Workload consultation: What members need to know

Workload Consultation: What Members Need to Know

Colleagues with experience of the “rough balance of duties” model have raised a number of issues, most of which boil down to the fact that there is no clear accounting on whether teaching or admin is apportioned with equity, as there is no calculation of what anything is worth in terms of percentage of time or hours. Yes, everybody has an admin job, but some admin jobs are bigger than others; everybody teaches about the same number of modules, but there is no accounting for student numbers.

As it is up to the head of department to decide who gets what and whether the load is evenly distributed, it is difficult to ensure that there is no discrimination or favouritism.

As such, the key issues with a percentage-driven model (the likes of which management is proposing) include:

  1. Lack of transparency on how much time is apportioned to each task, and therefore no understanding of how tasks are apportioned or whether the distribution is fair.
  2. It becomes extremely difficult to know when their workload requires someone to work beyond their contracted hours because no upper limit is stipulated.  Indeed with current pressures in HE, it is almost certain that this will be increasingly common.  In a percentage-based approach, requiring someone to teach 36 hours a week would be perfectly legitimate: it’s still 60% of workload if the working week is 60 hours.
  3. No way of establishing the need for more staff: if tasks do not have assigned hours then it becomes impossible to demonstrate that existing staff cannot cover all the required tasks: teaching, admin etc.
  4. Ample opportunity for unequal distribution of workload, with increased chances of discrimination against certain groups. This may not be deliberate but it will occur nonetheless. For example, it is known that women tend to get more low-status admin jobs related to pastoral care, while white males tend to get the high-status research-related jobs. Removing the number of hours each admin job is given increases the likelihood of high-hour and low-status jobs being offloaded to certain groups of employees. There are serious equality issues if the workload of staff is reliant on the personal judgement of an individual head of department/school.
  5. The distribution of such tasks then affects eligibility for promotion.
  6. There is great scope for inequality within or between departments, with no way of evaluating whether some departments are imposing substantially higher and more unhealthy workloads.
  7. There are issues with a series of tasks that do not fall neatly into either the research/scholarship, admin or teaching category. For example, internship supervisions, organisation of events for students and staff (e.g. seminars, open days, admin related to teaching (e.g. Moodle and reading list curations, revalidation…). The current model allows for the inclusion of ad-hoc tasks that can then be balanced over the year.
  8. The erosion of contractual protections around the shape of the calendar year, already under concerted attack from management which does not wish to observe them.