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Any advice on sickness meeting and no union?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by All-at-sea_, Jan 3, 2016.

  1. All-at-sea_

    All-at-sea_ New commenter

    Hi everyone, I hope you don't mind me asking for some advice, I'm not sure where else I can ask.
    I started a new job in September but, as a result of personal circumstances including infertility and divorce, I have been suffering from depression and recently my health has taken a real turn for the worse. My doctor had signed me off work since the beginning of December and, as yet, I am still suffering the effects of depression. I have started new tablets which the doctor hopes will be more effective than the citalopram I tried as this seemed to increase my anxiety.
    While I have been in this state, I have obviously felt tremendously guilty about leaving my class and letting the school down so soon after taking me on but I have just not been in any fit state to teach, I can't even drive at the moment as I feel so anxious and have been staying with my parents since they realised I wasn't taking any kind of care of myself.
    Sorry to ramble but I have been in touch with my head via email and text since being off and they have now said I am to attend a formal meeting with hr about my attendance and should come in for an informal chat first. They have also advised me to involve my Union although I don't know why.
    I have now realised my Union membership lapsed about six months ago and (stupidly!) I did nothing about it so I don't have a Union.
    What should I do? I feel utterly hopeless right now and can't see how I will ever be that confident woman who could teach a challenging class all day long ever again. My doctor feels I shouldn't make decisions about my future while I am so unwell but I don't think I've got many options now as I've let the school down so badly and I can't see any other school wanting to hire me with this on my record.
    I am sorry for the long post, it's taken me ages to type, it is so upsetting but I feel like I'm at the end of the road here and I really am going to lose everything.
    JeannieMc likes this.
  2. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    Sorry to hear you are feeling so poorly and hope your health improves soon.

    It is possible that your depression may meet the criteria to be a disability under Equality Act 2010 (though not guaranteed). Ask your doctor about this, in the first instance. If protected, it will affect how the school is able to use the sickness absence policy. If you do not already have a copy of the sickness absence policy, make sure you get one.

    Check your home insurance policy. Many include legal cover and you could use this to obtain legal advice.

    Some Citizens Advice bureaux have specialist employment caseworkers, but it varies very much from area to area. In my area there are quite a few experienced and qualified employment specialists who are willing and able to support and represent - though bear in mind that they are usually volunteers so availability can vary.
  3. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    The informal meeting should be specifically about you getting fit for work, so discussion of phased return, any support the school can provide, involvement of Occupational Health etc.
    Unfortunately persistent long-term sickness is usually defined as a disciplinary offence (I don't like that either) and this could be a first step on that route. As it could be that then a Union Rep should be involved.

    As a Rep myself I do little or nothing at this stage apart from moral support. So any friend could provide this, brief them to take notes and don't forget you can take a breather from the interview "to consult with my colleague" should you start feeling out of your depth and need a quick second opinion.
    That said the initial interview is usually not the crucial one where legal/union representation is vital.
  4. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    Oh you poor thing!

    All those sad things happening in your personal life, and now this!

    But you haven't had that much time off yet - only the last few weeks of term - so I shouldn't get too distressed over that.

    As @GLsghost says, often in the small print you have something in your house insurance policy to cover you for legal disputes with your employer. That might help, in the future.

    In the future because hopefully it won't get to a legal dispute.

    And the CAB can be really helpful in giving you support and advice.

    But at the moment your main support must be your GP. You are clearly too unwell at present for either an informal chat or a formal meeting with HR. So go to your GP and get a clear statement on this.

    Then write something like this:

    Dear X

    Thank you for inviting me in for an informal meeting before the formal meeting with HR. I appreciate the fact that you are trying to support me during this period of ill health.

    However, I am afraid that the advice from my GP is that I should not attend any sort of meeting at present, either on school premises or elsewhere, as this would be prejudicial to my health and thus further delay my return to work.

    You will understand that in order to ensure that my health improves and I am therefore able to return to my duties as soon as possible, I must follow the clear advice of my medical practitioner and not undertake any work at all related to school, nor deal with queries.

    I would therefore be grateful if you would ensure that all my colleagues are aware that they should not contact me about school matters. Thank you for this.

    I am sorry that you are being inconvenienced by my absence, but I am hopeful that by following strictly the advice that I have been given, my health will improve sufficiently to enable me to resume my duties at the end of the current predicted period of absence.

    I am very pleased to hear that you are staying with your parents and being looked after properly. You need this to be able to get back on your feet.

    Best wishes for your health and happiness in 2016

  5. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    JeannieMc, GLsghost and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  6. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter



    JeannieMc likes this.
  7. joannagb

    joannagb Occasional commenter

    Have you phoned the union to see if it's too late to join up and get some help? They exist to support us so you may find that they will let you join now.

    Your gp is absolutely right to tell you not to make any decisions while you're ill - I did that and it was a huge mistake.

    I love the advice given here by TheoGriff and the others - I wish I'd come on here when it was all going wrong for me.

    Good luck
    JeannieMc likes this.
  8. nearmiss

    nearmiss Lead commenter

    It's very unlikely that any union will take a case post hoc. I wouldn't want to give anyone false hope on this matter. There is plenty of excellent advice in the TES community to tell you what your union rep would have said anyway. As TheoGriff has advised, it's early days yet. Your first priority is your health. Look after yourself, eat sensibly, exercise, sleep, keep in touch with friends, be kind to yourself. Don't feel guilty. Stress is manageable but it takes time.
    GLsghost likes this.
  9. katemoore

    katemoore New commenter

    Your union may, if you contact them, allow you to pay your subscription from when it lapsed to update it. Mine did, several years ago. You could then ask them to represent you when and if, you got to the stage of having meetings with your school. It is always worth asking. As others have already said, it is important to take all the time you need.

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