ETUCE Conference - Work Related Stress for Teachers

ETUCE Conference - Work Related Stress for Teachers

Brussels 16/17 February 2009 -

attendee F Dalziel, Professional Officer

The objectives of the Conference were:

� to bring together Unions in Europe to share and agree best practice on drawing up and carrying out Risk Assessments on teacher stress

� to share the results of surveys already carried out on the health of teachers in relation to work related stress including a particularly useful one originated by the German government

Work related stress was revealed as a major issue generally for EU workers where between 50% and 60% of days lost at work are due to this factor. Stress in schools is causing teachers to leave the profession and is contributing to teacher absence. The sources were identified as workload, increased class size, pupil behaviour and poor school management.

The symptoms at organisational level were:

� absenteeism

� high staff turnover

� disciplinary problems

� violence and psychological harassment

� reduced productivity

� mistakes and accidents

� increased costs from compensation or health care

The symptoms at individual level were:

� Emotional reactions (irritability, anxiety, sleep problems, depression, hypochondria, alienation, burnout, family relationship problems)

� Cognitive reactions (difficulty in concentrating, remembering, learning new things, making decisions)

� Behavioural reactions (abuse of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, destructive behaviour)

� Physiological reactions (back problems, weakened immunity, peptic ulcers, heart problems, hypertension)

The Law - employers' responsibilities:

� Legally, employers are obliged to manage WRS just like every other risk to health and safety in the workplace

� WRS is preventable by taking appropriate action

� The key to this is Risk Assessment

� Employers are legally obliged to carry out regular RAs in the workplace.

ETUCE has a network set up on Working Conditions and Health and Safety which we have access to for exchanging information. Some European countries, including parts of England, already have a database where teachers can anonymously measure their stress level annually and compare it to the average for their profession. Some Local Authorities in Scotland have introduced an onsite Risk Assessment for those found to be suffering from stress.