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What am I allowed to do when on sick leave?

(19 Posts)
junkfoodaddict Sun 09-Nov-14 14:20:43

I have been on sick leave due to stress for the past 5 weeks almost. I have another 3 weeks of my second 'fit for work' note and likelihood is, I will remain on sick leave for the foreseeable future as my GP refuses to sign me as 'fit' until work issues are resolved. I am a primary school teacher with a HT who is a bit OFSTED obsessed and 'hungry' to be graded good, preferably outstanding at our next inspection which is due this year. a long story as to the ins and outs of my stress etc, etc.
But whilst on sick leave, what I am allowed to do and what can't I do? The GP has already said to me that I should get out and about, see friends NOT associated with work and do other things basically. So far in five weeks I have; socialised over coffee with friends five times, taken my DS to a church playgroup three times (goes to CM five days a week but since being off, I have taken him out for one day a week to spend time with him), visited my family 120 miles away which resulted in a shopping trip and a trip to soft play for DS, two shopping trips near home when DM visited and MIL as MIL never goes to the city where I shop and since FIL died, she's found her love for shopping so took them and the other time MIL gave me money to buy new baby stuff. Oh and took DS to a Halloween party hosted by one of his friends. Is this reasonable?
I don't want to be a recluse in my own home but i don't want to be seen as 'milking the time off'. I have changed all colleagues to 'restricted access' on FB not that I post a great deal but HT is the type of person to look for mistakes to catch you out/discipline people as she has done it before. Three years ago she called me into her office to 'tell me off' because friends and some colleagues found out about my pregnancy before she did - I was 6 weeks gone!!
Stress this week has worsened because I am frightened of being in trouble but don't want to vegetate in the house either. I said I would meet with HT at some point before my next 'fit for work' note is due but am totally and utterly scared of meeting her. She can be calm, charming but ruthless and cold. I used to admire her but lately I am struggling with my feelings and am confused as to how genuine she is with my stress illness. She comes across as unsympathetic (she hates her plans being ruined) and ignorant of 'stress in the workplace'.

Will I get into trouble for being out with DS and meeting friends for coffee? It is the two things that are keeping me going!!!

Sorry for the epic post. I thought a bit of background might somehow help!!!

FunkyBoldRibena Sun 09-Nov-14 14:28:38

No, depression may set in if you isolate yourself.

As long as you aren't getting an income from teaching other people, then you pretty much can go about doing what you are doing, as prescribed by your doctor.

Can you just hide all your work colleagues on FB, or unfriend them? And keep the posts to an absolute minimum, if at all? Or deactiviate the account and start a new one, under a different name [alot of my chums go under their DJ names, rather than their own], and just add people that you know, like and trust on there? And set all to 'friends only' for the duration of your sick leave?

When you go for your meeting with the HT, take someone [spouse, close friend, union member, trusted colleague] for support. And have the meeting on neutral territory like a cafe bar rather than go to school on her turf.

And when you go, make sure that she is making changes to avoid you being stressed again. So, support, gradual increase in hours, etc rather than going straight back full time.

Good luck, teaching is not easy and with a manic management team it is less and less an attractive option these days.

susiedaisy Sun 09-Nov-14 14:38:41

Hi there I have been on sick leave die to depression in the past and for a while I felt the same but then i realised that I couldn't sit at home waiting to get better so I did small things everyday that helped me.

Went for a walk, meet friends for coffee, went out with parents for a bit of lunch all very tame but it got me out and around friends n family
I did avoid putting anything on FB tbh because people will judge you. They shouldn't but they do
we have a long way to go as a society before we all understand mental health.

Letthemtalk Sun 09-Nov-14 14:41:43

You can do whatever you want on sick leave. You Dr had said you are not fit for work, not that you shouldn't be trying to enjoy life! Don't feel guilty about doing stuff, you won't get better sitting in the house. God luck!

fluffydressinggown Sun 09-Nov-14 14:44:35

I am off sick at the moment and got a letter stating I am being encouraged to go out and about and to socialise but I am not fit for work. Would that be possible?

whatadrain Sun 09-Nov-14 14:53:22

I am a teacher and also signed off at the moment. (Not with stress, but I have an ongoing health issue which is being made worse by being in SM after Ofsted.)

I also feel bad when I go out. I constantly feel like I'm going to get 'caught' when I do anything. The reality is, you can't just sit around at home all day. You need to be out and socialising to help you to feel better. If the head does say anything, involve your union immediately. Give them a call before you go back and see where you stand if such a situation was to occur. NUT have been massively supportive for me in the past, that's what they are there for.

Avoid FB and just make the most of having some time out of work.

Hope you start to feel better, OP.

Smartleatherbag Sun 09-Nov-14 15:02:03

Agree with all the other posts. It's an important part of getting better, being able to go out for small social things. Obviously, it's not really the time to throw a huge gathering ;-) but clearly that's not going to happen!
You're doing well to do what you're doing. It's healthy. Still perfectly fine to be signed off as long as needed. Trust me, I went back far too soon and had a relapse. It wasn't pretty. Take care of yourself.

SilverStars Sun 09-Nov-14 19:56:36

Hi, it is good t do things - part of recovery.
Have you had a referral to work's occupational health to challenge the work/stress and see what can be done about it? Or has your gp referred you for counselling or medication or to a mental health team to support you? I guess work would want to know that you have a diagnosis and are working on recovery - and if work is part of th problemyou need support for that to change otherwise you will be signed off on full pay til that runs out, then off on reduced pay and then I am unsure what happens. But if there are official meetings and steps recorded to show that changes are made to reduce work stress etc it may help?

You are entitled to union rep to go with you to any official meeting- would that help? And if head teacher not referred you to OT then you am ask her to do so - put the onus on her to do something and say you cannot return until seen them! Your gp can also give you different types of notes - such as reduced hours, a phased return etc as well as not working.

junkfoodaddict Sun 09-Nov-14 20:24:04

Thanks for all the responses. It has set my mind at rest that I am doing the right thing.
Union are already involved. Apparently three members of staff also complained about the workload and our Head Teacher, but I do not know who they are. Union (NASUWT) have been absolutely brilliant. There is a general regional meeting next week that I am going to so will ask advice regarding meeting with the HT. Unfortunately I don't have anyone who can meet the HT with me as everyone else works and those who won't be at work will have children to look after. I have thought about meeting somewhere else but the tension between us is quite high (mainly due to me I think). I have a lot of anger towards her and don't speak well when cross and flustered and will likely end up a teary mess. What about a letter - do you think a letter would be okay instead of a face to face meeting with her to begin with? I have 17 more days left but I know even now I won't be ready to go back at the end of November. We are being scrutinised twice weekly and can't see her backing down on the observations and book scrutinies (although she has backed down with the fortnightly/monthly observations depending on if you are RI or Good).

Mrsgrumble Sun 09-Nov-14 20:27:41

Goodness me op, I have no advice but this is a dreadful school to be working in. Have you alternatives flowers

thoughtsbecomethings Sun 09-Nov-14 20:29:04

I'm currently on long term sick too, and I have the exact same guilt feelings about going out and about, but u have to still go out and about and do things as it's good for your emotional well being and helps recover too grin

SilverStars Sun 09-Nov-14 21:59:07

Hi I have no idea what is an acceptable level of "scrutinise" but your union would be able to advise on that. In my job my attitude has had to become ( after stress etc) I am doing the best I can, feel free to check/observe/whatever is correct term depending on my job whenever you like I have nothing to hide - this is me. That attitude took a while to cultivate but has been the most helpful thing. And when a manager has not been happy I have gone, " great there is this course I want to go on to improve this area - will you find it as no external courses has been funded for x number of years". The answer is always "no" - no training given so I write that management have failed to address my training needs on appraisals grin - nothing else happens!! Not helpful for others maybe but helped me stand up to myself etc.

Do you have to meet your HT before sick note renewed - is this compulsory? If not I would just sent next sick note in and if she wants a formal meeting say you will be happy to attend at a time convenient for your union rep to be present and get her to arrange a time with that. Stuff it if other member of staff is working, that is her headache not yours!!

What has occupational health suggested? If you had a reduced timetable I assume that would reduce workload - would that help? Or looking for a job elsewhere in a school that has not yet bowed to Ofsted stress in this way? If OH say she has a righ/union to check your teaching and marking/books that often what would you like to change to help you return to work? Maybe OH could help you liaise with work - or your union?

junkfoodaddict Mon 10-Nov-14 16:19:53

mrsgrumble it is a horrendous school to work in! Even my GP was gobsmacked when I told him some of the things she did:

The HT said the only ones shining are her NQTS and new staff (three months after letting slip in a conversation that new HTs want to employ their own staff - odd as HTs take on the staff already there and replace when staff move on or go through capabilities - the latter she did last year which I believe gave her an unhealthy power trip), gave RIs to 'old' staff and good/outstanding to staff she employed and NQTS, planned to observe all staff every two or four weeks depending on their lesson grades, book scrutinies every week and graded in six different areas, decided to add pupil premium children's books to the ongoing scrutinies - so some children having books scrutinised twice weekly, RIs to books that didn't display a named label (handwritten not good enough despite it being an old book form the previous year with just three pages left), a teacher told a written challenge in the marking wasn't good enough. It had to be typed, printed, cut and stuck in the pupils books!?!?. Oh and grading a learning walk when she was there a maximum of ten minutes and telling a teacher (me) that it was inadequate because a child excited told her of his plans for the weekend (he is 6) and she saw ONE slide of my presentation and decided it was irrelevant - slides of food from around the world when finding out which foods come from which countries. In the first 2 minutes she expected food on tables with maps. She was told that if she had stayed she would have seen me doing just that and that she was standing directly in front of the very interactive display that showed foods from around the world!
I never did dislike her, I was the last person at the school to see her for what she is: cold, ruthless, unsympathetic, uncaring, bitchy and power hungry and a Gove and OFSTED suck up!

SilverStars Mon 10-Nov-14 18:34:21

Look for another job whilst take max sick leave???

junkfoodaddict Tue 11-Nov-14 07:56:59

I may just be taking sick leave until maternity leave kicks in which will mean 20 weeks of sick leave and then maximum maternity leave which means I won't return to my current job until February 2016!!! Hopefully by then the HT would have left as a colleague predicts that regardless of the OFSTED inspection due imminently she will leave (keeps fingers crossed!). Not sure if I am allowed to actively look for another job whilst on sick leave but I have checked and I am allowed whilst on maternity leave which I will be doing and if it means ending my maternity leave early to escape a tyrant bitch, I will!

Tigerstripes Wed 12-Nov-14 23:08:11

Don't go to any meeting you don't have to. And certainly don't go on your own. You must take a union rep to any contact with the HT. I realised too late what my HT and, sadly, my HOD was like and they were certainly not beyond 'forgetting' things that were said or twisting my words. This sort of HT won't change. They won't make reasonable adjustments for you to return. Take the max sick leave and then go on maternity.
Regarding your original question, hopefully others have reassured you.

junkfoodaddict Thu 13-Nov-14 09:18:05

I am to continue with my sick leave until working conditions change. So it could be that I continue until my maternity leave begins which according to the burgundy book, they cannot force me to start maternity leave earlier that the 4th week prior to EWC and even then if is wholly or partly pregnancy related which it isn't.

The union are taking further action which has a 100% success rate in our region which results in the head teacher backing down or in rare cases, resigning.

I can't believe I will say this but I don't want my head teacher to resign! I got on so well with her prior to this academic year and she was NEVER this power hungry beforehand. I honestly believe that she is so frightened of OFSTED's judgement, as it could result in her losing her job, that her own judgements have become clouded and she is failing to see that she has broken her staff with unrealistic demands and requests. Her RI judgements might be because she is 'playing safe' as she doesn't want OFSTED to say that her judgements of lessons are above that of what they are (safer to mark down than up isn't it?) but she is a self-confessed control freak. She hates delegating and likes to dictate what staff can and cannot do in their classrooms regarding displays, organisation and even teaching styles!!

She is shooting herself in the foot. The union are laughing because they cannot see how our school can be graded as 'good' when she is enforcing conditions on staff that apparently OFSTED do not want to see and consider 'bad teaching' when there is excessive dialogue between pupils. Oh well, I will continue my sick leave until just after Christmas at least and re-evaluate depending on whether change has taken place. It all depends on the staff's reaction to the plans the union has in order to change her mind. But staff are scared. She has already rid the school of one previously good teacher so they know she will not hesitate to do it again and some are on 'the right side and don't want to rock the boat'.

junkfoodaddict Thu 13-Nov-14 09:31:13

Oh the head teacher got in touch with me two days after I went on sick leave. She wanted to know what school could do to support me. I was taken aback by this as my head was spinning, didn't know where to start with my issues and she suggested that maybe I just need to rest, to which I agreed.

That was 9th October. Since then I have had no contact with the head teacher except three days after I text her to let her know of my fit for work note issued for a second time on 3rd November and her reply was a general thanks and hope you feel better soon. I did get a message from the school business manager giving me some sad news about my replacements husband. I was perplexed as to why she thought I ought to be privy to that information, but I passed on my condolences.

So no offer of a meeting, occupational health, etc, etc. Wondering if they are leaving me to it as it won't be long before I am on maternity leave so maybe a 'waste' of resources etc. Can't help feeling that the head teacher, despite making me feel otherwise prior to all of this happening, doesn't give a hoot about my feelings or well being and I am just a forgotten person at work.

Stress is seen as a weakness by those in authority. They don't understand it, don't want to understand it and only see it as a nuisance to their bigger plans. Quite frankly, I am beginning to think that anyone with stress is actually the stronger person. It's weak to deny defeat but stronger to admit to it.

ReallyTired Thu 13-Nov-14 09:40:33

If you GP has told you that you can do what you like then the school cannot sack you. Employment rights apply to schools as much as any other employer. It is hard to sack a pregnant woman and there is constructive dismissal which could result in a huge payout.

I find it depressing that head teachers are allow to behave in this way. It is not modelling good behaviour to young children.

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