Reporting is a pain, but not doing it can be agony
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 127 5, 8 July 2022, page no.23
At the end of a long day, the last thing any teacher wants to do is log on and report to OneSchool and MyHR.
“Do it tomorrow” whispers the devil on your shoulder. When tomorrow hits, however, it is just as eventful as yesterday, and our good reporting intentions are washed away by the fresh tsunami of tasks the new day presents.
But while reporting is a pain, at Holding Redlich we are increasingly seeing a failure to report come back to bite teachers and school leaders who have made WorkCover claims, complaints of bullying, or who are defending allegations of misconduct.
The reason is that, a bit like the proverbial tree in the woods, decision makers are asking: “If it wasn’t reported, did it ever happen?” The easy answer is “no” and you better believe that is the one they will reach for.
The privacy statement, in small text at the top of the MrHR WHS: Health and Safety Incident Data Collection Form, is useful in that it gives us some idea of how the information can be used.
It reads: “The Department of Education (DoE) is collecting personal health and safety incident information on this form in accordance with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld), the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (Qld), and/or the Electrical Safety Regulation 2002 (Qld). The information collected may be disclosed to third parties, including the Government Superannuation Office, Australian Tax Office, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, Electrical Safety Office (Qld), WorkCover Queensland, industrial organisations, or other entities in accordance with, or where requested by, law or industrial instrument.”
Normally, a disclaimer of this nature makes us think twice about whether we wish to submit the information, but for teachers this should have the opposite effect. The information that you share, or do not share, can and will be used as evidence by the department
The department strictly enforces the principle that student data in OneSchool can only be accessed by the school principal, teachers, and other authorised departmental staff.
But did you know your OneSchool records can (and will) be accessed by the department and used as evidence against your WorkCover claim or disciplinary process?
Recent examples we have seen include the rejection of a psychological injury WorkCover claim because, although there was evidence that the teacher was dealing with an incredibly problematic cohort of students, there were insufficient OneSchool or MrHR reports to support her claims.
In the case of a common law damages claim against the department, a failure to report a work health and safety concern that eventually results in a physical injury, such as a pothole in the schoolyard or a broken seat in the staff room, makes it more difficult to prove the department’s negligence in failing to eliminate or minimise the risk. Depending on your injury, that can make the difference between a comfortable recovery and financial catastrophe.
In the case of a bullying allegation, the most important thing that a victim needs to be able to show is that the conduct is repeated over a period of time. And remember, the prevailing view is that if the reports have not been lodged, it did not happen.
We are now even seeing disciplinary investigations quoting a lack of reporting as evidence “on the balance of probabilities” that the person defending themselves against false allegations should not be believed.
After a difficult start, mandatory reporting of sexual abuse or student harm is now well understood and complied with by teachers and school leaders. It is perfectly understandable that seemingly less important instances of student behaviour or a squeaky chair can fall between the cracks of a busy day.
But while reporting is a pain today, not reporting can cause agony tomorrow. Our advice to teachers and school leaders is simple: When the devil starts to whisper in your ear, flick them off your shoulder and make the report(s). Then you can enjoy your evening, safe in the knowledge that the day’s events really did happen.