Articles

Managing Staff Health Issues and Stress in the School Environment

Thursday July 20, 2017

Hamish Kynaston, partner in Buddle Findlay's national employment and health law team, has over 20 years' experience working in these areas, and understands the difficulties that both employers and employees face managing health issues in the workplace.  He currently has workplace mental health issues that he is assisting employers with, which variously involve overlapping ACC, health & safety, disciplinary and performance management issues. One of the matters involves a constructive dismissal claim in the Employment Relations Authority, and is in its early stages.

Hamish _kynaston -wellington

You can hear more from Hamish at Education Law Wellington: New Changes, New Legal Risks, being held on Tuesday 19 September at The InterContinental Wellington.

He joined Ashleigh Tesluk of Legalwise Seminars to discuss issues about health and stress in workplace.

You can find the full Q&A below.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, Hamish (experience, your practice, what you’re working on right now. etc)

Hamish is a partner in Buddle Findlay's national employment and health law team.  He has over 20 years' experience working in these areas, and understands the difficulties that both employers and employees face managing health issues in the workplace.  He currently has workplace mental health issues that he is assisting employers with, which variously involve overlapping ACC, health & safety, disciplinary and performance management issues.  One of the matters involves a constructive dismissal claim in the Employment Relations Authority, and is in its early stages.

Your topic is ‘Managing Health Issues and Stress in the Workplace’. In brief, what will your topic cover and why is it so important?

Health issues, because of their sensitivity and complexity, tend to be the most difficult issues that employers face.  In many instances the employer is also said to be responsible, which adds a further layer of complexity.

This session will provide practical guidance on the key steps that employers can take to manage workplace health issues successfully.  The session will also cover the legal framework – employment, health & safety, privacy, ACC and human rights – and provide guidance on when and how an employer can lawfully terminate employment for incapacity.

In your experience, what is the main cause for health and stress in the workplace (particularly the school environment) and why?

In our experience, there is seldom one cause for stress-related and other health issues in the workplace, and typically both work and non-work factors are involved.  The stress-related issues that we see most often arise out of performance management processes or in connection with bullying (or similar) allegations.  Regardless of where the rights and wrongs lie, these are difficult issues for employees to cope with, particularly when they have issues in their personal lives at the same time.

Why does it become difficult to manage these issues and what can happen (to schools/teachers) if they are not correctly managed?

There are a range of reasons.  The uncertainty associated with how and when a health issue might be resolved is a key reason, particularly where there are underlying interpersonal issues that have gone on for some time.  Poor communication and a reluctance on both sides to take pro-active steps before the situation becomes critical are other reasons.  Unchecked, these issues can lead to serious health problems, divisions in the workplace and protracted and costly disputes.

What are 3 main tips/strategies that delegates (principals/teachers/BOT members)  will take away from the conference after hearing your topic?

The first is to act when the issue is first noticed.  Secondly, to deal with matters in a constructive, respectful and professional manner, de-escalating and normalising the communications wherever possible, despite the difficulties.  Third, to be mindful at all times of your obligations, not only to the employee concerned, but to the rest of your staff, students and the community.

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"Very interesting and extremely well presented; speakers knew the area very well"

Delagte - Criminal Law Update, Auckland, March 2017

 

 

 

 

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