Signed off too long

20th February 2004 at 00:00
Your job and career questions answered

One of my deputies has been signed off sick for three weeks with a throat infection, but is feeling better and wants to come back sooner. Are there any reasons why she should not do so? If she had a relapse, would the school be liable?

We all know of conscientious teachers who feel able to come back to work, even when they are still signed off by their doctors. For some, this may be like taking antibiotics: there is a temptation not to finish the course as the first few seem to have done the trick, but they may have suppressed the worst of the symptoms.

If teachers feel that they have recovered faster than the doctor thought possible, they should ask for a revised medical certificate. However, they will need to consider whether they have not only recovered but have also built up enough resistance to cope with life in the classroom.

Many doctors do not like issuing medical certificates. It is possible to envisage that, to take pressure off GPs, other bodies such as occupational health services will issue some certificates in the future. This would allow a review of whether the present system - you are either in work or off sick - meets the needs of both workers and employers. Thus, it is questionable whether the teacher at home with the throat infection should be preparing work or marking books, even if they felt up to the task, as a prelude to a full return to work.

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