Forced to be sick in class bins due to lack of action on risk assessment

When I became pregnant in my job as a teacher, teaching a number of statemented pupils, I was never provided with a risk assessment. I had severe morning sickness of which the school was aware. While pregnant the school removed TA support from my classroom despite the fact that there were several statemented children in the class. This also left me trapped in the classroom and I was left with no choice but to be sick in bins in the classroom as I couldn’t leave vulnerable pupils unattended. I also had to split up a fight between two boys in my class. At this point I emailed HR and demanded a risk assessment. The risk assessment was then completed, including a term that I would have support whenever I had statemented pupils in class. This was then not followed. I sent several emails when no support was provided and didn’t get replies. I then had to take some time off due to pre-natal anxiety. On my return to work, the school once again made promises of support which were not kept. I gradually became more anxious, and began suffering from panic attacks. I then contracted a urinary tract infection following a lesson in which no support was provided and I could not leave the room to access the toilet. I subsequently had a nervous breakdown and because of the risk to myself and my baby, the doctor signed me off work for the remainder of my pregnancy. I then had to receive counselling for the duration of my pregnancy and the two months following it. I am now on maternity leave, and although I’m largely better, the panic attacks return whenever I think about returning to the classroom. I feel I have no option but to resign, due to the way this situation has impacted on me. I have been told that there is nothing I can do given that my baby was unharmed.  Is that true?

A failure to observe the health and safety duties an Employer has with regard to a pregnant employee may be an act of pregnancy discrimination.  All employers are under a duty to assess workplace risks and alter working conditions or hours of work to avoid any significant risk to the health and safety of an expectant mother in the workplace.

An employer who fails to carry out a risk assessment may commit an act of unlawful pregnancy discrimination.  Furthermore, where a risk assessment is undertaken and potential risks / risks are identified, an employer is expected to take action and identify any protective measures that might be required.

Here a risk assessment was (eventually) carried out and it identified a risk(s) and also stated that you should have support whenever you had statemented pupils in class.  This was not followed.  You were not provided with any support, despite your employer being aware that you were at risk and knowing that you had raised concerns in relation to the same in the past.   Your health suffered at the time and you are still suffering now and state that you feel you have no option but to resign due to the way this situation has impacted upon you.  The fact that your baby was not harmed is irrelevant to any claims which may be open to you.

From the detail that you have given, I would say that your employer has acted extremely unreasonably in the circumstances and that there is a claim of pregnancy/maternity discrimination, together with a constructive dismissal complaint if you are minded to resign.  The details you have provided are not clear as to timescales, and I would therefore suggest that you take immediate legal advice prior to resigning.

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