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Anxiety over work re sick leave

Community Member

Hi all,


I'm really struggling with work. I have chronic illnesses which cause constant pain and part of treatment is an immune suppressing medication. I'm 25 and I have had anxiety and depression in connection with the chronic illness for many years. I have only recently won a permanent position in my workplace 10 months ago.


Due to my chronic illnesses and the immune suppressing meds, I have a fairly significant amount of time off work sick (think 35 ish days/rolling 12 months). My employer has engaged HR and placed me on an attendance plan. They state it is due to the fact I am unable to accrue personal leave and have ended up needing unpaid sick leave (they don't allow me to use annual leave when I run out of personal). I have always provided medical certificates and letters from medical profs. Work state they "want me to be present in the workplace as much as possible" and have mentioned concerns about my finances. The pressure not to take sick leave is crushing me; there are days I can scarcely manage to get out of bed for pain and other symptoms as well as being prone to catching things due to being immunocompromised. Every time I can't go to work I'm terrified to tell them. When my boss answers the phone and I say my name, I can hear the change in tone; oh, it's you, *again*. It's causing significant guilt, fear and anxiety.


Their 'management' has caused me escalating anxiety as I am constantly in fear of losing my job; it feels like they're building a case against me. Add to this I have been moved to new work and gone from high performing to not meeting expectations and am now required to work with people who are experiencing FDV. It's become a perfect storm of anxiety/depression that is getting serious.


It's been worse the last few weeks as I caught COVID-19 for the first time. I've been bedridden for two weeks and the doctor has just requested I rest another week before returning to normal activities. I've gone straight from fearing I could die to fearing I will lose my job. I feel so guilty for how long it's taking to recover.


I'm really lost. I'm trying to get a mental health care plan but I'm not sure I can afford the gap to see a psychologist and none in my area bulk bill. Any advice or info appreciated.




4 Replies 4

Dear crazycatlover77,

We would like to welcome you to our friendly and supportive community. We are grateful you found the strength and courage to post about your concerns around your employment.

We understand that you are experiencing considerable chronic pain, and the medication you take compromises your immune system. This causes you to need to take significantly more sick days than the average healthy employee. You are now becoming concerned that work is preparing an HR action, and this is significantly increasing your anxiety.

You have been working with your GP to develop a mental health plan. Unfortunately, you are unsure whether you will be able to cover the gap cost of any psychologist.

As you are aware, our focus is on supporting your mental health. However, part of your mental health situation is focused on your workplace. We would ask if you belong to a union? If so, we would encourage you to talk with your union about what the company seems to be doing. It is the union's responsibility to assist its members in this type of situation. You might also consider talking to a human rights advocate, given that disability is a protected class here in Australia.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed, we would like to encourage you to call BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636, or Lifeline on 13 11 14. Both services run 24/7, every day of the year. After all, when we talk to someone who is nonjudgemental, it can often help us to find better perspective, which often can help us to lower our stress, and help us clear our thinking.

Thanks again for joining our community. Feel free to post whenever you wish. We are always here for you.

Warm regards,

Sophie M.

Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Catlover,


I am sorry you are going through this, I also have a chronic illness and have been on immunosuppressive medications, so I know how it feels. Luckily, my employer is very understanding, but money is also a stress for me because I am casual so I do not get paid sick leave. Fortunately, my illness is in remission so I have been able to work consistently. But the thing about being chronically ill is that you are in a constant battle, and healthy people NEVER understand, no matter how much they try, being chronically ill is so complicated and difficult for people to grasp when they do not deal with it themselves. They think "why can't you just get better?'' Well, that's the thing, it is chronic. 


Now, have you had an honest conversation with your boss about your condition, your symptoms, and why you cannot work because it is CHRONIC, and you will have waves of being well and inevitable waves of being ill? Have you got a doctor's note detailing this? Maybe your boss does not have adequate information to understand your illness and why you cannot "just get better". It takes a lot of over-explaining sometimes.


Seeing a psychologist does cost money, but I would honestly recommend it. IF you can see a health psychologist, even better, because they specialise in chronic illness which can help you overcome the challenges associated with that. If you can afford it at some point, I would recommend it. Otherwise, contact your local headspace, they could help! And of course, here at BB can provide online support on the forums and by calling 1300 224 636.


I hope things improve for you and do not be afraid to stand up for yourself.


Jaz xx


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello crazycatlover77


What a challenging hand you've been dealt in life, I am very sorry to hear of both your chronic illness and struggles with your employer. I too have faced the difficulties of chronic health condition and balancing it with work, so I really empathise.


A few ideas/questions popped up for me when reading your post...


1. Have you considered discussing if some or all of your job can be done remotely? I'm not sure what you do for work, so it's hard to gauge, but with so many workers now able to negotiate a hybrid or fully remote role this may be possible. Working from home saved me during my chronic illness, because it took the pressure off. I didn't have to commute, which meant getting more rest and I was able to take more short breaks without being self-conscious to help manage my symptoms. You could explain to your employer that your need to take days off may significantly reduce if you can operate from home so it's a win-win.


2. Have you considered looking for another job that's more suitable? While I understand this may be daunting, the job market is apparently quite good right now and workers have more flexible options than ever before. Perhaps in your downtime you could start to explore what other jobs are available, perhaps looking at something with WFH options, or reduced hours. Your employer/colleagues sound a little unsupportive and I think there would be other organizations who would be kinder. If money is an concern if you reduce hours, you may be able to supplement your income with government or disability benefits? Not sure, but you could at least enquire with the NDIS or Centrelink.


3. If no psychologists bulk bill in your area, have a look at who does virtual sessions. Since lockdowns my psychologist moved to do only virtual sessions, which I have been doing for more than a year with her and it's been great. It doesn't in any way limit the quality of our sessions and I feel more comfortable calling from my home. She has clients all around Aus. I am sure many psych's are operating this way, some will bulk bill for sure. This is a great website to look at listed psychologists and you can filter the results by bulk billing. If you find someone far away, enquire with their office about virtual sessions: www.healthdirect.gov.au  (service finder tab)

Community Member

sounds like your job is looking for excuses to cause you more stress , have you stated you need work related amendments?  ( as you are allowed to have that under work place health and safety law ) you are allowed to be sick have sick leave ,your work in no way should be carrying on as they are . Go to fair work or work safe ( it’s a hard stressful slog thru it ) but if you are being discriminated because of your illness then that is workplace discrimination and  that’s against the law