News and Support from The NASUWT
The NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, secured compensation of £19,765,349.92 for members during 2014.
The compensation was awarded for successful claims for unfair dismissal, personal injuries, criminal assault, unlawful deduction of wages, breach of contract, constructive dismissal, victimisation and discrimination.
The largest personal injury claim was for £210,000 for a retired 70 year old female member from the East Midlands who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2013.
Between 1973 and 1984, the member had worked in two secondary schools and taught in classrooms containing asbestos that was present in the pre-fabricated buildings, in ceiling tiles and on wall panels. In one particular classroom, asbestos ceiling tiles would regularly fall down, which the member would have to pick up. In another classroom, asbestos tiles were replaced during term time and during the school day, generating a large amount of dust. In addition, as the member was a science teacher, she regularly had to handle asbestos mats. Although liability was initially denied by the employer, a settlement was subsequently agreed.
The NASUWT secured £85,000 for a 63 year old female member from Yorkshire & Humberside who was injured in 2010 while escorting a pupil out of a classroom who had just attacked another pupil.
The pupil tackled the teacher to the floor during the assault and she suffered a broken hand as well as suffering from stress and anxiety as a result of the incident. The member had a period of sick leave as a result of the incident, before retiring.
The NASUWT also secured a settlement following a successful employment tribunal judgement for a 36 year old female member from the North West who had been dismissed for gross misconduct.
The member is a music teacher and pupils had alleged that she had been viewing pornography on her computer during class. There were a number of flaws in the investigatory process, including the way in which the pupils were questioned.
A forensic expert examined the member’s computer and found no evidence of any inappropriate websites having been viewed. Despite this, the school proceeded with a disciplinary hearing, relying on unlikely explanations such as that the member may have viewed the inappropriate material via her mobile phone or a USB stick.
The employment tribunal found that her dismissal was unfair. The tribunal, in particular, relied on the fact that the investigation was not suitable and the pupils had not properly been tested, the allegations against the member changed without the member being properly informed, proper weight had not been given to the forensic evidence, the unlikely alternative explanations had not been fully tested, and irrelevant material was included in the investigation report.
Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:
“The tragedy is that in most cases compensation would be unnecessary if employers followed good employment practices and appropriate health and safety procedures.
“Instead, teachers have their careers, lives and health blighted and millions of pounds of public money has to be spent in compensation.
“Employers flout the law, but it’s the teachers and the taxpayers who pay the price.
“Since 2010, employers have felt even more confident in indulging in bad practice since the Coalition has made no secret of its contempt for regulation and fair employment practice.
“Behind every one of these cases is a person who has been damaged physically or mentally, either because of injury or unfair dismissal.
“The distress and pressure of the incident to the individual teacher and their family has often been compounded by years of legal action and court proceedings before any award is made.
“While compensation is important, it can never make up for the fact that many of these teachers suffer permanent physical and mental injury and often cannot continue in their chosen career.”