Redundancies, disputes and long-term sickness are amongst the list of worries affecting the mental health and wellbeing of school leaders and teaching staff across the UK.
According to a survey of 500 school workers, which was commissioned by leading Cheshire law firm SAS Daniels, British schools are under increasing strain from HR and employment issues.
In some cases, staff reported tricky HR scenarios leading to them worrying outside of work, affecting their friendships and even making them consider an alternative career path.
More than a quarter (27%) of the schools that were surveyed had suffered redundancies in the last 12 months, with almost one in ten (9.4%) losing four or more staff and almost one in twenty (4.8%) losing six or more staff.
According to the research, dealing with staff sickness has become a particular problem for schools, with three in five (59%) having to deal with long-term sickness in the last year and a further three in five (58%) dealing with repetitive short-term absences over the same period.
Stephen Foster, Employment Law Partner specialising in education at SAS Daniels, said: “We work closely with a number of schools and are only too aware of the pressures they face. Our aim is to take some of the pain of difficult HR issues away from Head Teachers, Governors and school leaders, who already have enough to deal with, leaving them to focus on the pupils.
“A number of the school workers that we surveyed said that they were regularly worrying about redundancies, disputes and staff sickness at least once a term*.
“Even more concerning is the fact that this is leaving many school workers feeling stressed about HR issues even when they’re not at work and in some cases, they are considering an alternative career.”
When it comes to stress levels, more than two fifths (45.6%) of school workers are stressed about redundancies, more than a third (34.6%) are stressed about disputes, more than two fifths (41%) feel stressed about long-term sickness and almost half (47.2%) feel stressed about repetitive short-term absences.
Of the school workers surveyed, less than a third (31%) had a designated HR specialist to deal with HR issues. In most other cases, the role fell to the Head Teacher, Deputy Head Teacher or business manager.
Nearly a quarter (22.4%) of those surveyed believe that dealing with repetitive short-term absences takes up time that should be spent managing the school or teaching.
Stephen Foster, SAS Daniels, said: “Teachers understandably worry about things such as performance targets and Ofsted inspections but HR issues such as sickness and disputes shouldn’t be taking up their time and energy. These days, many schools have to operate almost as businesses, and financial pressures can lead to an increase in HR issues.
“Our team is made up of HR advisors with specialist experience in education, working alongside lawyers who can provide additional legal support when required. We believe that school leaders and teaching staff need to be protected from bearing the significant strain of these challenges.”
According to the school workers who were surveyed, the future looks bleak due to funding issues. Nearly half of teachers expect to have to deal with an increase in redundancies in the next two to three years and more than a third (37% and 36%) expect an increase in long-term sickness and repetitive short-term absences.
In fact, two fifths (41.6%) of school workers said that they or their colleagues have considered an alternative career because of redundancies, disputes, long-term sickness or repetitive short-term absences.
For more information on SAS Daniels or to download the education white paper visit www.sasdaniels.co.uk
"Teachers understandably worry about things such as performance targets and Ofsted inspections but HR issues such as sickness and disputes shouldnt be taking up their time and energy."
Stephen Foster, SAS Daniels LLP
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