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Off with WRS - is it the right time to make big decisions?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by ArthurDigbySellers, Mar 28, 2018.

  1. ArthurDigbySellers

    ArthurDigbySellers New commenter

    I've been off school since half term now. A change in timetable tipped me over the edge and I initially went off for two weeks. I hoped that my HT would reassure me about what changes would be made so that I wouldn't be stressed when I came back (i.e. timetable changed back) but that was not forthcoming. My GP then signed me off for a further number of weeks as I was still suffering the same symptoms as before. At first, I had not even considered handing my notice in. I just wanted to resolve the timetabling issue. I would have liked to discuss what a phased return would have looked like but worried that once I said I was better, I would be given the same timetable that made me ill in the first place. The longer I've been off, however, has made me think that a change would be beneficial and since making this decision, it feels like a weight has lifted from my shoulders.

    However, having had no experience previously of WRS, anxiety or depression, I do not know whether I should be making big decisions like this or whether I should keep visiting the GP for more notes. Friends and colleagues who have had WRS (there are surprisingly many) have advised me to 'park' all decisions like until I have had time to recover. I don't know how long I need to recover. Is 4 weeks enough? I've gone from not wanting to leave the house and sobbing all day to actually being able to get up and out and haven't cried for a week. Actually that doesn't sound very long! I do not have the physical symptoms of chest pains, palpitations, muscle spasms, stomach aches any more and these are the reasons I went off. I probably know that I am not in a good enough state to face a classroom yet but my alternative plan would be supply teaching.

    I feel guilty for being off for weeks and getting paid and feel like I should only come out during school hours so that I don't see anyone I know for fear that I'll be accused of skiving. Even as I type this, I know it sounds silly, but there is such a lack of understanding about WRS, including amongst my SLT.

    I could stop dithering and just do it and find that it was the best decision I ever made but something is holding me back. I'm due to have some talking therapy sessions soon which will be helpful. I don't feel comfortable however, having more time off if at the end of it, I'm just going to hand my notice in. I would feel like I've been stringing everyone along.

    Has anyone else had this exhausting inner dialogue - i.e. considering resigning whilst off with WRS and then feeling better enough to return to work - and returned to work successfully?

    Apologies for the rambling - (albeit therapeutic). Just don't know whether I'm taking this decision too soon and need to take a bit more time.
  2. ultimatedingbat

    ultimatedingbat Established commenter

    You need to think about yourself. 4 weeks isn't a long time to recover from something which obviously had a big effect in you. Talk to your Doctor, get their advice, speak to friends (outside of school friends) or family. Don't make a decision before you are ready.
    ArthurDigbySellers likes this.
  3. mothorchid

    mothorchid Star commenter

    It does sound as if you had a bad case of WRS. Four weeks is no time at all, especially in the larger scheme of things. I think I'd agree with the thought that making big decisions right now is a little iffy. However, there are some things you could do.
    Have a hard look at your finances: how much money do you need? (This is not the same as how much money you WANT) What savings could you make? For example, how much do you spend each month on your commute? do you have the best deal on utilities? Are you spending out on clubs/gym membership/contracts which you could cut down on? How about going part-time?
    Next, think about the other schools in the area where you live. Do you feel you could work at any of them? If so, a pro-active CV might be worth considering.
    Finally, think about what other jobs you could do and research the local possibilities and the income they would offer. It's no use deciding to be a deep-sea trawler captain if you live in Birmingham, for example.

    Eventually, you will find you are feeling stronger - and this may not be for a few weeks or even months - and you will be in a position of strength, because you will be informed.

    However, your first task is to recover. WRS is a real illness and it's a slow recovery. Take whatever time you need. A few weeks here or there won't mantter in the long run.

    Take care.
  4. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    You could tell School your are feeling a little better but would like to meet with Occupational Health before contemplating any return.

    That meeting would start with a good chat about you and how you're feeling. You could then discuss a phased return. That discussion might send you back to square one. Or you might do it. And then you might instantly hate it and have to get signed off again. Or maybe you'd tolerate it for a bit. Maybe you could go part-time even.

    There are 1,001 ways to go. Supply can be great. I loved it.

    But you have only just begun to feel better!!

    Go steady!
  5. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Sorry you're in this place.
    The advice above seems good. Your doctor is the person who can see you and assess your symptoms and judge the treatment you need.
    When you get a "fit to work" note it will say what you can do and what you can't do. This will be the doctor telling your school what you can do (not you trying to dictate terms).
    I was in different circumstances when the time to go came. I had a couple of months of "well, it's time to go but I'm not sure when", then it was surprisingly easy in the end.
    I had age on my side.
    Good luck.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  6. catbefriender

    catbefriender Lead commenter

    Sorry to hear you are feeling poorly and hope you are truly on the mend but remember if you get too stressed to speak to the Education Support Partnership, Samaritans and Union to assess your options.

    As you no doubt know, schools have problems with phased returns, part time work or any attempts to help vulnerable teachers, so you have to be 100% especially during examination time to return but the suggestion to go to OH is a good one, if that can be arranged.

    Interestingly, you state your concerns are with the timetable and it doesn't seem as if there will be any budging with that. These illnesses are your body's way of telling you that this is not okay. Look at your options and decide very carefully how to move forward with this.

    If you believe you can physically and emotionally rise to the challenge of the new timetable, go for it. If not, try to get the union involved in negotiating a new timetable.

    There are some horror stories of non Ebac teachers being expected to teach up to 7 subjects (some of them foreign languages they don't know), so I have no idea what your timetable issue is, but don't publish it on here as it may identify you. It has to be over the top, so keep working on negotiating for the humanly possible after the break.

    Now take some time to forget the guilt and enjoy your official time off.

    The kids will be okay.
  7. kji

    kji New commenter

    I'm sorry you're dealing with this. I too have been signed off for a month with WRS.

    I visited OH (I had to request it!) it was really helpful to feel listened to. They have made their recommendations but I think my HT is going to be difficult about them.

    I have discussed everything with my union rep. All communication with school has come from me but they drafted my emails so that everything that needed to be said was said but in a non-confrontational and professional way. This might be of help to you.

    I am also taking my rep with me to my RTW meeting (my HT ride to block that but it's a deal breaker for me).

    I really hope you can get things sorted.
    clarity66 likes this.
  8. ArthurDigbySellers

    ArthurDigbySellers New commenter

    Thank for the helpful advice everyone. It has been really useful.

    I've had chance to get away over Easter. Good to be able to go away for a good chunk of time without having to devote half the holiday to schoolwork. I've also been looking into alternative careers, checking out supply agencies and temping agencies so as to be better informed in case I choose not to go back. I'm feeling quite a bit better but the chest pains and muscle spasms start to kick in as soon as I start to think about going back to school.

    I am looking forward to the OH meeting which is coming up soon to be able to talk things through. I consulted the union which was helpful in terms of advising me to check my contract wording but this turned out to be a dead end.

    Unfortunately I just seem to be one of those teachers that can't find those extra reserves of energy to take on more responsibilities whereas my colleagues are. I have a lot of demands on me outside of school as well. I don't see how a phased return would work in this case as it would be a return to something that I have said I don't want to do.

    I'm trying to do all the things to make me better but just the fact of being off work with no resolution to the problem makes things feel worse which is why I'm considering a fresh start. Does everyone else off with WRS think constantly about handing their notice in? I am still feeling torn about whether to keep extending my time off if at the end of it all, I hand my notice in anyway. The longer I'm off, the more disconnected I feel.

    I feel quite let down however about having been in a job for over seven years (that I had been perfectly happy in and good at) and being given another role with more workload than I personally could possibly cope with (albeit all within my contract) without any kind of say in the matter.

    Does anyone know how things work in terms of payscales if I decided to go into supply for a while and then return to a full-time school role again in another school? If I have a break for a few months, does that mean I have to start back at the bottom again?

    Thank you for reading.
  9. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    I'm glad you've had a good break, and felt able to start exploring alternatives. I can't answer your questions from personal experience, but can say that I suddenly reached a point where I was unable to continue adapting to change.
    This has changed now I have a new job in a different environment.
  10. cornflake

    cornflake Senior commenter

    All salary points are negotiable ...
    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  11. spinning_wheel

    spinning_wheel New commenter

    It’s good to hear that you’ve had a break recently. When I was signed off with WRS my exit was negotiated through my union. The next step for you is to see OH. Wait to see the outcome of that.

    In the meantime use this time to continue to recover and get better and I know it’s hard, think less of what is happening at school.

    I did some supply after leaving my job. It lead to a full time contract. Pay is negotiable but I didn’t go to the bottom of the pay scale, I just carried on from before.
    ArthurDigbySellers likes this.
  12. ArthurDigbySellers

    ArthurDigbySellers New commenter

    Thank you - really appreciate your input.
    spinning_wheel likes this.
  13. ArthurDigbySellers

    ArthurDigbySellers New commenter

    Been to the OH. Haven't seen the report yet but OH said that the timetabling issue needs discussion and therefore a meeting with HT would be a good idea. I don't think that the timetable is the issue anymore. Since having met with the OH, I feel emotionally like I'm on a downward turn again, sitting sobbing at the thought of going back to school. What happens if the OH recommends that I'm fit to return to work but my GP says that I shouldn't return yet?
  14. skellig1182

    skellig1182 Senior commenter

    GPS decision.xx
  15. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    I endorse fully the views above about your health being paramount but to answer another question of yours
    Firstly beware of looking at supply as an easy gig, it can be and I'm in supply for precisely the reason that I can't hack being a 'proper teacher' but I've traded off all the paperwork and SLT-induced stress for disruptive classes and job insecurity (both of which I'm fine with but you may not be). So please think about this world before you jump into it. At least you'll have seen supply in action at your school and possibly others.

    Payscales don't apply to supply teachers. It's whatever the strongest party (of supply/agency/school) can get away with. I'm doing okay offering Science/Maths in West Yorkshire (£195 per day but via an Umbrella Company) but @Jolly_Roger12 who has a similar skill-set (or better) to me is really struggling in London.

    Re the permanent post: With the end of pay portability such questions cut both ways, so if you're Secondary PE too bad, Science/Maths you could well haggle upwards from your 'true' rate. However this eventuality is a long way off and you'll have time to think about refining your negotiation skills before then.

    All the best, whatever you decide to do.
    ArthurDigbySellers likes this.
  16. mothorchid

    mothorchid Star commenter

    Glad you managed a break and felt a litle better for doing so.
    Going by what you have written here, you are not yet ready to return to work. So don't. Go to your GP and request further time off. As for the way ahead, sometimes it becomes clearer if we wait a while. It may be that some other job will present itself, either in teaching or out of it. Or perhaps you will work out that you can afford to be part time and thus remove some of the workload.
    It is quite normal (in my experience) to have "school things" in your head constantly when you are off with WRS. It is a sign that you are still unwell.
    Take care of yourself. The future will happen whether you worry over it or not, so try to focus on other things.
  17. ArthurDigbySellers

    ArthurDigbySellers New commenter

    Feeling miserable and ill again. Got OH report 2 days ago and it says 'well enough to return in my opinion' - advises a meeting with department head to sort out timetabling issue as if that's all it's about. Don't feel that the OH asked questions about how I was feeling. All that side has been ignored. But no changes can be made to the report in terms of opinion expressed within it, only 'factual inaccuracies'. Have found information that says 'The Government has indicated that employers may, in principle, be able to overrule a GP’s advice in a fit note as to whether or not a person is potentially fit to return to work.' After OH meeting, I knew that going back to college was the wrong decision for me and I have written my resignation letter. Now I am worried that I will be forced to work my notice, rather than be able to request an early release as I had hoped and not have to return. I really didn't want this to turn into a situation and the longer it drags on, the worse I feel. Just want to cut loose.
  18. mothorchid

    mothorchid Star commenter

    I'm very sorry to hear this, ADS. Union. Now. I don't know the details of what to do if you disagree with the OH report, or whether your GP can over-rule it, but someone on herre may well do so.
    However, since you have decided to leave this job, there may be wriggle room. Your school don't want to pay you to be off sick, you want to go. Maybe a month's salary in lieu of notice? And then a new start.
    Take care.
  19. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Please please take great care at the return to work meeting. Plan for the worst but hope for the best. But if you’ve already resigned, maybe they won’t do one? I wouldn’t have resigned until your union rep had cut you the best possible deal. Face them out. Who will blink first? Ridiculous, but realistic for today’s cosy school cultures.
    My rep and GP were great, but right at the end of my RTW, which was so stage managed it deserved a BAFTA, they did stuff which effectively triggered a very bad reactive depression by placing me, suddenly, on formal capability. No warning. They lied about here being warning and created a false paper trail...also common these days. The law on staff dismissal and PM was changed, so it can happen. For me, in my situation, it finished my school teaching career, as I could no longer trust any schools after what my lot got away with. I didn’t actually have WRS before the meeting but boy did I have it afterwards...I never came there back full time. We were in spring term already so they’d obviously set this up. A replacement miraculously appeared! hmm....Personally, I don’t think you do sound well enough to go back there full on. Phased return would be ideal. Use the time to get other job applications set up. Research the best supply agencies. Or if you can afford to, give yourself time out and get yourself rewarding local voluntary work. That way, if they lob a grenade, you’ll have done some prep and thinking work beforehand. Often a new school on part time or fixed term cover if the ideal tonic. They tend to not go after you with Capability rubbish or set you the workload issues you’ve had to deal with. What’s the point with temporary staff?
  20. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Settlement agreement, permission to leave at Heads discretion...BUT apply for jobs, be courteous and tell them you are and do they give you permission...keep all the options open and grit it out for a few more weeks. Phased return from May might well mean half timetable until June, then theee quarters, then full...then off, hopefully to a better post. There is light at the end of the tunnel. They did this to you, so maybe don’t let them get away without paying you off.
    clarity66 and ArthurDigbySellers like this.

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