Returning to work after a period of absence – guidance for trainees
Returning to work (RTW) after a period of time off can be stressful and there are many things to consider when planning your leave and returning to work.
This document aims to provide trainees with ideas of what to consider when RTW.
The RCoA provides a guidance document pertaining to RTW which is very helpful.
The Deanery has a page on the website briefly detailing some guidance about RTW.
Planning for period of absence
Timing and communication
Where possible plan the amount of time you’re having off, including different types of leave, and make sure you communicate this with your Department, HR, Deanery, and RCoA.
You should also communicate with the GMC and your indemnity provider (e.g. MDU). Many societies and organisations provide discounts during periods of time off so it is worth contacting them.
Please note that communication with the RCoA is particularly important if you are taking time off In between separate sections of the FRCA exam where the clock is ticking. Apparently if you let the College know in advance they will not count the time off as time spent between 1st and 2nd parts. This is more difficult to sort out in retrospect.
Tying up loose ends
If you are having an extended period of time off, then it’s a good idea to make sure your logbook is up-to-date and you have a pre-leave logbook summary.
Also, consider handing over any ongoing projects to a colleague to help continue work on these whilst you are away if needed.
If you are having a planned period of time off (e.g. Maternity leave, career break) then having a pre-leave meeting with your ES can be helpful and also a meeting with the local RTW Consultant Lead so that you start thinking about a plan for the RTW period.
During your period of absence
Keep up to date if possible – reading journals, attending local study days if applicable, communicating with your department if you have ongoing projects etc.
Planning your RTW phase
You will need to consider the following:
- KIT days - if you want to use these, up to 10 are allowed but they cannot be taken during annual leave (see your local trust policy). It is also worth noting that KIT days can be used for study leave and are a good way to get a paid day to attend an update course for example.
- Whether you want to attend any anaesthetic refresher courses etc. (RCoA website RTW section has more info)
- When you are returning to work and whether this is still suitable timing
- Childcare - if you have been on maternity leave you need to think about childcare options early and work out your normal working days
- If returning LTFT check the Deanery website for relevant paperwork and guidance (see section below). Some of the forms have to be done early as they require multiple signatures. Based on the form you fill in HR will put together a rota template which will then determine your pay and banding (e.g. F6 FA = 60% LTFT with 50% out-of-hours banding supplement). The details of this process may change with the introduction of the new junior doctors’ contract.
- Communicate your plans to your department early on and they will be more likely to facilitate your requests
- Communicate with your Training programme director (TPD) early if there are any likely issues that may alter training time (e.g. changing trust after a period of leave, switching to LTFT working)
- Arranging a pre-RTW meeting with your trust RTW consultant lead. This should be approximately 6-8 weeks prior to your return.
Meet with designated RTW consultant lead to plan your RTW phase
- Opportunity to discuss how you are feeling about returning to work, whether you have any particular concerns
- Review any CPD/KIT days undertaken when away
- Review your level of training, length of period of leave, whether you are returning LTFT or FT
- Review who your ES and CT are and how to contact them
- Review your specific training needs
- Discuss if any need for Occupational Health review (this may be necessary after a period of sickness leave)
From this, you can design a personalised RTW plan together, including:
- how many supervised lists to be done before returning to solo work?
- how many supervised lists to be done before returning to on-call work?
- what on-call duties to return to first? (e.g. day shifts before night shifts)
- what WPBAs should be undertaken during RTW phase?
- what specialities should be covered?
- repeat departmental induction/mandatory training if needed
Your RTW plan needs to be communicated to your ES and CT, and plans regarding specific theatre lists and on-call duties to the Department secretaries and rota writer as soon as possible to accommodate specific needs (in reality communication with the rota writer needs to be earlier than this in order to highlight the need for a RTW phase before returning to on-calls). Please note that part/all of your RTW phase may not automatically count for training. This should be reviewed at your RTW ARCP (usually done soon after RTW), and addressed if necessary.
Once back at work
Arrange meeting with ES and CT as soon as possible after RTW to help identify your training needs and review RTW plan.
Arrange repeat meeting with RTW lead at a suitable interval (e.g. 2-4 weeks after RTW), prior to resuming on-call duties if possible.
If you are struggling – talk to someone about it. If you have had an extended period of leave then RTW can be a stressful time and you may find your confidence takes a while to return. This can be even more of an issue if returning to work LTFT.
People to talk to can include – fellow trainees, ES, CT, RTW lead consultant, STC LTFT Trainee Representative.
You will be asked to attend a RTW ARCP at some point, around the time you RTW or just after. The purpose of this is to review where you are in your training and what your ongoing training needs are. You are not required to fill in any paperwork for this.
The deanery already has a page dedicated to LTFT training and the process for applying for this.
The RCoA also has an excellent guide for going LTFT and helpful tips when considering LTFT training. We advise that all trainees considering and applying for LTFT training read this very useful guide.
These documents are very comprehensive and cover all the main points, thus we have not written a separate LTFT guide for our website and instead refer trainees to the above links.