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How does a phased return work and does it have to be accepted by HT?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by sophie85, Aug 20, 2015.

  1. Hi,

    I'm due to be returning to work on September 1st (with going in a few days over the next 2 weeks to sort out my boxes of stuff from my old classroom etc. ) I'm a deputy head and have worked at my school for 6 years, having worked up to SLT which I started last September. I was signed off in June with anxiety following a number of months of panic attacks at work. I was an in class deputy in Year 6 and my confidence was gradually being worn away with increased pressures, stress and a challenging year group (important to note it was myself wearing away my own confidence due to my level of anxiety, I was still getting outstanding lesson observations). While I was off I crumbled into severe depression (I had been on antidepressants for a number of years to keep a low level of depression already there under wraps) and ended up being admitted to hospital for a month stay with a severe depressive episode. I was discharged 2 weeks into the summer holidays. I have since continued to attend hospital during the holidays as a "day patient" for group and individual therapies. While in hospital I found out from colleagues at the school that another deputy has been brought in for September, I can only assume to replace me (but that might be my anxiety playing up there)

    I'm due to meet my HT next week, a few days before term starts to discuss my return to work. At this point I don't actually know if my phased return will be accepted of whether I'm expected to go back full time. I know already that I will be an "out of class" deputy so won't have the responsibility of being a class teacher as well. I know for my own health if I go back full time straight away I will relapse and end up seriously ill again.

    What I'd like to know is the following:

    1) Does a HT have to accept phased return recommendation given by doctor? My consultant at hospital has recommended that it takes place over 6-8 weeks but the council say its paid over 4 weeks.

    2) What hours does a phased return look like? What do people generally start on? Is it 3/4 mornings a week for example and then leading up to full time?

    3) If ofsted come calling (they're expected this term) do the phased return conditions continue or am I expected to work full time for those?

    4) Do occupational health need to be involved before I return or do you see occupational health during the phased return process? I'm told my HT will consider the phased return and recommendations and occupational health referral at the meeting.

    Many thanks for your help.
  2. Middlemarch

    Middlemarch Star commenter

    When I was a head, I wouldn't have allowed someone in your position to return to work without seeing OH first - I would certainly not accept the recommendations of a hospital consultant, since their 'business' is your mental health and not your occupational health and work situation.

    Therefore, you need to contact your head and request that s/he refers you asap to OH, especially as the referral might take longer than you hope it might. I see that your head has said s/he will "consider" the recommendations - this is because s/he is under no obligation to accept the recommendations from a consultant at all and as policy in your LA appears to be four weeks maximum, it's fairly unlikely the head will accept a longer phasing. S/he is not in law obliged to accept recommendations from OH, but heads generally DO.

    Phased returns look different in each LA; in my last one (I'm retired now), no phased return recommended by OH lasted longer than 4 weeks (each week after the first increased the amount of time in work). I do know, however, that others recommend longer phased returns.

    You say you won't be a class-based deputy - how sure are you of this and how long is this to last? I ask because I doubt the head intends it to last forever and so you need to think carefully about whether you can actually countenance - in future - a return to being a teaching deputy.

    Re Ofsted. I doubt very much the head will insist you come in for the two days Ofsted spring themselves upon the school, especially as you're not teaching AND have been out for so long. Why would s/he?
  3. Torey

    Torey Occasional commenter

    Do you not think it would be better to wait until you are well enough that you are no longer a day patient? Once that happens then OH can put in place recommendations to support you.
  4. Nikkibell811

    Nikkibell811 New commenter

    Sorry to hear how difficult things have been for you. On the subject of phased return I would imagine it is quite individual but mine looked like this....

    Tuesday and Thursday of the first week generally floating around and not in charge of anything

    Tuesday and Thursday of the second week with some teaching responsibility

    Tues, Wed and Thursday of week three - teaching plus PPA

    Monday through Thursday of the fourth week as above

    I only work four days anyway but could have gone up to full time by week five.

    Incidentally the ofsted call came on my very first day back so the head told me to stay home for the rest of the week (nicely). It was not in their interests, or mine, for me to be in school.

    I hope things work out for you.
  5. Hi middle march, I don't think i was clear on the teaching side of things, I'll still be teaching a 50% timetable, made up of covering PPA, intervention groups, maths sets etc. it's just I won't have my own class as such. So basically I'm fully aware I'll go back and be teaching 50% of the time.
  6. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    I'd imagine that your phased return could look quite different to a standard class teacher's then; presumably the intervention groups could just not begin until you are back up to full-time.
  7. jago123

    jago123 Established commenter

    First things first, have you been told by the COG or the HT that a DHT has been appointed? If not, I would question their professionalism and common courtesy. The only other thing I can think of is that the school is restructuring the SLT and therefore having a second deputy to 'share the workload'.

    I would definitely discuss this when you go and meet with the Head for clarifications as coming from a colleague might not always be right.
  8. Roboteer

    Roboteer New commenter

    My school would only support a 4 week phased return too. Mine started at 3 "half" days a week (I worked until lunchtime), then 4 half days, then one full day and three half days and then two full days and three half days. I was back covering my classes for the time I was in from day one and also had to set cover for all the times I was not in.

    Your school can refuse to support a phased return (mine refused on my current return to work even before it had been asked for!). Under these circumstances I would stay away until your doctor feels you are fit to cope being in every day.

    I agree totally that it is very important that you have support from Occupational Health. Whilst the school does not have to follow their recommendations it does tend to look bad for them if they refuse to and then things go wrong. I was not allowed to return to work without agreement of both OH and my doctor.

    Make sure that you are not pushing yourself to go back before you are ready. We all know how punishing teaching can be at the best of times never mind when you have other things going on. Put yourself first and it will be to the overall benefit of everyone in the end.
  9. squashua

    squashua Occasional commenter

    I'm sorry things have been so hard. Have been in a very similar position to you and I'm afraid it's possibly not good news if your Headteacher is anything like mine.

    I have had 3 OH reports, all saying the same thing, and the Head refused to follow the advice. Union said OH is only advice, not a requirement. A phased return can be restricted to a certain number of weeks - it's 4 here too - but the rest of it sort of depends on whether or not your depression is classed as a disability ie. has it lasted 12 months or more, does it have a significant impact on your life etc.?

    If it does, and OH should be asked to answer whether it is, in their opinion, likely that you're covered by the Equality Act, then the local policy re: phased return etc. is irrelevant. The school have to make 'reasonable adjustments' for you - which may well be a longer phased return.

    I would start with an OH referral.

    My HT has been shocking and is trying to force me out; I am having to take him to a tribunal. However, my previous Head would have followed the OH recommendations, supported me and been happy when I got better. I like to believe that the second type is more common and hope that yours is one.
  10. squashua

    squashua Occasional commenter

    Forgot to say, 1) Head has to give you phased return if that's what's in your absence policy. But only that length. He can, if he wants, ignore medical advice. Mine has. Though (I have come to understand) that leaves him in a dubious position if your health is then adversely affected. Not that that helps you now, of course, but it might make him make better choices if he realises this. Duty of care, health and safety, forseeable risk etc. are all words that have been used in advice that I have receivedm

    2) my phased return was half days, then 3 half days, then 2 half days and then one. Not really a phased return after so long off. GP was horrified and only wanted half days but it came down to it being Head's choice.

    3) I would say this would depend on how strong you felt

    4) I would advise not returning until you've seen OH. I kept trying to go back too soon when this all started and it was worse than if I'd just stayed off till properly well and with proper medical advice about conditions of work.
  11. squashua

    squashua Occasional commenter

    Obviously I mean that in my 'phased return' weeks the days that weren't half days were full days!

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