Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex 2

Letter to Ms Maria Fernandes

from Mr Vyan Gresty

Thank you for your letter of 24 May, I am sorry that it has taken so long to reply, but, as you can imagine, our world has been turned upside down by Rita's illness, and there are very many issues to sort out.

Our doctor visited Rita on Tuesday, and is pleased with the progress that she is making. She is on a high level of medication, and will remain on that dosage for a further two weeks at least. A medical certificate covering a further 4 weeks will be forwarded to you when collected from the surgery on Friday.

In discussions with Rita and her doctor, it is clear that the main cause of her illness is the enormous stress placed upon her by her job, especially the sheer volume of work she was required to do, in an environment where she had no other contact with people for many hours on end. Because of her renowned conscientiousness, she worked hours far in excess of what is generally accepted for such a post, frequently without a break, and lacking companionship. The imposition of a requirement that she record, on a time sheet, her work every ten minutes further added to the stress and pressures on her.

Rita's absence from work is also clearly going to put a financial strain on us, as your letter does not offer the security of full sickness pay during the period she is absent. It is unfortunate that you were not able to draw up an employment contract with Rita, on commencement, as issues such as holiday and sick leave, annual increments and other employment benefits would have been resolved, negotiated and agreed much earlier. Whilst we fully appreciate that, as a sole practitioner, you may not be in the same position as a large company, I am sure you appreciate that the job Rita accepted in August 1998 is very different to the one she is now doing, both in complexity and volume. The practice has moved and grown, as has the workload, and the resultant stress on both you, and Rita, was, with regrettable hindsight, inevitable.

We hope that you will reconsider your decision to pay her only one month's sick pay, and extend that to the three months that she is expected to be away on sick leave, (including the statutory sick pay she would receive in any circumstances). It is, as you say in your letter, too early to make firm decisions as to the future: our main concern must be to ensure that Rita is free from all worries and anxieties, and able to recover her strength and confidence in her own time, with the help of doctors, family and friends. I know that she very much places you, Keith and your family highly in that third category, as do I.

With our collective care and prayers, she will no doubt fully recover within the expected time frame, and be able to renew her career with fresh application and enthusiasm.

With best wishes to you and the family.

8 June 2000

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