Teaching union secures £15m payouts for members in a year

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A FEMALE assistant principal from Yorkshire received £40,000 in the largest out-of-court settlement secured by a teaching union after she complained about 
sexual harassment from a male colleague and was then subject to separate disciplinary proceedings.

Her case has been highlighted as new figures show teachers won record amounts of compensation last year after suffering accidents, injuries or assaults at school.

The NASUWT teaching union says the proceedings taken against the teacher led her to believe that she was being victimised for making the original complaint. It was the largest out-of-court settlement obtained by the union at an employment tribunal.

Elsewhere one secondary school teacher was awarded more than £382,000 after his arm was slammed in a filing cabinet, while another won £240,000 after working in a poorly ventilated workshop for a decade, according to information published by teaching unions.

The payouts, worth tens of millions of pounds in total, included settlements paid to a Yorkshire teacher who slipped at school.

The NASUWT said it secured a record £15.6m for its members last year, almost 24 per cent more than in 2011. Of this £1,327,991 was paid to union members from Yorkshire.

Its largest work-related criminal assault payout was for a 45-year-old school worker in the North East who intervened to help a colleague who was being attacked by a pupil. He was kicked by the youngster and attacked by another student from behind. He was later awarded £268,787 including damages.

The member suffered physical injuries as well as later developing palpitations and panic attacks. He later had his employment contract terminated. His award included compensation for a “disabling mental illness” that had developed, and past and future loss of earnings.

A 39-year-old technology teacher from the east of England received a settlement worth £240,000 after working in a poorly ventilated workshop left him with allergies and sinus problems. A third teacher, from Northern Ireland, slipped on a patch of moss, breaking her leg in two places and dislocating her ankle. She was awarded £66,291.

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “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.

“Sadly, as a result of the coalition Government’s reckless and cavalier approach to the deregulation of health and safety provisions, employment and equality legislation, more of these cases will arise.”

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) does not release an overall figure for the amount of compensation won on behalf of its members. One of its members, a secondary school teacher in the South West, was awarded £382,930 in a Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) case after a pupil slammed his arm in a filing cabinet while trying to grab a confiscated football. The teacher was unable to carry on working.

In another CICA case, a second teacher from the South West had their arms and legs pinned together by a pupil in a minibus. The minibus door opened and the teacher fell out, leaving them with a back injury and a severe psychological reaction.

The teacher was awarded £279,381.

There were also settlements for teachers who suffered personal injuries. One teacher from Yorkshire got £9,000 for fracturing her elbow when she slipped on an “unusually shiny” classroom floor.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said it had secured more than £4.3m for members last year in work settlements plus around £1.2m for injured members and their families.