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Signed off with anxiety dilemma

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by miss_anxiety, Jan 7, 2016.

  1. miss_anxiety

    miss_anxiety New commenter

    Hi everyone, this is a long story so please stay with me!

    I've suffered from generalised anxiety disorder and depression for several years which has been made worse by the stresses and demands of teaching. I have also had a lot of personal issues including dealing with infertility.

    The past 3 years there's definitely been issues between myself and management with basically me feeling that no matter how many hoops I jump through it's never good enough for them.

    In October I hit a wall and had a bit of a breakdown and was signed off sick. I feel 50 times better now and I know the main reason for this is because I'm not in work.

    Work have been putting a lot of pressure on me to return and are saying they will consider going down sickness capability. In the meantime, I have failed my performance management (despite being told I had passed 3 days before I was signed off) and not been moved up a pay increment. Obviously this along with the pressure has set my recovery back and the idea of returning to work is causing me a lot of anxiety!

    After a long discussion with my husband we decided I should leave as it wasn't worth the impact it was having on my mental health. I was going to consider either a PT teaching job or even a teaching assistant role.

    Low and behold...a week later I found out I was pregnant! This is a miracle in itself due to my fertility issues but now changes things as ideally I don't want to be without work or mat pay.

    I've met with the union who has advised that I continue with my sick leave for now and he has given me different options to think about: 1) return to work and risk them going down performance capability (which I think is highly likely) which would leave me with no job or mat pay. 2) get signed off sick until April on full pay and let them go down absence capability which he believes would entitle me to at least a 3-month pay out.

    However, I've also been informed that I'm covered under the disability act and was just reading about mental health and before school consider capability they have to explore every opportunity of me returning to the workplace.

    Does anyone know where I would stand on requesting that I could return to work in the role of a teaching assistant?

    Any advice/comments appreciated.

    thanks x
  2. marymoocow

    marymoocow Star commenter

    So sorry you are going through this and congratulations about the baby. Who told you that you had passed your p.m and is there any evidence? I don't know how much protection pregnancy can offer you. I wonder if it is possible to return to work for a day and then get signed off again with stress that is harmful to you and your baby. I don't know if this would then count as a pregnancy related illness which can't be counted in sickness figures.
    The threat of sickness capability concerns me as in reality you have only had a short time off. They have responsibilities to you in terms of managing your sickness, not least of which is now a pregnancy risk assessment. Have they followed any sickness procedures and policies? Have they referred you to OH? Could your GP write a letter that states they fully expect you to get better, but that you will need time and their pressure isn't helping?
    GLs Ghost and Daisylot are more knowledgeable than me and will hopefully be a long soon. I've tried to tag them but it isn't working again for me!
    notsonorthernlass likes this.
  3. miss_anxiety

    miss_anxiety New commenter

    Hi, thanks for replying : )

    The assistant deputy head told me I had passed my PM verbally at the end of the meeting and she never actually raised any issues with me. The first I heard of it was a week before xmas when I received a letter outlining the reasons why I haven't been moved up to M6. I have only just received my PM doc this morning because I requested it.

    Hmm I hadn't thought about pregnancy-related illness...My only worry is if I'm successful in being signed off until mat leave kicks in I will have to return to work as a FT teacher for 12 weeks or PT for 20 weeks which currently the idea of this is causing me anxiety.

    I should have mentioned, sorry, that yes, I've been referred to OH and they've deemed me as fit for work which is why work are discussing capability. The union have told them my GP sick note over-rides this.

    I was thinking about getting my GP to write a letter of support and I could also get one from my counsellor.

    Thanks again x
  4. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    Great news about the pregnancy!

    And I think that your number 1 priority has to be looking after yourself and that baby.

    Not your job. Not your income from maternity pay. Looking after yourself and that baby.

    I am very pleased to hear that your union are on your side, and your GP too, by the sound of it. Do get your union to investigate the idea cleverly put forward by @marymoocow .

    After mat leave you only have to return if you claim the occupational maternity pay. If you don't claim this, you do not need to return, or if you decide later on not to return for the full 13 weeks (13, not 12), you pay back the extra money. Which is a bit hard!

    ATL on maternity pay etc.

    Best wishes - look after the two of you!

    notsonorthernlass likes this.
  5. miss_anxiety

    miss_anxiety New commenter

    Thank you. Very interesting link thanks, I definitely have a lot to consider.
  6. marymoocow

    marymoocow Star commenter

    In my LA you could choose to hold over the extended maternity pay if you were unsure you were returning, then you didn't have to pay it back if you didn't return or get a big lump sum if you did.
    notsonorthernlass likes this.
  7. monicabilongame

    monicabilongame Star commenter

  8. RedQuilt

    RedQuilt Star commenter

    Another bump
  9. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Congrats on the baby! Don't worry, you are not alone, another person picked on because she had health worries and was older and more expensive...oh, and it looks like not all of SLT were 'in' on the bullying, which is also quite typical. What you choose to do next is going to need planning, you putting your health first at all costs, but, I would argue, that is no reason at all for you to take their nonesense and buckle. I think you are right to worry about maternity pay. It is awful that your employer are behaving like this. I guess they could put you on capability...but would your school do informal then formal? Schools don't need to do stage one now, but some still do. If they do, that gives you and your rep more time. I think they will back off once they know your are expecting, as to bully a pregnant teacher is pure Daily Mail fodder, and I would argue that you wouldn't need to worry about things whilst pregnant, but then again, school managers are becoming more and more brutal. You will know your own school! The school might use the OH and clear bill of health they gave as evidence that they can PM you. Maybe ask to be seen by them again? My school refused this, which was the red light warning I then acted upon. I know that you can take sick leave if you feel stressed whilst pregnant. This would kick in before maternity leave. You could mention things like information access requests and no formal compromise agreement being reached...suddenly, you might find a decent payout figure and a good reference being offered. The reference matters a bit, but isn't essential. But you deserve the best layoff that you can get, as does, of course, your new addition! If they are discussing capability, it is time to plan. You do have some cards left...forcing out an expectant mother with no gaggjng agreement in place with you and HR is not the sort of situation your HT wants, trust me. You need to get another OH report which implies that extra stress could harm you and the baby, and that you arecsufferening from work related stress. If you can get this, and SLT are stupid enough to pursue formal capability, go get em. Bit worried about the 'well enough to be at work' status they are saying you have. Maybe request an informal meeting with them and your rep?

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