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Duty of care - what can I expect?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by BriarBabe22, Dec 28, 2015.

  1. BriarBabe22

    BriarBabe22 New commenter

    Like many of us in the teaching profession I have really been struggling with stress and workload problems, since I started 5 years ago but worse than ever last term. I'm interested to read threads about triggering 'duty of care' rights by writing to my HT, but am interested in what I could / should expect to actually be done to alleviate my stress as a result.

    I did speak to my HT immediately after October half term about my stress and workload worries and I was given an additional 1.5 hours non-contact time a week and also had some PPA reinstated that had been taken away previously, so one could argue that there has already been some action. I still feel the stress because I work in teaching and teaching is stressful! I still regularly work many, many hours a week getting all the usual paperwork done ... you all know how it is! So back to my original question I guess ... if I speak to my HT again (or write) about 'duty of care' what else can they do that they haven't already done?

  2. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    It seems that they have already taken steps to support you. Many teachers don't have classes taken off them in these circumstances, although having PPA re-instated shouldn't be on the cards because it shouldn't have been removed if it was part of the required 10% of the teaching time.

    It would depend whether what they had done was considered sufficient to be reasonable adjustment. If so, they could do nothing more to support you. After all, they can't keep reducing hours while still paying you a FT salary.

    So what else could they do? Possibly ask if you would like to become part time?

    Best wishes for 2016

  3. Middlemarch

    Middlemarch Star commenter

    The PPA might not have been an "illegal" removal originally, Theo - some staff get extra simply because that's how the timetable falls.

    I'm wondering what else the OP has in mind in terms of additional "adjustments".
  4. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    I am with MM and Theo here. They have done something for you. It would be interesting if the OP could come back with what sort of adjustment they would need.

    The harsh, and genuinely sad reality is that you have to make a call if you can learn to manage the stress or you look for a new role.
  5. BriarBabe22

    BriarBabe22 New commenter

    Thank you all for your responses. I guess if I knew what sort of adjustments I needed I wouldn't have posted in the first place!

    I am an experienced teacher who is well aware that teaching is a stressful job but this year there seems to be so much additional stress that we are being asked to cope with. I'm a year 2 teacher so this year have a brand new curriculum to get my head round, new assessment methods, new SATs and all the extra demands that is bringing (evidence expected for every single objective even if they were away for that lesson), we now have to fit 'spelling, punctuation and grammar' into an already rammed curriculum without being allowed to drop anything else, my school have adopted the new 'maths mastery' approach of teaching but missed the boat in terms of getting formal training and resources yet we are still expected to go ahead and teach whole class (used to teach in sets), new-style maths based on a couple of example lessons from the website (the planning and resourcing takes hours each week), I have a new TA whom I've never worked with before, she has never worked in year 2 so that's been a steep learning curve, I was promised a cover supervisor so I could have time out of class as necessary (I am also the year group leader) but my TA is not allowed to take the whole class on her own (it was suggested I sit in the corridor outside the class during golden time if I wanted some extra time for admin), my HT has acknowledged that I have the most challenging class in the school without any extra support ... I could go on. I feel the demands the SLT are placing on us are unworkable, that is why I am feeling stressed.

    You're right, teaching is stressful, my OP recognises this. It also recognises that the SLT have made a concession in giving me some non-contact time each week. What I'm hearing therefore is that they've done what they can so I just have to put up and shut up. So, I guess that's what I'll do!
  6. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    The other thing you can do is to speak to the HT one more time. Don't write. Too formal. Makes you look like a serial whinger.

    You have a duty to look after your own welfare so, by speaking up again, you will be fulfilling that obligation.

    The HT has clearly tried to help you and, although it may not be ideal, do take up the offer of basing yourself in the corridor during 'golden time'. If you belong to a union please check their stance on 'action short of strike action' if you feel the planning is onerous. Ensure your PPA meets the 10% figure.

    I have to say that I don't think you are being asked to do anything especially out of the ordinary and also that I don't regard a teacher with five years under her belt as 'experienced'. Not a novice but not experienced. I am afraid it will be hard going for a few years yet. Also your HT sounds a reasonable boss.

    But curriculum change, adapting to new colleagues, difficult classes, whole-class teaching for basic subjects? Nothing unusual about any of that. Paperwork these days is just absurd but you should check union guidelines on that. Otherwise? Ask nicely for help but don't be too surprised if it isn't forthcoming.
    DYNAMO67 likes this.
  7. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    @BriarBabe22, you ask about the triggering of the duty of care to in respect of workplace stress and the extent to which an employer must then act to mitigate his liability for any injury subsequently caused.

    Contributors have rightly commented that you have a HT who has responded by making adjustments in response to your notification of work-related stress. You are fortunate, as your HT is at least making an effort - unlike some we come across.

    You comment:

    This is not necessarily the case, but whether what they have done would be deemed sufficient to mitigate their duty, were another workplace stress-related injury to be caused, would come down entirely to the individual facts of your specific situation and legal arguments of whether - or not - it was reasonable in the circumstances.

    To succeed in a claim for injury caused by negligence, you have to jump four specific legal hurdles:

    The first is that a duty of care is triggered;

    The second (and what we are considering here) is whether an employer has breached that duty of care;

    The third and fourth are whether the breach actually caused the injury and whether it was reasonably foreseeable.

    When considering whether an employer has done all that was reasonable to prevent an injury (and thus not breach its duty of care), the courts will apply a series of tests.

    The court will apply an objective standard and consider whether the employer fell below the standard of behaviour reasonably to be expected of an ordinary person.

    To do so, it will consider the Magnitude of the Harm, or the likelihood of harm occuring. The greater the risk of it occuring, the more they are expected to do to prevent it.

    It will consider the Practicality of Precautions. An employer is only expected to do what is reasonable in the circumstances - not absolutely everything anyone can think of.

    It will consider whether the employer had a particular social duty, which meant the risk was justifiable. Less-likely to be relevant in a teaching context.

    If the behaviour was standard or common practice, an employer can be found not to have been negligent. (The owners of the Herald of Free Enterprise attempted to argue that their actions that left the bow doors unchecked and open of the ferry which sank was 'standard practice' in the industry - they didn't succeed!)

    Lastly, if the risk was not foreseeable. No employer is expected to think of every possible eventuality and plan for it.

    Hope this may help you to understand your predicament more clearly. Just because your HT has made some adjustments does not necessarily mean that s/he has done enough to mitigate their duty towards you. It will depend entirely on whether it would be reasonable in the circumstances to do more. There is no easy answer to that one and a question ripe for legal arguments on both sides!
  8. Yoda-

    Yoda- Lead commenter

    Please be careful as these adjustments could morph into support and then capability.

    The school could list all the things they have done or suggested. You need to have a back up plan. You need to decide when you've got as many concesions as your going to get.
  9. tall tales

    tall tales New commenter

    Well done for trying to address the impossible situation many of us find ourselves in. I can't answer your question about duty of care, but I just wondered how feasible it would be to allow your TA to take the class while you do some admin work. I'd also take the offer of working in the corridor!
  10. Effiepie

    Effiepie New commenter

    You mention you are year leader.
    I hope you have considered collaborative planning and resourcing, at least for non-core subjects. This way you can share the load of one aspect of your workload.
    Can you plan an overview of SPaG objectives? Has your English lead already created one? Ask them to, if not. Ask for a spelling programme for the school to follow. This should do the job for the majority of your pupils, leaving you to differentiate up and down as appropriate.
    Talk to your colleagues and ask for hints and tips on streamlining your efforts. Discuss with other year leaders. How are they managing the planning and resourcing of lessons in their year group.
    Maths and English leads may get additional release time for work/development of their subject, so ask for their help/ advice/ support.
    BriarBabe22 likes this.
  11. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    Due to recent disciplinary action in my school (fortunately just a slap on the wrist, not my wrist) I'm acutely aware that it is a clear breach of safeguarding for any teacher to be away from their class whether or not there is a TA/technician/dogsbody present. This applies to toilet breaks/chatting in the corridor with other teachers/collecting photocopying. Classes can only be left in the care of Cover.
    So if relations break down from the amicable level they appear to be at then be careful that you haven't provided this stick to be beaten with.
  12. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    As a union rep I can confidently state that the stance is against such workload issues.
    The much more difficult question is what can be done about it? Is there a rep in school and is s/he prepared to rouse the staff over this matter? Are the staff okay with taking a stance over this?
    The unions have all disagreed with these workload issues but generally teachers have gone along with them.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  13. mazpaz

    mazpaz Occasional commenter

    Just out of interest what happens if the HT states they have made x y z adjustments but this hasn't happened in reality?
  14. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    In addition to the advice given I would add that it might be a good idea to have a backup plan. In your spare time ( what is that????) think about other jobs or hobbies you could turn into a business that you could do in the future...even if it is a few years from now. The workloads and pressures of teaching can be overwhelming and that is why so many leave within 5 years of qualifying.

    The job should not force people to leave because they break, but the large class sizes, behaviour issues, and the constant demands and changes place huge burdens on teachers both in primary and secondary.

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