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Workload, “Time Off in Lieu” (TOIL) and Unusual Hours

We are receiving a number of enquiries and complaints about changes to workload and patterns of work for staff in levels four to six, where UCU has collective bargaining recognition. At present, this problem particularly affects academic related staff in the MSA, TAE and CAO job families. This paper is an attempt by the Southampton branch to set out what we believe to be the proper approach.

Within the University, there are some established job titles, such as “lecturer” which are automatically appointed at a minimum of level four. Other jobs are graded by “job evaluation” panels, according to the Hay Job Evaluation process, against role profiles negotiated and agreed by UCU. Trained union representatives sit on these Job Evaluation panels. While the detailed scoring process is confidential, important elements of the Hay process are “thinking environment”, which includes the level of direct supervision, and “accountability”, which includes “freedom to act”. Academic and Academic Related staff at levels four and above should expect a substantial degree of autonomy in defining their immediate goals and their work patterns. This principle is included in the role profiles for all roles at level four and above, including job roles in the MSA, TAE and CAO job families.

Your workload over the year is defined by the goals set for you during annual appraisal; this includes the PPDR system currently used for MSA, TAE and CAO job families. The appraisal outcomes should clearly and completely describe what the University expects you to do in the coming year. These goals are not “extras”; if a piece of work is not contained within a goal, then the University does not want you to perform it as it is not aligned to the institutional goals. Some goals may be a bit broad, e.g. “take a full part in supporting the management of teaching”; it is up to you as a professional (with support from UCU if necessary) to identify goals which may, over the year, be insufficiently defined and liable to uncontrolled workload growth. Such goals need to be more clearly defined in the appraisal process. It is essential that you insist on the appraisal describing in sufficient detail all that you will actually do over the year. If your goals need to change during the year, further meetings and update to the appraisal document may be appropriate.

You should also negotiate with your manager about your own “professional development” goals. For Academic staff, the University now offers teaching, research, and enterprise progression pathways in addition to the traditional balanced pathway. It may, however, take some time before teaching is truly as highly valued as research. External funding, research publications, and international “networking” are still the keys to outside promotion offers. You may also find it helpful to serve “the academy” by external examining, refereeing, and organising conferences; negotiate workload to allow for these. If you want advancement through teaching, you may need to be innovative (e.g cloud-based learning) and to develop status within the HE teaching profession (e.g. PFHEA). For academic-related staff, take all the training, broadening, professional qualifications, and travel you can get; keep up to date. All colleagues will need to set aside time for training and personal study if they are entering a new area of teaching, research, or administration. Take the opportunity to discuss promotion with your line manager and seek goals that will help you progress.

During the last industrial action, the University took the view that staff at level four and above work a nominal thirty-five hour week. We thus expect that the goals set during appraisal must be deliverable by a fully effective professional working an average of thirty-five hours per week, and taking their full holiday entitlement. Part-time staff work correspondingly shorter hours. Larger goals than this represent an excessive workload. The University is also bound by the working-time directive. Unless you have individually opted out, you cannot work more than forty-eight hours per week averaged over a seventeen week period, although there are some exceptions.

Most of us work most of our hours Monday to Friday between 09:00 and 17:00; within these hours, it is often necessary for us to be on University premises. Obviously, we need to be on-site for our teaching, for meetings, and to manage staff and students. Our presence may also be valuable at other times to support the working ambience of our professional colleagues. For a variety of reasons, some of our professional work may have to take place outside these hours. That is fine too; it should be recognised in your appraisal goals and, if substantial, your job description. You are not entitled to “time off in lieu” (TOIL) of these hours because they are not “extra” hours; they are part of your agreed duties which, overall, should not be taking up more than an average of thirty-five hours a week. It has been an informal practice in some parts of the University to offer TOIL at level four-plus as a way of managing workload and exhaustion; unfortunately, this runs contrary to the general principles.

It is doubly unacceptable for managers to impose fixed office hours on top of additional evening and weekend working. Firstly, your professional role is undermined by the imposition of fine-grained controls and, secondly, your overall workload is excessive. Even worse, we are starting to see instances in some professional services where paid overtime is being removed from level three staff and the work imposed on level fours because they are “free”. We must not allow this to happen; it is depriving colleagues (often Unison members) of income which they probably need more than us.

If you agree to work outside “core” hours, there are some additional things you should consider.

  1. Caring responsibilities: if you are a parent or other sort of carer, you will already have made arrangements to fit your caring responsibilities to your usual working hours. If you need additional paid child- (or other-) care when you work outside these hours, this should be raised with your manager when the new work is proposed. It would not be unreasonable for the University to pay for it. Other caring responsibilities may be more complicated, but you (we) should insist on them being addressed.
  2. Transport: bus and train services can be very poor at evenings and weekends. If you cannot reasonably get to and from your unusual-hours work by your usual method, the University should pay for taxis. Note that this might incur a tax obligation if the taxis are to your usual place of work. If you normally cycle, it may be unsafe to do so late at night.
  3. Personal safety: some University locations can be problematic late in the evening. You may need to be escorted to the car park, or have a taxi meet you at the door.
  4. Tiredness: it may not be reasonable for you to work the next morning after an evening or night “shift”. This is not “time off in lieu”, it is a matter of health and safety. Indeed, under the Working Time Regulations, staff are entitled to a rest period of not less than eleven consecutive hours in each 24 hour period when working. You might work in a hazardous area, you might be customer facing, or you might simply have to interact with colleagues. It is your responsibility to ensure that you only work when you are fit to do so, using your professional judgement. If you come in while over-tired and snap at a colleague, you can expect to be disciplined for your behaviour, not congratulated for working “heroic” hours.

All these matters should be considered in an equality impact assessment for the proposed “unusual-hours” work if it will become a substantial activity.

We are also finding some colleagues have difficulty arranging leave. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that you can take all the leave to which you are entitled; insist on getting it. And again, leave should not be micro-managed or arbitrarily controlled. Any constraints must be based on genuine operational requirements. Furthermore, the staffing levels must be appropriate to allow appropriate leave at times suitable for family life.

Final thoughts:

  1. All these things, including leave policy, should be sorted out at Appraisal time (levels four to six are appraised in January to May each year). They should not be coming up at short notice during the year.
  2. If a block of work is not in your Appraisal goals, the University does not want you to do it. It is not what they are paying for.
  3. If you need help, contact UCU: ucu@soton.ac.uk.

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