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Returning to work as a teacher after a stem cell transplant - ideas and advice please?

Any stem cell recipients who returned to work as a teacher here? What were your experiences?

I am recovering from a stem cell transplant (Nov 2019) and have been advised not to return to work as a Secondary school English teacher until January as I'm still on immuno suppressant drugs, haven't had childhood vaccinations re-administered, and to shield because of covid. I've used up all sick pay and have been working from home for 6 hours per week. I had hoped I would've returned to work full time and in person by now, and my current income is not enough to pay the bills. I would need to be on half pay in order to do so. I'm 44yo.

What suggestions can I take to my employer as to how my role as a secondary school English teacher can be adapted in the time taken until January? Or, if I was to ask to be put on unpaid leave for 6-12 months, what job could I safely do that would cover bills in the meantime?

Many thanks in advance for your insights!


  • edited May 2021

    Hi mex,

    Thanks very much for your post. I hope you're feeling OK.

    I'm also keen to see the response and gain insight from other patients in similar employment situations. This post-lockdown period looks set to bring a number of challenges.

    In the meantime, Anthony Nolan works with advisers Working To Wellbeing to give info and advice on employment rights. Would you like me to contact them on your behalf about this? I've also sent you this in an email.

    All the best,


  • Yes please, any and all advice would be much appreciated!

  • Hello Mex

    My name is Michelle and I am one of the Online Community Champions here to support patients.
    I hope your are doing well with the post transplant journey. Sorry to hear of the uncertanty you face. It can't be easy.

    My situation is a little different as prior to SCT i had been made redundant due to being unfit for the role and haven't been able to go back into employment due to post SCT difficulties and being immune suppressed/covid.

    I just wondered if you have sort advice from your local Citizen Advice Bureau? As you could be entitled to PIP (personal indpendence payment).

    Obviously i can't give official advise regarding PIP. But I know many people including myself that claim PIP to aid day to day functioning and cover expenses related to being unwell. Obviously I don't know your situation in depth but it could be worth exploring.

    It must be hard to work through the process of deciding and discussing with your employers about what to do.

    Based on the Equality Act 2010 and Discrimination Act your employer has to make reasonable adjustments.

    When i faced a similar predicament I opted to agree to redundancy and claim ESA (Employment Support Allowance) and PIP. The only down side to this is ESA is means tested.

    ESA can be claimed even if working but at a minimum of 16 hours a week and you can only earn so much as well. But could be worth exploring.

    PIP is not means tested but is awarded based on Physical and Emotional challenges you face due to illness or treatment including SCT and mental health. This can also be claimed working fulltime part time or not at all.

    Definitely worth gathering information so you are armed with knowledge as the prospect of low or no income can exacerbate any mental health/stresses/anxieties.

    Let us know how you get on and hopefully others can offer insight or information too.

    All the best,


  • Thanks for your reply Michelle. Unfortunately I don't qualify for PIP and I am only able to receive part ESA. I am aiming to cover rent, groceries and basic bills. I will try Citizens Advice Bureau as well. The "reasonable adjustments" term is quite open, so I'm not sure my employer sees a teacher working outside the physical classroom as acceptable, or if he wants to pursue remote lessons with students in school whilst nobody else is in lockdown. I'd be really keen to know any cases of teachers returning to work after SCT where they worked remotely in some capacity, or their pay was extended beyond the legal SSP. Alternatively, does anyone know a temporary working from home/ small office low risk environment roles that teacher qualifications would compliment? Many thanks.

  • Hi Mex. Thats a shame about PIP. Glad you get part ESA. Sorry can't advise re; your role. Hopefuly someone will have some insight.

    Its a complicated situation for you.


  • Mex
    I’m really sorry to hear about your situation. Recovery is hard enough without this additional worry
    I’m not a teacher but I do sit on the board of a large Multi Academy Trust with over forty schools so I have some knowledge of employment in the education sector. I also had a SCT in 2014 from which I’m fully recovered.
    I don’t know if you work in a single local authority school, an academy or a school in a MAT but here are a few comments which I hope might be of use.
    I hope you have been in touch with your union. As a Trust we are often in negotiations with unions over employment issues. We sometimes don’t agree but I’m always impressed by their knowledgeable and professional approach.
    I’m guessing you have about twenty years experience so frankly your enmployer should be bending over backwards to support you especially as the current situation is short term and you hope to get back in the classroom. Good teachers are hard to find and worth keeping.
    I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some useful work an experienced teacher.couldnt do from home, curriculum planning and development, timetable work, training and mentoring newly qualified teachers etc.
    Obviously schools are open again but many pupils have a lot of catching up to do and there is funding to support this. I’m sure there could be a role for helping pupils who need additional help with homework, weekend and holiday study remotely.
    If your school is part of a MAT I would ask the Trust to see if you could work remotely across more than one school if it’s run by the local authority the same question could be asked of them.
    Finally your school will have a governing body. You can ask the headteacher to make them aware of your situation in case they need to make a budgetary adjustment to help with your situation.
    There isn’t a magic bullet answer her but I hope it’s of some help.
    I hope you let us know how you get on and good luck.

  • Thanks so much for your reply Martin. It is really helpful and insightful to have information shared from this perspective.
    I've been employed full time at the school since 2008 (11 years minus 2 since diagnosis) and have 20 years full time teaching experience overall. The school is a single academy and comprehensive school, and both the governors and my union rep are aware of my situation.
    At the moment I am working 6 hours a week from home, paid hourly (non student facing with tasks similar to what you mentioned) following the advice of an occupational health doctor's report, as requested by the principal. I think the principal would feel better if he had a case study he could use as a guide, as it isn't something any one involved has experienced and he seems very budget-conscious.
    Many thanks again for your insight. I'm happy to hear you're fully recovered and wish you all the best.

  • Hi Mex, was just wondering how life turned out for you with respect to teaching. I saw a lady called Ruth who went back to teaching which was inspiring as I am a teacher too and I may have a SCT.

  • Hi Marcus, thanks for getting in touch. I'm working part time at a new school since September having also moved house, and so far things are going well. I still get regular, prolonged illnesses (6 weeks for Bronchitis to clear, for example) and regular GvHd of the skin. I'm on penicillin and still need regular clinic visits.

    My head of dept and colleagues were supportive throughout my illness, although my headteacher was unable/unwilling to accept I couldn't provide a reliable timeline to return to work, as I was still on immunosuppressant drugs, still needed childhood vaccinations re-administered, Covid numbers were still high, and I was still experiencing fatigue and regular illness and GvHd flare ups any time the immunosuppressants were decreased. Even though I'd presented letters from my CNS and consultant, undertaken Occupational Health appointments that supported these details, provided links to MacMillan Cancer Care return to work guidance for employers, wrote letters to the governors, and had lengthy, repetitive meetings - because he hadn't dealt with long term illness before (that didn't lead to early retirement etc) he micromanaged me with weekly meetings, as though it was a phased return after incompetence proceedings. It was unnecessary and very upsetting.

    My school union rep was a force of nature, but was unable to get through to the headteacher, so it was escalated to the district assistant secretary union to write a formal letter (which I wrote) mentioning words like "reasonable adjustments" and the Disability Act 2010. The headteacher finally allowed my hod to manage my work and HR to check in with me each half term. My contract was kept renewed each term or so which kept things tenuous and me stressed about paying rent and bills. I'd worked for the school full time for over a decade, with very occasional sick leave. The website showed the school had £1.65million balance in its accounts.

    Thanks to my hod, I was able to access the Covid recovery budget to conduct online revision lessons which benefitted all parties and were a huge success. Most parents realised their children were able to access free small group or 1:1 tutoring through the program and saw a rise in their attainment. I also worked for the local SEN school doing online lessons when their teacher left abruptly and was offered a permanent job there.

    Around the time I was having vaccinations re-administered, I was able to move house with my partner which meant an unfeasible travel time to work, so I found a new teaching job in the new neighbourhood. It's been wonderful to return to work (despite fatigue and a weak immune system!) and I recommend you take your time to do so, as being sick does test your priorities and I definitely believe I monitor a better work/life balance now then I did before diagnosis.

    Feel free to ask if you have any questions and all the best to you and any treatment you might need.

  • Hello Mex,

    That sounds like a very long strenuous way back to work, but we'll done for seeing it through. It's inspiring to read how you held on to your principles through every twist and turn. And it sounds like you're in a good place now. Well done you!

    When I lived in England still, left early nineties, I taught at a London primary. I can imagine what you describe. Pleased that the union were good for you.

    Thanks for getting in touch to explain your story here. It's really helpful to get a new perspective.

    All the best to you,


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