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Phased Return? What's that?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by lil miss d, Mar 2, 2017.

  1. lil miss d

    lil miss d New commenter


    I had bunion surgery on both feet and have been off work for the past three months. I want to go back as I need a routine and being home is getting me down. I can't manage a full day as swelling gets bad as day progresses and it becomes painful to drive. I need to build my time up to manage this. I met Occupational Health who agreed I can't return to full duties and need a built up timetable over 4 weeks.

    I had been calling the school the entire week before starting to organise what the plan was for my first day back, what i should be planning, etc, but no one got back to me. I was supposed to do three mornings only the first week and when I arrived at school, I was told to go straight to the Head's office for what I thought was a return to work meeting. There was no polite welcome or asking how I was (duty of care??) and when I asked what the plan was that morning I was snapped at and told that I am an experienced teacher and could come up with something and should be more organised- I had tried, and the Office staff member confirmed this as she was minuting the meeting. My Head Teacher organised a timetable for all the time that I was not in class. The timetable evolved by 11am and became ridiculous- in one afternoon session I was expected to update my coordinators file (I've been off for 3 months) to be scrutinised the next day, update on all developments since I had been off, plan for World Book Day, read the RAP and TASK group meeting notes and actions over past three months- our school is in special measures). I was so overwhelmed and my chest began feeling tight. I loved seeing my class and it was so good to be back in the classroom, but I was seriously feeling stressed! At 12pm my Head Teacher stood outside my room with a pile of papers and folders, dumped them by my desk, briefly said what they were and walked out.

    The supply covering my class for the afternoon came to ask what they were doing that afternoon. I was still marking the mornings books and hadn't thought about the afternoon. I went to check in the office as to who would be providing work for the afternoon and was told they didn't know. At this point, I explained that this did not feel like a phased return and that if I was expected to do this much work on my first day back what was the point of a phased return and that I may as well have been teaching all day. I had a massive breakdown and couldn't stop crying for the rest of the day. I felt awful and lost. I left and was advised by my union not to return until I had had a return to work meeting which I hadn't had. I didn't want to go off but I knew I couldn't cope with what was expected either.

    Can anyone tell me what a phased return should be? Surely this isn't right and I have a return to work meeting next week. I need to be clear on what to expect and feel really anxious at the moment. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!
  2. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    You should do what OH said and no more. Three mornings means three mornings in total and not three mornings of class contact. Someone else should be planning for the times you are not working.
    lil miss d and Mrsmumbles like this.
  3. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Firstly well done for posting on here. It's only through sharing these frankly shocking stories that other teachers can be forewarned.
    As I understand it, phased return means what it says...a gradual return to work in phases. It's really important and I feel not properly explained or profiled amongst teachers. The odd ATL or NUT mag article on it would help. So after my surgery, I did not take it, as it wasn't offered. I'd coped with unbearable workplace stress and bullying, had a heart 'event' and emergency surgery, taken off three days, had half term, them returned. This was stupid. I was trying to keep my job and see off the capability and bullies myself. Second big mistake. I should have warned the union rep about the issues which triggered my collapse earlier. So after Easter holiday, I was suddenly called in and slapped on formal capability. After heart surgery. BIG shock. Union now involved big time. Took work related stress sick leave. I will never forgive my so called professional employers for this because it ruined my recovery, and I'd not taken much time off at all when I really should have. There just wasn't much information and, as teachers, we do soldier on. Plus these days, time off sick can quickly (not always, but can) lead to capability. I wanted to keep earning as long as I could. Another mistake...life matters more than income! So when my gp said I was able to return, I firestorm did one day a week, them two, then three. It increased by a day a week, I found that returning was awful, of course nomcolleague support, but I'd secured another job by then. Found myself in the odd situation of being told I was useless by a school which I think was frankly lucky to not be done for personal injury, whilst being offered a job by a better school elsewhere. Interestingly, the bullying and pressure observations all stopped once they were told I was leaving. The last week of my phased return was also the week I left. Getting a calendar comes in useful!
    Really, with hindsight, you should not have returned to work without the rep thrashing out a proper phased return deal with your SLT. In secondary that would normally mean the HOD coordinating with other departmental staff to cover the days you were not in. The HOD should have done this. Your HT sounds young and inexperienced. Please do not tell me they are older! They have certainly not treated you well. Go full force now with the union and check the school policies on sickness, absence and disability. Are you part mobile still, is this classed as a disability...ask your rep all this. These days, if schools can wriggle out of offering PR, many will. Insist on it. When you're recovering, you're vulnerable, despitebtrying your hardest, so don't let them exploit this.
    phlogiston and lil miss d like this.
  4. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Also despite wanting to go back, you should have followed OH. They know their stuff and you can now see how suddenly the workload will burden you and how hard it is without phased and supportive return.
    lil miss d likes this.
  5. lil miss d

    lil miss d New commenter

    Thank you for your replies, it definitely helps to know the experience of others. My Head Teacher is 54, not so young in terms of school experience! She walked out of school on the last day before half term, she clearly wasn't coping. The problem is that she was very erratic as a Head Teacher and never put much thought in what she said or did, this usually caused a lot of problems which others usually had to sort out. She was encouraged by many to go, including Ofsted, but wouldn't and it clearly got too much, which isn't nice but then we are all responsible for our own actions. You are right about colleague support, despite agreeing that things aren't right, there isn't anyone that supports you openly because everyone has their own issues. I will find out what they have in store for me on Monday, they never brief you fully on what the meeting is about, you go in with one agenda and come out thinking something else afterwards. I have another note for a week so at least I am not throwing myself in- not making that mistake again, I can take in what was said and know (hopefully) what is expected when I do return. Anyone that has never suffered from anxiety, would not understand how difficult it can make things and you can't think straight- a cliche but a real one!
    Mrsmumbles likes this.
  6. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Heavens, 54 and still no idea, that is depressing. What's good (even though it may not seem so now) is that the scales have already dropped from your eyes and you already see the limitations of management, so if they do throw a dirty at you this week, I hope the shock will not be so great. This all helps with the recovery process. I'm sorry that you have to go through this, but please put your health first, stuff the rest. I didn't and feel an idiot for not doing so now. Where are all the kids whose work I marked whilst I should have been resting in hospital? Long gone and not even an email, and why should there have been, they're kids and life moves at breakneck speed in schools. Just start your Plan B and look at tuition or examining to tide you over until you see a better job, not necessarily in 'teaching'. It is their loss, so no working from home whilst signed off. Kill the guilt!

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