Time off work after a miscarriage

(11 Posts)
somewherebeyondthebarricades Mon 25-Aug-14 13:22:26

Hi, I had a miscarriage in early January which has triggered some quite hard-to-shake depression and possibly PTSD.

I am a teacher and term started 4 days later. I went back. Eventually struggled with the lack of sleep and constant crying and was persuaded to have a couple of weeks off. Came back full-time, struggled again and had some more time off. GP totally supportive, headteacher also. Started ADs and work paid for some counselling.

Went back on a reduced timetable on a fit note ('you may be fit to work if...) and that worked well for the whole of the summer term.

Now still not properly well and the thought of school next week is not helping. GP worried about me going back full-time. Think current plan is to carry on reduced timetable but HT will not be impressed as he wanted things 'back to normal' in September. I do admit that I am also frustrated that this is dragging on so long but I cannot imagine coping with work and life when this summer I have only just coped with life. It seems a good compromise to go in and do the teaching but to work at home for parts of days like I did last term, just for a couple of weeks.

What worries me is what happens next. Someone on another thread pointed out that pregnancy-related stuff can't be counted for disciplinary or sacking purposes, but how long does my mental state go on before it stops being considered pregnancy-related (after all, I stopped being pregnant seven months ago)?

I did ask in June to swap roles to a less senior one that I would have coped with better and the HT wouldn't let me. I have more responsibility this year than last and less time to do it in. I would be nervous anyway even if I was 100%.

What will happen to me if I don't get 'back to normal' quickly? Can I get sacked or could I negotiate a less stressful role? TIA.

flowery Mon 25-Aug-14 14:39:50

Sorry to hear you've had such a rough year.

Your condition wouldn't count as pregnancy related for work purposes. But I don't think it makes much practical difference in your case anyway. Pregnancy related sickness absence can't be counted against someone for the purposes of (for example) redundancy selection, a negative reference, of in cases where x amount of sick days automatically triggers a disciplinary warning.

But those don't apply in your case. In your case it's a case of whether you are or will be fit to do your job or not, and the initial origins of the condition aren't relevant to that. Ultimately, regardless of the cause of a condition, if someone isn't fit to do their job for a sustained period of time, an employer is entitled to look at other options. They should take medical advice about whether there are any adjustments that can be made to enable the person to do their job, and also about the likelihood of the person being fully fit in the near future. They should consider redeployment if there is a vacancy that the person could do, but ultimately if none of those are possible, they can dismiss on capability grounds. And to be honest, eight months after you were first off is perfectly reasonable in terms of timescale to start looking at options.

Objectively they sound pretty reasonable so far, allowing a reduced timetable and paying for counselling. What do you think? Do you think realistically you are going to be fit to do your job in the near future? Have you any thoughts about what you want to do?

somewherebeyondthebarricades Mon 25-Aug-14 16:51:24

They have been very reasonable and yes, it has taken and is taking a long time. That is my worry. I get that I need to be able to do the job or stop doing it. I want to be able to do it; I really wish he'd agreed to let me do the other job as I was more than capable of it (a demotion) and could have coped with it more easily. My job is very senior and involves line management and constantly being available whereas the demotion was more limited in scope and also has a realistic time allocation - which my role in September absolutely doesn't.

My GP was surprised that I wasn't on a Stage 1/2 procedure yet (as was I until another poster yesterday said that pregnancy-related stuff doesn't count. I assumed that that explained it but you're saying not so I have no explanation for why I'm not even on a warning yet). She was also surprised that Occupational Health aren't involved. How does this work? Should I expect or ask for a referral? Thanks, by the way.

flowery Mon 25-Aug-14 17:06:37

It's not about warnings in your case. Yes it's possible to give someone disciplinary warnings for sickness absence, but it's not necessarily appropriate to do so, or worthwhile, and if they do end up dismissing you for capability, they won't need to have given you warnings etc first. All they need to do is have reason to believe that you won't be returning to your full job in the near future, and have demonstrated that they've made reasonable effort to support you, find out about adjustments, redeploy you etc. an occupational health report would be part of demonstrating those things.

They should refer you to Occupational Health, particularly if they are considering a capability dismissal, but ideally before as well, as OH can provide useful guidance more generally about what can be done for you. You can certainly ask about a referral, as it will be helpful for both you and your employer.

somewherebeyondthebarricades Mon 25-Aug-14 17:12:11

Thanks. This is all quite alien to me, having had an excellent attendance record for the first 11 years of teaching. Sod's law that the year I fall apart is the first year of a new Head!

See, I think part of a reasonable effort to support me would have been letting me at least apply for the demotion. Should he have?

flowery Mon 25-Aug-14 17:33:50

Well, employers should always try and get employees back to their own role first if possible, and presumably in June, your HT thought you were on your way back and would be up to full speed again by September. You are in the more senior position for a reason, so it's not an unreasonable decision to prefer to wait a couple of months for a senior member of staff as opposed to "giving up" perhaps a bit prematurely and "losing" that talent in a way. Is the more junior role still available?

somewherebeyondthebarricades Mon 25-Aug-14 17:51:21

I know, and I think he's not understood that, while work was never the cause of the problem, it exacerbates it now.

I think he hoped to get me 'back' as I used to be very capable before everything fell apart. The more junior role has gone - I literally asked him the day before they were interviewing.

I could just go back to a teaching role, though it would be very unusual and not ideal financially. But it might be better for me and for the school. My GP keeps saying he should be happy to have had me at all during summer term as she could have signed me off fully sick. I can sort of see her point as I taught 99% of my lessons, did all my duties, completed all projects, went to all meetings. Just took time out during 'frees'. But, at the same time, why should he be happy to have me when he could employ someone who just got on with the job?

Thanks for the advice. Really helpful.

flowery Mon 25-Aug-14 18:27:49

That all makes sense. You are clearly capable and valued and he was/is hoping to get you back "properly", and if you combine that with asking him the day before interviews it's not surprising he was reluctant at that point.

I'm sure he was happy to have you back had the alternative been nothing at all, but one would expect a term of nearly at capacity to be followed by moving to full capacity - reduced hours or duties is often part of a gradual return to work, and it seems to now be becoming clear to you and your HT that what you had both anticipated and planned for isn't going to happen.

I think you should ask for an occupational health referral on the basis that you aren't quite where you hoped to be and feel some professional advice on how your condition impacts on your work and what you and your employer can do to minimise that impact would be useful all round.

somewherebeyondthebarricades Mon 25-Aug-14 21:34:41

I will ask about OH. Do they make recommendations about work or just report?

flowery Mon 25-Aug-14 22:10:03

Well it partly depends what questions the employer asks them, but they should assess and report on how your condition impacts on your work and vice versa, and consider and report on whether there is anything the employer and/or employee could do or change to minimize that impact, including adjustments to work/tasks/working environment/hours/location etc etc.

As with anything though, OH advisors obviously vary in quality so I would suggest you be proactive during the assessment and ask about adjustments including the other role or other roles. The employer normally asks questions- tells the OH what information they are looking for- but there is nothing stopping you asking questions and mentioning things you think might be helpful.

somewherebeyondthebarricades Tue 26-Aug-14 12:04:42

Thanks for all the info, flowery. While I can't say it has made me any less anxious, at least I know where I am with it all now and that's really important.

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