Q: I teach in a large school. Since 2020 all teaching staff have been under stress, but since schools re-opened following covid closures, stress levels everywhere have risen dramatically. My class size increases to unacceptable levels when I cover for absent staff, students have lost interest in being taught and are abusive, I have been attacked by students who are clearly substance abusers, and now my marriage is on the rocks due to the anxiety and depression caused by my job.
I ask for help, nothing happens. My GP signed me off sick, but I was made to feel guilty of ‘abandoning the sinking school ship’, and I went back. Now I have had a mild heart attack. Is there any redress for financial compensation that would allow me to leave?
A: Successful claims have been made in the past against schools, but only in cases where mental health problems associated with stress in the workplace have been proven. The fact that you were signed off with stress and anxiety and have now had a heart attack would certainly add weight.
You clearly brought to your employer’s attention the fact that continuing in the stressful situation you were put in could become dangerous for you. By failing to then act and provide you with support and help, your employer effectively ignored the warning bells and breached its duty of care to you. If you can establish that this caused your injury and loss, then a claim can be established.
If on top of this you were made to feel so guilty that you were unable to follow your GP’s instructions to stay off work, then that could be classed as harassment. Harassment alone can be grounds for taking an employer to a tribunal and claiming compensation.
You may prefer to persuade the school to support an ill health retirement application as this may be a less stressful way out.
You should consider what outcome you would like to achieve and then seek legal advice. If you have not already done so, you should also speak to your union representative.
This question has been answered by Robert Williams, a Partner with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients. Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry or for an appointment visit www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194
Partner and Complaints Handler
Partner and Head of the Civil Litigation, Personal Injury and Dispute Resolution team in Wrexham