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The law - Make sure you are covered

Many school staff believe that compensation for injuries on the premises are automatically covered by the local authority's insurance schemes. This is not so. There is no national scheme covering injuries sustained at work. Some local authorities have taken out such cover for their employees, but not many. Unless an injured employee can prove an element of negligence, they are not likely to have any right to compensation.

Teachers in maintained schools, but not other staff, do have available a long-standing scheme, set out in the Burgundy Book, for insurance against injuries in out-of-school activities. Teachers or their dependants are entitled to pay-outs if injuries occur during school visits or any other off-site activities. The scheme only covers death or serious injury, not minor injuries. Neither does it cover expenses related to the injury, nor damage to personal property.

Some staff have been surprised that they cannot automatically claim for the expense of taking pupils to hospital in their own cars. Many schools and local authorities will hand out ex-gratia payments to cover these, but it is by no means a consistent practice.

The only comfort that school staff have is that, in common with all other employees, they know the employer is obliged to provide a safe environment and safe system of work. And school employers have to take into account that children are involved, who may misbehave or be less aware of the consequences of their actions. If schools or local authorities fail in this obligation, then they will be liable for any injury or loss suffered.

It is one of those areas that tends to concern staff only when an injury has already occurred. It might be helpful if the actual insurance position for all was set out in the staff handbook, and the contents drawn to everyone's attention.

Chris Lowe, Former head, trade union adviser, and chief editor of Quick Guide Publishing.

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