Guidance for Staff during Industrial Action

The University will write to staff if they receive notification of industrial action and will address the specific circumstances in that communication.

The following Q&As are intended as a guide for staff during legal industrial action by one or more of the trade unions recognised by the University; they will be updated from time to time to amend guidance or include new information as appropriate. If you have further questions you should speak to your line manager or local College/US HR team.

Student Frequently Asked Questions can be accessed here

2020 Action Specific Questions

What action has been called?

Both strike action and action short of a strike have been called.

On which dates will the strike action occur?

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced that it is asking members to take part in 14 days of strike action commencing on 20 February as follows:

  • Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February 2020
  • Monday 24 to Wednesday 26 February 2020
  • Monday 2 to Thursday 5 March 2020
  • Monday 9 to Friday 13 March 2020

A previous 8 days of action were held in 2019: 

25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 November (five days)

2, 3 and 4 December (three days)

On which dates will any action short of a strike occur?

Action Short of Strike is intended to be continuous and started on 25 November 2019, and will conclude no later than 29 April 2020.

Which Trade Unions are involved?

Action has been called by The University and College Union (UCU). No other unions are involved in this action.

If I participate in the upcoming strike action, how much of my pay will be deducted?

Deductions will be made as follows:

  • Full-time members of staff: a deduction equivalent to a daily rate of 1/365th of annual salary for each day of strike action. 
  • Part-time members of staff: a proportional deduction equivalent to contractual hours that should have been worked on each day of strike action.

If I participate in the upcoming strike action, when can I expect the deductions to be made from my pay?

Agreement has been reached with UCU to spread the strike pay deductions across March, April and May 2020. 
To enable deductions to be spread, staff must confirm their participation in the February dates to their line manager by no later than Friday 6 March.
It must be noted that all striking staff must declare their strike action.

General Frequently Asked Questions

If there is a strike, how will the University know if I am taking part?

All staff in scope will receive an e-mail before a notified strike day/period requiring them to confirm if they intend to take strike action. In addition each area will be asked to provide details of individuals who took part in strike action. If you are working away from your normal base for any reason (e.g. attending a conference) on a strike day you should notify your Manager of your absence. If you are on annual or other leave Payroll will be aware of this through the HR System. If you are not at work and your Manager is not aware of the reason for your absence, it will be assumed that you are taking part in the strike and salary deductions will be made.

If I go on strike for a day, how much will be deducted from my salary?

Strike action is a breach of contract and in line with University policy for those involved in strike action there will be a deduction from salary as follows:

Full-time members of staff:

  • a deduction equivalent to 1/365th of annual salary for each day on which strike action takes place.
  • a deduction equivalent to contractual hours that should have been worked on each day on which strike action takes place.

Part-time members of staff:

  • a deduction equivalent to contractual hours that should have been worked on each day on which strike action takes plac

What if I am on strike for a only a few hours?

Any member of staff taking part in any form of industrial action, including participation in  strike action of less than a day, will typically be committing a breach of their contract of employment. University policy requires all staff to perform and undertake all aspects of the work for which they are paid. The University fundamentally rejects the partial performance of any member of staff, including partial performance due to a part-day strike and is entitled to withhold a full day’s pay in respect of each day on which partial performance occurs. In this event, where a member of staff participates in a part-day strike and chooses to attend work and carry out their normal duties during the remainder of that day it will be considered that they are doing so on a voluntary basis. The University is not obliged to make payment in respect of any such work undertaken.

On occasion, the University may choose to vary the amount of pay withheld. If this is the case, it will confirm its intention regarding salary deductions in advance of each instance of legal strike action. Failing any such communication, employees should assume that (as outlined above) no payment will be made in respect of any work during the remainder of the strike day.

I normally work overtime. If I go on strike, will this have an effect on my overtime earnings?

Time lost due to strike action will not count as time worked. If you work extra hours, these will be paid at plain time until you reach the number of hours required for overtime rates.

If I go on strike will this affect my pension?

The University is not obliged to make pension contributions for scheme members when they are on strike, but will inform you of its position on pensions when it writes to you about each instance of strike action.

If there are pickets at the entrances to the University, can I cross a picket line?

Picketing of workplaces is protected by law and, any such past activity at the University has generally been undertaken peacefully and courteously. Pickets may try to persuade you peacefully to support the industrial action; however, staff who wish to work have the right to do so and will be allowed to cross the picket line. If you decide not to cross the picket line, you will be considered to have joined the industrial action and pay will be deducted accordingly.

I don't want to cross the picket line but I do want to work on strike days. Can I work from home?

Line Managers will not typically give permission for ad hoc arrangements to work at home on strike days. You must report to your normal place of work on the strike day unless you are have made prior arrangements to be away from base; for example to attend a conference.

Can I take annual leave during strike action?

Leave approved through the HR Self Service Portal prior to the date that strike action was notified to the University will be honoured. It is unlikely that any new request for annual leave on the day of action will be authorised. If, due to unforeseen circumstances, you need to request to take leave, you should discuss the reasons for this with your line manager. A new leave request will only be approved if there are exceptional circumstances.

What happens if I'm sick on the days when there is a strike?

If you are off sick on a strike day, you must provide a certificate, signed by a doctor for your absence. You must notify your manager of your sickness absence before your normal starting time or, where this is not reasonably practicable, within one hour of it, as required by the University’s Managing Attendance Policy.

Does taking strike action affect continuous service?

Day(s) on which legal strike action is taken do not break continuity of employment. However, strike days are excluded for the purposes of accruing statutory entitlements e.g. qualification for maternity pay etc.

I have been called on by my union to 'work to contract'. What does this mean?

Your union will normally give you details of what action it expects you to take. Your contractual obligations cover not only what is written in your contract of employment and related documents but also the customary ways in which people have worked in your area and the implied duties of fidelity and good faith. Any action which would entail non-compliance with any of these aspects of your contract will be deemed to be a breach of contract. The University will not accept partial performance of your contract and reserves the right to make appropriate deductions from your salary.

I am taking part in a marking boycott, how will this affect my pay?

The University considers that a boycott of any element of an employee’s normal duties amounts to partial performance of contract by the employee and rejects such behaviour. Unless you perform your contract in full, the University’s policy is to withhold 100% of pay, continuously from the date that you cease to perform the relevant assessment duties required of you. This position will remain until either you complete the assessment activities and/or the industrial action ends.

The University will write to all relevant staff in advance of the start of industrial action outlining the trigger point for withholding pay in particular circumstances.

There will be no reimbursement of withheld pay to staff after they cease the industrial action, including where work is completed after returning to normal working.

There may be occasions when the University will decide to adopt a different position and may choose to vary the amount of pay withheld. Clear guidance on this will be given in advance of any legal strike action, failing which the University's policy as outlined above will apply.

Can I be asked to cover for a colleague who is on strike?

Yes, work can be temporarily reallocated to other staff not on strike or who could provide temporary cover, such as retired staff. Agency staff can not be hired to cover the work of employees on strike.

I am sponsored on a Tier 2 or Tier 5 Visa – am I permitted to take part in strike action? Will it affect my visa?

Migrants sponsored under Tier 2 or Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) are permitted to take unpaid leave to take part in legally organised strike action without impact to their visa.