Invited to a medical ‘control’ during sick leave? Here’s what you need to know (FAQ)

*Update 27.09.2022 several of you got in touch with us to add information to this article and we thank you all for your contributions, we have added them to the relevant sections below. Please feel free to continue to send us your experiences, we will add them here anonymously.* At Generation 2004, we understand just how unnerving it can be to find yourself the recipient of a  formal Medical Service invitation and confidentiality statement, particularly if the date  stated there has already passed or the location given is incompatible with your current mobility. What to do?

Stay calm, remember that these checks are routine and read our FAQ below.

  1. What is a medical ‘control’[1]?

This is a standard and routine evaluation of your current health status to check both that your absence is justified and whether anything additional can be done for you (see questions 1 and 2 of the Medical Service ‘medical controls’ frequently asked questions (medical service FAQs)).

*Update 27.09.2022 several of you got in touch to mention that this can also be a step in the process of the invalidity procedure ‘if the person’s absences over the past three years have reached a total of one year.‘ This invalidity process is by no means automatic and is less than transparent. Note that access to your own medical file is very important in these cases. If colleagues who have experienced this process would be open to working with us on an article, please get in touch!*

  1. Who can be invited for a medical ‘control’?

Anyone who is off sick, regardless of contract type or length of service or whether they have a medical certificate or not (medical service FAQs, questions 3 and 4). HR.D.6 has openly stated its intention to intervene sooner than was done in the past (i.e. when colleagues are off for only a couple of days or weeks) (Staff Matters>Sickness absences).

  1. Does this mean I’m being accused of something?

No, these are routine checks and fall within the employer’s duty of care (medical service FAQs, question 2). Help the doctor to see your situation, if you can. It can be a good idea to have all of your documents ready with you (reports, prescriptions etc.) and perhaps even to make a list of tests/surgeries/treatments and dates to give an overall view.

*Update 27.09.2022 several of you got in touch to mention that psychological issues might generate more questions from the Medical Service than the average medical problem.  Given that burnout is well recognised and on the increase among colleagues and that 2023 is to be the year of good mental health, we find this particularly discouraging. If this is you, please don’t get stuck, we’re here to help!*

  1. Why is the invitation letter so formal/intimidating?

We agree that the invitation letter and its 4-page Confidentiality statement related to the handling of personal data within the framework of the process ‘control of sickness leave’ can be a little overwhelming, particularly if the invitation is your first contact with the Medical Service while on sick leave. Nevertheless, the ‘control’ is a formal procedure so you do need a formal invitation and to know what your rights are.

Please remember that these checks and communications are standard and routine for the Medical Service. Note also that there are human beings available at the Medical Service: contact them if there’s anything you would like to have clarified or if the date/time/location is not possible for you (be prepared to state why).

  1. What outcomes are possible?

The doctor can:

  • confirm that your absence is justified until a specific date (Confidentiality statement)
  • decide that your absence is not justified and invite you to return (Confidentiality statement)
  • reconfigure your sick leave e.g. convert 2 weeks of 100% sick leave into 4 weeks of 50% sick leave (a colleague’s experience)
  • initiate a phased return to work (medical part time) in order to get you back up to speed or to accommodate ongoing out-patient treatments
  • provide advice on potential follow-up treatment (a colleague’s experience)
  • provide advice on workplace accommodation to facilitate your return (medical service FAQs, question 21)

For those of you keen to get back to the office, the doctor might also suggest that it is a little too early for you.

Please let us know of any other outcomes!

  1. What if I disagree with the outcome?

You must act fast! You must submit a request for an independent re-evaluation (‘arbitration’) within 48 hours of the medical visit (medical service FAQs, question 17). ‘If the official considers the conclusions of the medical examination arranged by the Appointing Authority to be unjustified on medical grounds, he or a doctor acting on his behalf may within two days submit to the institution a request that the matter be referred to an independent doctor for an opinion.’ (Staff Regulations, Article 59(1))

  1. What if I am not at my normal place of residence?

These evaluations can take place in person either at Commission premises or at your location (e.g. at home, on holiday or at a doctor’s office).  They can also be done by telephone or video conferencing (medical service FAQs, questions 6, 10-12 and 19). Let the Medical Service know of your limitations (e.g. mobility or timetable): they will try to accommodate you.

Please note that if you are already on sick leave and you stay anywhere other than your normal place of residence you must inform the medical service (medical service FAQs, questions 10).

  1. What if I cannot attend the location or date and time given? What if the date already passed?

Get in touch with the Medical Service as soon as you can: let them know the reasons and suggest future dates. Let the Medical Service know of your limitations (e.g. mobility or timetable): they will try to accommodate you.

  1. What if I refuse to attend?

Please engage with the Medical Service and show that you are trying. The repercussions of an outright refusal are outlined here: ‘Anyone who avoids or refuses to come to a medical examination risks having their absence declared unjustified.’ (Staff Matters>Working conditions>Leave and absences>Sick leave>Staff members)  ‘… any absence considered to be unjustified … shall be deducted from the annual leave of the official concerned. In the event that the official has no outstanding leave entitlement, he shall lose the benefit of his remuneration for the corresponding period.’ (Staff Regulations, Article 59(3))

  1. But I already sent reports!

Check that the reports were sent to the correct department within the Medical Service. Preventive Medicine (annual medicals) and Medical Controls (sick-leave evaluations) are two separate entities and do not share information. Also perhaps check whether additional paperwork is needed/expected.

  1. How will they contact me?

Normally via your work email. We have queried how often those on sick leave can reasonably be expected to check their email.

*Update 27.09.2022 several of you got in touch to say that contact can also be made via Skype, letter, SMS or even Whatsapp: it is unclear whether this was pandemic related or part of the ‘new normal’.*

Check out our unwritten or lesser-known rules

We’d like to hear from you if you’ve had difficulties with unwritten or lesser-known rules related to sickness and/or leave. Do you know of any cases where people have had a rule applied to their situation which is not published on MyIntracomm i.e. a convention or tradition rather than a hard rule? Do you have any tips or questions to share? We’d like to help to make the whole process a little more transparent and user-friendly, if we can.

*Update 27.09.2022 several of you got in touch to point out the the Medical Service can be a place where medicine meets bureaucracy and that many of the staff there are contract agents and therefore reliant on contracts being renewed.*

As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us, we’ve been through many of these processes.

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[1] ‘Control’ is, quite rightly, one of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) Misused English words and expressions in EU publications. We agree with the ECA that this word sounds rather sinister in English.

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