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Returning to work after 4.5 months off sick...

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by warmandfuzzy, Apr 24, 2017.

  1. warmandfuzzy

    warmandfuzzy New commenter

    Currently undertaking a phased-return after a long absence due to stress, anxiety and bereavement. I've been off for approx. 4.5 months.
    Could anyone give me a brief run-down on what the school should be doing to support me please? What should be in place?
    Also, what happens if I get 3 weeks into the phased return, and I feel that I can't cope? Does sick pay just continue until the 6 months is up, or does it start again?
    Thank you :)
  2. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    I'll try to tackle the phased return.

    Is this just, "Oh, cut back to 3 days a week for a fortnight, then go up to 4 for a fortnight and then we expect you back as before"?

    Without giving away too much detail and identifying yourself - how detailed is it? I assume it isn't very comprehensive or you wouldn't be quite so worried.

    The plan should help you. How much input have you had? To whom have you spoken? Occupational Health? HoD?

    I'll tell you roughly how you should be feeling after being off for so long:
    • keen to get back
    • a bit apprehensive (naturally so)
    • positive about doing it
    • looking forward to a bit of a catch-up
    • nervous about the workload
    • glad that there's light at the end of the tunnel
    • some dread because you're a teacher and it's hard graft at the best of times
    • pleased to be back on a phased basis
    • more or less confident that this way you'll be fine
    But the 'raring to go' bit needs to be a bit stronger than the 'OMG no' bit. And you need to feel that you can turn to someone and just go, "Arghhhh! Help!!!"

    That's a long, long time to be off and it won't be easy. You have to gird your loins and be assertive. I can do this but I need that and that and that. I want to do it and I can do it but I will have blips so bear with me. I have had enough of being lost and frightened and I want to get back some control of my life. Help me to be a good teacher again.

    For the sick pay? I suggest you Google 'teacher sick pay'. There are PDFs and DOCs from the Burgundy Book to read. It depends on so many things. Your length of service. The exact dates. The union may best be able to advise you on that as you can't reveal too much here. But try not to worry too much about that yet.

    You have to start with the idea that this will go well. Oh, and best wishes.
  3. MissMinton

    MissMinton New commenter

    I've just come back after three months away with depression. My department head has been wonderful and OH made some good recommendations:
    • I haven't taken back my year 11s at all because the exams are so soon and they were a significant factor in my breakdown
    • I started with a couple of hours a day and am extending that by an hour each week (till 11, till 12, till 1, etc)
    • I started with observing, not teaching, for a week or so to settle back in
    • I am taking back my other teaching groups one at a time, not just coming in one day and having my full timetable back
    Points 3 and 4 are very important. You should not be asked to come back to a full planning and marking load straight away. This isn't just about hours; it's about your responsibility load. That's key with stress. Get OH or a GP to back you up if need be.

    Hope that helps! Good luck--my school are great, but I know a lot of schools are difficult about these things.
  4. Flowersinspring

    Flowersinspring Senior commenter

    @MissMinton your phased return sounds very helpful -nothing like mine was!

    Regarding long term off with illness I have a cautionary tale. I had a long time off with anxiety and depression. I returned and after a V short while I had a migraine which made me sick and required a day off. I am now on the receiving end of a formal warning re my attendance despite my m.h. being classed as a disability and my union supporting me. In fact I was told by the head that I can't use my m.h. as a "passport to have as much time off as I want".

    It's fine to have a lot of time off with a bit of a breakdown but don't ever fall ill when you return!
  5. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Firstly, good luck!
    Secondly, Grumpy's covered a lot of the key issues.
    When I phase returned, one thing I did was to touch base with a trusted senior manager who went through things that had changed while I was out of things.
    if you start feeling you can't cope, try to talk to someone before it becomes a big issue. I appreciate that this may difficult as if they'd been looking out for you in the first place, you wouldn't have ended up off for so long. Try to think of solutions - "I am worried about X, would someone be able to do Y?"
  6. warmandfuzzy

    warmandfuzzy New commenter

    Thank you - really uplifting post!
  7. warmandfuzzy

    warmandfuzzy New commenter

  8. warmandfuzzy

    warmandfuzzy New commenter

    Thank you, I'll try not to be ill again :)
    Flowersinspring likes this.
  9. warmandfuzzy

    warmandfuzzy New commenter

    What about PPA? I've been told that I'll have PPA to match the hours that I'm doing, so 10% of each week's phased-return hours, regardless of the fact that I've got loads to catch up on and that planning etc will probably take ten times longer than everyone else for a while.
  10. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Loads to catch up on? What?

    Not marking. You don't do that. That doesn't get left for you. Not no how and not no way.

    So what is this catching up?

    I think the 10% PPA is fair but that doesn't mean you shouldn't ask for more. You clearly think you'll need it so ask for it! Just don't use that 'ten times longer' angle because that invites 'now don't exaggerate, you'll get it done faster than you think' as a response. Just state something like: "I really think I shall need 2 hours to prepare for 10 hours of teaching. Naturally I'm bound to be doing more than that as I'm a bit out of practice but 2 hours will be OK, won't it???"
    phlogiston likes this.
  11. FriarLawrence

    FriarLawrence Occasional commenter

    Yeah. I went back too soon. As a result, I no longer have the job I used to have. It's like being an alcoholic or something - people are supportive the first time, but if you relapse, previously supportive people can really surprise you.

    Best of luck - there's some great advice on this thread. Make sure it's not just your hours which are phased, but your responsibilities and expectations.
  12. pamwilks

    pamwilks New commenter

    Hi there, am currently off following a bereavement, and am feeling very anxious about returning to school. My head has suggested a Phased Return, and not knowing anything about how this works, I wondered how you got on with yours. Hoping to hear you are back and everything is now fine!
  13. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    I only know about phased returns, from the 'other side' ie as the supply who provides the flexibility and support for the teacher to return.
    I believe it was negotiable but the teacher I did it for twice, came back mornings only 3 days a week, increasing to 5 days as they felt Ok about it and then gradually increased the number of full days. it helped that I knew the teacher and we worked well together and I could be so flexible. Initially I was with her in the classroom for the first week to ensure a smooth transition and then on the half days later we talked at lunchtime about any info which needed sharing.

    The other teacher I've done it for just had me as back-up in the classroom for about a week, with the knowledge that if things became too much she could simply leave the classroom and I would 'pick up' and continue the lesson until she felt able to return. She rarely needed it fortunately after the first couple of days though and came back full-time the second week. Hers was compassionate leave due to her husband's deteriorating illness though and she was grateful of the time away and enjoyed teaching. All her stress was due to her husband's terminal illness. Even when he died she came back fairly quickly.
  14. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Lead commenter

    I hope that you made a record of the headteachers comments, did you see OH and if so did they implement the recommendations?
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  15. sunshineneeded

    sunshineneeded Star commenter

    My phased return was 3 mornings a week for the first week; every morning for week 2; until 2pm for third week and back to full time in week 4. Head Teacher also asked for a weekly meeting every Friday to check how I was doing - the class was covered for this time. This was a supportive meeting, in no way threatening. She also asked if I wanted an OH appointment, which I didn't. I felt very shaky and uncertain at first, but it all went well and is a distant memory now - a year ago.
    I wish you well, warmandfuzzy.
  16. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    Zombie thread alert...this was originally posted in April 2017...
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  17. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    sunshineneeded and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  18. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    I was a supply teacher and covered two lomg-term absences and then was kept on to support the phased returns of the teachers.
    The teacher who had been off for 11 months was given one class to deal with almost by herself (her very nice, small GCSE Art class). She came back 4 days per week but didn't start until 10 a.m and left before the end of the school day. She either started some lessons and then left me to it, or I started the lessons and she arrived mid-lesson and just circulated and gave advice. I don't know how things panned out after the 6 weeks of me supporting her as I had a term-time holiday planned before taking up the job and another supply teacher replaced me.

    The second phased return went very well and the teacher returned to f/t duties within a month. She chose to return for 5 shorter days per week. She'd had her nervous meltdown on the journey to work 4 months previously and preferred to have a later start than to have a day or two at home. She didn't want to deal with a particularly awful Yr 10 group of low set boys who were timetabled for a Wednesday and Friday afternoon, so I kept them. I team taught for a lot of her timetable and was given her backlog of marking to do during the llessons thta she taught exclusively. I had to look in through the door glass every 15 minutes to get the thumbs up from her or a signal that she was struggling and would like my assistance. Once she was managing certain groups confidently, I was used as cover elsewhere in the school.

    As to sick pay, the following sets it all out if you are employed under standard Burgundy Book regs. An Academy will have its own regulations.
    Assuming that your ansence started after 1st April this year, any absences until 30th MARCH 2019 will be part of the same sick pay annual entitlement.
    https://www.atl.org.uk/Images/ADV02 Sick leave and pay (Jan 2013).pdf
  19. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    I think people are answering post 12, which is asking the OP how they got on to help with their own return. Although reawakening old threads is often not a good idea, it does seem to make sense to me on this occasion, just in case the OP is still around.
    agathamorse and Lara mfl 05 like this.

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