Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Work-to-Rule May Hit Academics in the Pay Packet, Lawyer Warns: News

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Work-to-Rule May Hit Academics in the Pay Packet, Lawyer Warns: News

Article excerpt

Working Time Regulations not as restrictive as UCU thinks, partner argues. Jack Grove reports.

Universities may be entitled to withhold pay from academics who cause disruption by working to rule, a legal expert has advised.

As university staff prepare for a second day-long national strike this year, planned for 3 December (the first was held on 31 October), attention has started to turn to the continuing work-to-contract industrial action being taken in protest at this year's 1 per cent pay offer.

Several institutions, including Newcastle University and University of Wales Trinity Saint David, have written to staff warning them that any type of industrial action, including "partial performance", will result in the withdrawal of wages.

While the University and College Union is not advocating "partial performance", it is asking members to "abide strictly to the terms of your contract" and work only the hours set out in workload agreements - generally 40 hours a week for full-time academic staff.

When working hours are undefined, academics should not exceed the 48 hours a week stipulated by the Working Time Regulations, the UCU says.

But Christopher Mordue, a partner at solicitors Pinsent Masons who heads its industrial relations and higher education team, said that institutions can ask staff to work beyond these hours in any single week.

"The Working Time Regulations are not as restrictive as the UCU has claimed," he said. "They allow for significant variations in workload as long as the (48 hour a week) average is not exceeded over a 17-week period."

Mr Mordue also cautioned against a "go slow" on marking, in which staff are advised by the UCU to follow strict Quality Assurance Agency guidelines on grading that may delay the return of essays while also clocking up hours towards the 48-hour workload maximum. …

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