06/01/2012 11:34 GMT

Teacher Stress: Union Warns Of Excessive Workload As Record Sum Paid Out

A record six-figure financial settlement made as the result of an occupational stress case is part of almost £650,000 paid out to members of a teaching union for work-related injuries.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said it had helped to secure the largest amount ever in compensation payments for its members for injuries related to their jobs in the past year. Union officials said the six-figure settlement payment, agreed out of court, was a warning to employers about how serious these injuries could be.

The EIS said the payment to the teacher came as a consequence of their employer's failure to act upon repeated reports of an excessive workload, leading to them suffering a stress-related psychiatric injury. Union general secretary Ronnie Smith said occupational stress was now a "major problem" for teachers and lecturers.

He added: "The growth in the number of cases involving psychiatric injury and stress-related illness must be a warning to employers that they need to take account of their employees' mental, as well as physical, wellbeing. This clearly illustrates just how serious such injuries can be and the heavy price that employers will have to pay if they fail in their obligations to protect their staff."

While he said the union supported members making stress-related claims, he added: "Our preference would always be for such cases to be avoided completely. Employers must tackle the causes of stress, for example by controlling workload, and they must also provide appropriate support for teaching staff who are experiencing stress."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government expects councils to take appropriate action at a local level to minimise the risk of stress or injury and any related claims through their own local health and safety procedures for staff and pupils."

A number of EIS members also received settlements for compensation claims after being assaulted by pupils. The union said a member received £1,000 after being kicked and punched on the side of the head while taking a class playing football, while another was paid £1,500 after being repeatedly hit with a metre stick, suffering cuts to the head and bruising to their arms.

However, the union added the main cause of injuries to teachers and lecturers was accidents involving falls caused by slips and trips at work. Such cases resulted in a number of compensation payments, including a £12,000 payout to someone who slipped on a wet floor and fell heavily, injuring their leg and right foot.

Mr Smith said: "Local authorities and other educational employers have the same duty of care to staff as any other employer. They must take every available step to ensure that our schools, colleges and universities are safe places to work and to study."

Other compensation cases in 2010-11 included a payment of £49,500 to an EIS member who was exposed to asbestos, causing the cancer mesothelioma.