The law on ... Stress at work

29th May 2009 at 01:00

Basic issues

The teaching profession is one of the most stressful professions where people tend to work anything between a 45 and 60-hour week. Unions have tried in the past to reduce this to a 35-hour week and have for many years been extremely concerned about the impact that long hours can have on teachers. As a result, unions signed a national workload agreement in 2003 with the Government to improve work-life balance.

Stress can also be caused by having to manage relationships with other staff and pupils. Teachers must be aware of how they deal with pupils, with casual or friendly physical contact not just frowned upon but simply not acceptable. Teachers also sometimes have to manage very difficult children, where verbal or physical abuse by a pupils is a real threat and quite often ensues in the classroom.

Watch out for?

Headteachers, governors and the local education authority must take complaints about stress from teachers seriously. These complaints must be investigated and appropriate measures implemented to ensure that no stress at work claim arises.

The employment tribunal has the power to consider stress at work claims and to award damages if the employer was aware that the stress was present in the individual's job and they did nothing to reduce that stress or indeed to try and avoid it. The impact of the stress on the physical or mental health of the employee must be assessed by way of independent medical evidence if a claim is brought.

For more information about these issues, visit Teachernet or Teacher Support Network.

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