this sorted quickly but this meeting sounds horribly intimidating. (and worul be patronisng at best.) It is outrageous that no report on your health has been asked for. I am sure your GP or onc could write a letter to occulational health saying that you have just finsihed chemo, have temproary tireness as is usual, but that you are anticipated to be 100% fit for work in September. And yes the fact you’ve just run a marathon rather proves the point.

You have been very honest in what you have told occupational health and yet they seem to be showing no respect for you.

I really think you should get a postponement (at least) of that meeting until you have a medical report to back up what you are saying about your health.

Good luck whatever you decide to do.


Thanks Dear Jane,

Thanks for your support. I am devastated and angry in equal measures. Devastated because its rather been “in my face” today as to how a cancer diagnosis will now haunt me for the rest of my life, even if the cancer never recurrs. Angry as to how this particular situation has been dealt with.

I guess I am still thinking it through as to what to do, but my inclination is to go to the meeting on Friday armed with a consultant and GP letter to support my case. That way I feel that I can show just how ‘reasonable’ I have been and can point out that I can’t say the same for them. I think the way to play it is to blame Occ Health rather than the school as the latter are only following instructions and I don’t want to antagonise anyone at the school if I am to work there. Also I don’t want the situation to drag on as the thing that stresses me most is uncertainty.


Yes Sounds reasonable…but do take someone with you if you possibly can. Good idea to be nice to the school.

Be assertive, be cool…good luck


Update on outcome Dear All,

Just to let you know that I attended the meeting on Friday, went through the full details of my breast cancer, together with recurrence and mortality rates and then provided evidence of my fitness to work (including running 20 miles a week, currently doing full-time supply work etc) and then gave them a letter from my oncologist declaring me fit to work as my ‘piece de resistance’.

Everyone at the meeting was very supportive and they all thought it strange that Occ Health had not contacted either me or my doctors before deciding that they could not pass me fit. Everyone agreed that I had provided all the evidence needed to show I was fit for work. However, it had to go back to Occ Health for rubber stamping so I have the correct piece of paper in my file. It was agreed that they would telephone Occ Health that afternoon to sort it out.

Anyway, got home and got a call about an hour later. It seems that, despite the letter from my oncologist, Occ Health have STILL refused to declare me fit for work and will not do so until September on the grounds that it is not possible to predict my health before then (obviously it being a teaching post I don’t start until then). The good news is that the head teacher has decided to over-rule their decision (otherwise I would lose the job because the school needs to know that I am fit for September now in order to plan).

Frankly, I don’t know whether to feel happy that I’ve got the job or mad at the way Occ Health continue to treat me. How can a nurse in Occ Health think that they know more about my fitness than either myself or my oncologist, despite never having met me? Do you think I should just put it behind me since I have the job now or should I complain or take other action? I’m not too bothered for me, but it seems unfair that this might happen to someone else in the future.


Hi Wynthorpe I think Occ Health are being unreasonable. After all when they employ anybody, how can they tell what their health is going to be like in a few months time? They could break bones doing silly things or catch tropical diseases on holiday. It does seem that you’re being discriminated against because of the cancer and they’re not allowed to do that.

Breast Cancer Care may have some information about this, as they’re doing a poll on it at the moment.

Hi Wynthorpe Pleased to hear that your school has been so reasonable…they are the people you will be working with so thats good news.

I think I would take up the Occ Health issue, if only to write them a letter expressing your dissatisfaction, and maybe mentioning the DDA. As gandalf suggest why not try to talk to someone at BCC for advice.

Good luck in the job…you sound incredibly fit to me!