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"Fitness to work" procedure triggered by absence following operations?

Discussion in 'Health and wellbeing' started by lucyrose50, May 12, 2012.

  1. lucyrose50

    lucyrose50 Occasional commenter

    I'm currently waiting for surgery for a medical issue I have, which will involve three operations with about 6 weeks off after each one. Other than this I am healthy and have never had to have significant time off work (just the usual few days occasionally for flu etc) and my doctor expects that once I've recovered from these operations I should be back to full health and am extremely unlikely to have any further problems in the future.
    When I informed my school of this, I was warned (albeit in a fairly sympathetic "this is nothing personal, it's standard procedure" type of way) that this much absence could potentially lead to me being deemed unfit to work and dismissed - I was astounded by this, given that it's not an ongoing permanent condition that will lead to any absences following the operations. I can't believe a school would sack a member of staff just because they've been unlucky enough to need a couple of operations. It's not as though there's anything I could have done to avoid it!
    Has anyone been in this situation themselves or known anyone else to be, that has resulted in dismissal? Part of me suspects that the possibility is being over-exaggerated in order to get me to try and have all of the operations during school holidays to minimise my absence, but part of me is worried since there's nothing I can do about needing the operations and I'm at the mercy of the NHS as far as when I have them is concerned!
     
  2. lucyrose50

    lucyrose50 Occasional commenter

    I'm currently waiting for surgery for a medical issue I have, which will involve three operations with about 6 weeks off after each one. Other than this I am healthy and have never had to have significant time off work (just the usual few days occasionally for flu etc) and my doctor expects that once I've recovered from these operations I should be back to full health and am extremely unlikely to have any further problems in the future.
    When I informed my school of this, I was warned (albeit in a fairly sympathetic "this is nothing personal, it's standard procedure" type of way) that this much absence could potentially lead to me being deemed unfit to work and dismissed - I was astounded by this, given that it's not an ongoing permanent condition that will lead to any absences following the operations. I can't believe a school would sack a member of staff just because they've been unlucky enough to need a couple of operations. It's not as though there's anything I could have done to avoid it!
    Has anyone been in this situation themselves or known anyone else to be, that has resulted in dismissal? Part of me suspects that the possibility is being over-exaggerated in order to get me to try and have all of the operations during school holidays to minimise my absence, but part of me is worried since there's nothing I can do about needing the operations and I'm at the mercy of the NHS as far as when I have them is concerned!
     
  3. lonelyteacher

    lonelyteacher New commenter

    I will advice you to contact your union.

     
  4. Torey

    Torey Occasional commenter

    I agree that you need to contact your union. It is threatening, uncalled for and I don't think HR would let it get that far for a short term time limited absence. Flowers would have been the response from a normal school.
     
  5. Torey

    Torey Occasional commenter

    Rereading this do you mean that you will have 3 different operations on 3 different occasions meaning over 4 months off from school? That would trigger absence proceedings, but you'd probably only get to stage 2. Check the absence policy as you may find it better to stay off for the 4 months rather than come back for a bit and then go off again. School would find it easier to plan for your absence as well then.
     
  6. It won't necessarily trigger absence proceedings it depends on your LA. I've been off for a year and other than a trip to occupational health after 7 months (requested by me). Nothing has happened. In fact I think they have forgotten I exist as I have had no contact now since November!
     
  7. Torey

    Torey Occasional commenter

    It depends on what criteria they use, which is why they need to check the absence policy. I got put in stage 1 for 5 days in a year in my last school with HR present and told that I could have no more than 3 days off before I went to stage 2.
     
  8. lucyrose50

    lucyrose50 Occasional commenter

    It will be 3 separate operations with 6 weeks or so off after each one - unfortunately I don't have any control over when I have them so I don't know if it'll be possible to time it so that I'm off work for a single block of time rather than going back to work in between them. It will depend when the surgeons can fit me in and how my doctors feel about me having the next operation as soon as I've recovered from the previous one - they may not feel that this is the best thing to do. I haven't actually had the operations yet, it's looking like it will probably be after the summer holidays now as I'm still being passed from pillar to post courtesy of the NHS.
    As far as my school's absence policy goes, if you're absent 4 times in a 1 year period then it triggers stage 1 of the absence monitoring procedure, regardless of whether you've been off for 1 day each time or several weeks - I was on stage 1 earlier this school year due to having had 4 periods of absence of one or two days each, mainly due to problems related to the condition that means I need the operations. It was explained to me that my attendance would be monitored for 3 months (this is apparently to see whether there's a
    particular pattern in your absences, e.g. always being off on the same
    day of the week) and that if I had more absences during this period then it could lead to stage 2 where I'd have to meet with the governers to discuss my attendance. At the time I queried whether they would take my medical condition into account if I did get to stage 2 and I was told that if there is a genuine medical reason for absence then I could provide evidence of this to the governers and it would be extremely unlikely that I would get into any trouble. However this appears to be a direct contradiction of what the head told me - that it doesn't matter if you're absent due to a permanent or temporary condition, even if it's something life-threatening, having several longer periods of absence in a year could lead to you being deemed unfit for work and dismissed. It's all you need when you're already worried about the effect of your absence on your students, isn't it?
     
  9. Torey

    Torey Occasional commenter

    You'd actually be in a stronger position if the absences were disability related, which it doesn't sound like. Have you been to OH? Are you still within the 3 month period as since April it normally starts again. You really need to talk to your union about this as it looks like you are going to put on stage 2 for the next absence and not be able to meet the criteria for not taking time off for the following two operations. I'd look at the situation with your union and see if the consultant will sign you off from the start to the finish if that means that you don't get to stage 3. Sorry that you are going through this.
     
  10. Hi, not sure if this will be useful but...
    I was diagnosed with appendicitis and needed an operation last year. As a result of that I was told that I would need further surgery. I was able to get most of my hospital appointments at the end of the school day or in the holidays. I was also offered a choice of when I wanted to have my next operation and this meant that I could elect the beginning of a holiday and limited my time off sick.
    School were great about the time I needed but the hospital and my GP understood about my classroom commitments.
    Ask the hospital as the NHS is much more flexible now. All of my ops were NHS and we have private health insurance but did not need it as the NHS was so flexible.
     
  11. inky

    inky Lead commenter

    Maybei I'm imagining things but isn't there something about being sick during holiday time not being counted as holiday or was that just a proposal that was thrown out of court?
     
  12. fudgeface

    fudgeface Occasional commenter

    I've just read this with a bit of concern. Thoughts and hugs to the OP. I've just been diagnosed with breast cancer and am on stage one of formal attendance and won't be there for my review meeting as I'll be recovering fom surgery. What do you think I should do?
     
  13. ref

    ref

    I am recovering from bowel cancer and have been absent from school since January. I was hoping to return to work after half term but, because of the effects of chemotherapy, will not be able to return until September. I have seen occupational health on two ocassions and they have been very helpful and supportive, as have my school. At no stage has dismissal been even mentioned to me. When I have recovered from my chemo I will need a further operation but this could be as late as November. My local authority insurance scheme for teachers has been wound up and our new scheme will not cover me for the second operation as it is deemed to be a pre- existing condition. This means that my school has set aside money in the budget to cover my further absense. I realise that I am very lucky that they are prepared to do this for me. I have been at the school for over 20 years though and the governors are very supportive.
     
  14. Torey

    Torey Occasional commenter

    Fudgeface-sorry to hear of your situation. As you have cancer you are covered by the equality act. Ring your union and the equality and human rights commission. They shouldn't put you through the absence procedures in exactly the same way as someone not covered. If they do and you were to be dismissed you could take them to a tribunal for discrimination.
     
  15. fudgeface

    fudgeface Occasional commenter

    Thank you Torey. I will speak to the relevant people in the next few days when I'm a little less emotional. To the previous poster I hope you are recovering well and that you have lots of support. I have a high chance of needing chemo but it isn't a definite. I'm sorry you have had to deal with bowel cancer and hope your prognosis is good. Take care
     
  16. lucyrose50

    lucyrose50 Occasional commenter

    Just so you all know (I don't want people to worry unnecessarily about their own situations!), everyone I've spoken to about this - both at my school, other teachers and people in other professions - has been appalled that the head has even mentioned the word "dismissal" and have said that she was way out of order to do this. This gives me some hope that she's actually just trying to scare me into arranging to have my operations during school holidays so I'm not absent for as long.
    I hope the other posters are doing OK and that your school is being more supportive than some people at mine seem to be!
     
  17. fudgeface

    fudgeface Occasional commenter

    Good luck Lucy Rose
     
  18. I hope this bill went through as the holidays are essential for recovery from the intensity of the job, not to receive medical procedures or recover from them. When does a body have time to recover from the rigours of teaching? Schools need to develop some proper pastoral care procedures and move away from local authority drone influences. Or is it that headteachers these days are bureacratic puppets with no heart? I hope you achieve better support with the union on side. Good luck!
     

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