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Weekend Working

MEMBER RESPONSES

Thank you for the many comments about weekend working at Cardiff University, most of which can be read below (edited to preserve anonymity).

University management are claiming a general right to direct staff to work on weekends, as an "occasional" requirement.

If management ever had such a right (for individuals whose contract and job descriptions make no reference to weekend work), Cardiff UCU believe that the University surrendered that right last year when management (1) deducted pay for strike days using a formula based on a 5-day working week, and (2) affirmed in writing that the University did not have the right to direct staff to work on weekends and was not seeking such a right.

Cardiff UCU do not believe that the University can unilaterally reclaim that right now (a year later) merely by saying they made a mistake. However, we have offered to meet with management to discuss the best way forward.

We asked members to comment, and posed these questions:

  • ·       When you were appointed, were you told that you might have to work some weekends?
  • ·       Are you willing to work on a weekend occasionally because management have decided the work must be done on the weekend, for an open day, or admissions, or tight marking deadlines, or for critical IT support, etc.?
  • ·       Do you have caring responsibilities that would make it hard for you to work on a particular weekend of management's choosing?

Send your comments to ucu@cardiff.ac.uk, or telephone 029 2061 0461.

Members say:

25

If I work weekends I expect to take back that time "in lieu". Because I have general flexibility anyway I don't expect "time and a half" or anything like that. I am not aware of anything in my contract that requires me to work weekends.

24

I have not been directed to work at weekends, but I have occasionally done so when involved in student field courses and when trying to meet tight deadlines with marking etc. I have always assumed that this was up to me, and that if I didn't want to work at weekends then I couldn't be made to do so. I think the recent pay deductions on strike days reinforces this view. It needs to be clarified.

23

One of the positive features of being an academic worker is that often we can choose when and where we work as long as we execute our duties.  However, the flipside of that is that it is impossible to execute our duties within the 35 hour working week that we are contracted for.  But that is a much bigger structural issue in the sector than weekend working - which frequently takes place without 'direction' and off the university premises.  It also includes long days, working whilst on annual leave and constant performance anxiety.

The weekend working issue in your email feels like a red herring, although it does seem invidious that strike pay was deducted assuming the five day working week, and I don't think people should be compelled to work on any particular weekend - especially if they have caring responsibilities.  If particular cover is required by departments it should be negotiated and there should be a quid pro quo - paid overtime and time off in lieu.

22

Of course I need to work at weekends. Research frequently needs work doing on a Saturday or Sunday. That's what made the 5 day formula for pay deduction so dishonest.

21

As a person without children to care for, my weekend time can be more flexible to accommodate out-of-hours work. And I'm happy to perform critical work occasionally out-of-hours when appropriate.

Out-of-hours work in my directorate is covered by a long-standing agreement. However, some of my colleagues feel that the agreement is unfair, in that it distinguishes between grade five staff and staff on grades six to eight, who perform many of the same tasks but get paid at a different rate to grade five staff.

I am very happy for UCU to work with the University management to produce an agreement.

20

We have a programme that runs in a Muslim country where weekends are very different to ours (Thurs and Friday) so teaching staff involved have to work Saturday and Sunday if they go there to deliver the programme.

Personally I have attended a conference that was on a Saturday. Other than that we have in the past held interview days on Saturdays and this can last into the afternoon. We have generally avoided this in recent years. I was always willing to help out with these.

I know that many people do their marking or other academic work on weekends but I was never led to believe this would be necessary when I joined.

19

As an academic struggling to devote as time to my research (especially writing), I often work at weekends and some evenings. During the exam period, I often work at weekends to get my marking done. However, there is a difference between choosing to work at the weekend due to one's personal time management (especially for reasons of working to publishers' deadlines) and being required to work at the weekend for an open day, admissions, marking etc.

As a mother, I would not be able to work at weekends without the patient support of my husband, and I would have to say that when I do, it does reflect negatively on family life.

I strongly agree that the University has no right to instruct academic staff to work at weekends. This may be different for security, library staff etc., but presumably their contracts and payment scales are constructed to reflect unsociable hours.

I support the stance of the UCU.

I think this is an important issue. Some years ago, there was a move to introduce exams on Sundays; fortunately that was quashed but the University does periodically keep trying to erode weekends. Curious given the statements it makes elsewhere about supporting family life, being an employer of choice, flexible working etc.

18

I support the stance.  I was never told on appointment that I might have to work weekends. Many of us have caring responsibilities and all of us have our personal lives.  We work under the assumption that the weekends are our own and book our social activities etc. on that basis.  While the University could request weekend work, I do not see how it could insist given that it does not seek to approve weekend "absences".  It would not be reasonable to tell a member of staff who had booked a weekend activity that s/he should cancel to work at the weekend.  Our Monday-Friday leave days are notified to the University and their approval for the leave is implicit if they do not reply.  I have never been requested to inform the University about my weekend time (if the university tries to push this, perhaps we should organise a campaign whereby members bombard HR with absence notifications for every weekend!).

17

I feel quite strongly about this and would be unhappy about being asked to work particular weekends because of childcare and parent caring duties. Also, I work pretty long hours during the week, often late into the night and/or early mornings, and I would only accept this if academic staff also had TOIL entitlements, especially since I start this academic year with weeks of annual leave untaken and untakeable. I do from time to time work weekends to get research completed or comply with marking or teaching preparation deadlines, but I do this at my own discretion and to fit in with my family commitments. I would refuse to work a particular weekend without prior individual agreement and the possibility of taking time off elsewhere to compensate, particularly in the light of the amount of money that was docked for strike action last year. The University can't have it both ways.

16

I was not told on appointment that I might have to work weekends. I would be willing to work on a weekend occasionally but only if I volunteer to do so and get paid additionally for it. I have caring responsibilities that would make it hard to work on a particular weekend of management's choosing.

15

I frequently work on weekends - but never because of a direct command to work on a weekend. It can be marking - which is driven by School processes; but more often is research related (and outside academic service) and is just my way of being able to do my research (and outside service) given all my commitments the rest of the week. I would be prepared to 'consider' working on a weekend formally - if it received some recognition - and it was not compulsory. Given the University decision last year - they clearly do not have the right. When I was appointed I was not told that I might have to work some weekends (though I was not told the opposite either). There should be an agreement that clarified things.

14

We have occasional out of hours working in our contract. I accepted this when I agreed my contract as maintenance cannot always be done in normal working hours and faults occur anytime of the day. Some specialist plant has to have statutory attendance on a daily basis too. I would be interested in UCU views on this as our operation could not function without this in place.

13

Some of the courses offered by LEARN include Saturday Schools so tutors have to teach those. This was made clear when we were appointed to teach these courses.  However we can choose the dates to suit us.  On open days, tutors are asked but not forced to be present - coordinating lecturers are there anyway, so if we can't make it that's not a problem.  However, the nature of our work means that it can be in our own interest to be present.  We need a certain number of enrolments for our courses to run, and students who meet the tutor at the open days can be more motivated to enrol.  We receive extra payment for attending, and my feeling is that tutors are generally OK about these two types of weekend work.  I think Learn is in a special situation, since it needs to reach students who are free at weekends; however, greater clarity about the 'general right' issue would be welcome.  There is also the issue of whether a tutor should get paid more for teaching on a Saturday.

12

I have for many years taught future solicitors and barristers and those employed in the criminal justice system. I expect to work at weekends. I am a professional, I have never had a job in which I didn't expect to work at weekends. Any interesting job will require you from time to time to work some hours or days which you might not normally do. Admin staff (not highly paid) – are typically also totally professional in being equally flexible to cover things, and will often come in at the weekend to make sure something is going smoothly- even when told they needn't.

I consider myself lucky in staying in employment during these difficult times. Working to do marketing in the evening or on a Saturday (or travelling and staying away to recruit students) are all ways in which I help to secure my own job and those of my colleagues. Unless universities can function as successful businesses and their professional staff throw off any mentality of being like public servants or hourly paid workers  they will not survive- and your best efforts to safeguard your members may actually disadvantage them.

I will be working most of  this Saturday because weekend assessment allows candidates not to lose the potential for work during the ordinary working week. In recompense I took half a day yesterday afternoon to get my hair cut. Sometimes I repay myself like this and sometimes I don't- but I make sure my staff always do. So I think we all need to get real and work together to serve our students/candidates/customers, and do so with flexibility and realism and - dare I say - it enthusiasm.

11

Employees are entitled to clear expectations of how and when they are expected to work. The university needs to feed a consistent message to line managers in ensuring a clear policy committed to equality. There needs to be a focus upon workload spread and the general burden of work that individual staff carry. Given that Schools are geared up to a Mon-Fri working week, working at weekends typically can mean very long runs of work. Where an individual does commit to weekend work and experiences the vicissitudes of life, there is typically insufficient cover to address this. Even with Schools where weekend work occurs routinely as part of weekend programmes, there is little oversight, management or support for individuals who are engaged in work after 17:30 on Friday. There is little thought as to how this impacts upon one's overall workload - so employee welfare issues loom hard here.

Call centres operate on the basis of a seven day week and have systems in place to deal with this, whilst also using the seven day week as an opportunity for flexible working (which can be valuable) - but for the greater part, most schools operate with a Monday to Friday norm and any deviation from this should be seen as exceptional, temporary and not an expectation. Where staff are approached to work weekends, it should be a voluntary and temporary endeavour. It should also result in a relaxation of duties elsewhere in their workload.

Sometimes weekend work can work well with staff members' own working preferences and caring responsibilities - so allowing some flexibility is important. But it is also important for the university to look at weekend work as exceptional, and to have clear systems in place, for at the moment, it is poorly supported.

I am grateful that the UCU is taking this up as a matter of concern.

10

I would not be happy to work weekends without an adequate notice period in order to arrange child care, or without adequate compensation for my time away from my family. In my area of work, MPSS Grades 1-4 get overtime for out of hours work, a Grade 5 gets £26 an hour, and grades 6 to 8 get £45 an hour - the work being done out of hours is often the same irrespective of grade yet there is discrimination in pay awarded. Compensation should be in terms of standard payment applicable to everyone across the University on a particular Career Pathway, and not just individually negotiated with my directorate. Alternatively you could have Flexi-Time like a lot of other employers where by when your 35 hours has been worked then any additional time worked can be claimed back as "Flexi Leave" to be used in addition to annual leave. Without one of these forms of compensation Cardiff University are not upholding their status of Investors in People or operating a Positive Working Environment.

9

I have generally enjoyed a good working relationship with the University and I hope this continues. My contract is quite vague, but allows my Head to require attendance on the premises at appropriate times. "Appropriate times" is not defined. A few MPSS staff in my Directorate do weekend work, and this has happened only by agreement with all parties, and for which additional payment is agreed. I have not been asked to work any weekends since I started here many years ago, so I don't think it would be reasonable to force me to work weekends now without my agreement, as this would constitute a radical change to my customary working practice, and therefore implied agreement with the University. I have occasionally worked a weekend day at my own discretion out of dedication, not any implied contractual duty.

When I was recruited I was not told of any possibility of working weekends.

My job, like those of many colleagues, is open-ended and could easily exceed the 48 hours working time limit every week if it were allowed to do so. I agree my objectives in my appraisal and aim to limit them to realistic objectives which are achievable in a normal working week. I would recommend other colleagues to do the same.

Government advice on this is

Your normal working hours should be set out in your employment contract or written statement of employment particulars.

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/WorkingHoursAndTimeOff/DG_10029426

I take 35 hours to be my normal working week, and any changes to my current practice, including weekend working, would only be by agreement with me.

If vague working hours in academic contracts are in conflict with the national working time limits, or so vague as to allow such radically different interpretations, then they should be negotiated with UCU and clarified for future appointments. The ongoing lack of clarity does nothing to help morale, working relationships, or productivity.

8

I am in effect on call, 24/7, should a crisis arise. Unpaid. Ditto for staff who report directly to me.

7

The University has dug itself into a hole. The UCU approach seems sensible, and the University needs to discuss the matter with the union: if we go on strike, then supposed weekend work must be taken into account in strike salary deductions, or if the University assumes we work Mon-Fri, and deducts strike pay accordingly, then we are not obliged to work on weekends. They cannot reasonable argue both cases!

6

If the University are to backtrack the following should be borne in mind;

  • ·       Weekend working goes against a good work-life balance policy. Weekend working is counterproductive as it contributes to increased stress (no time to de-stress, pursue hobbies etc) and takes time away from family, caring or other duties, thereby creating other sources of stress in addition to work. Any extensive use of this is likely to result in more stress-related absence, this being detrimental to the individual and, through its consequent impact on staff costs, to the University. The word 'occasional' is too vague to guarantee against overuse. Were I to be removed from helping out with the family on arbitrary weekends of management's choosing, I would probably have to take even more time off, not only to get my own stress levels down, but also to take on more caring activities as a result of my partner's stress. Weekend working impacts not only on the well-being of staff, but also on that of all those around them, and this can have consequences for the University in terms of increased staff absence etc.
  • ·       Many people already work weekends because they cannot do all of their jobs in five day week. Can the University extend the week to nine days so they can do an extra two days? The point here is that any discussion of weekend working, must be accompanied by a serious attempt to deal with workload issues so that all staff have jobs that can be reasonably accomplished in a 35-hour week.
  • ·       Some tasks may 'occasionally' need to be done over the weekend. I am not convinced that this applies to things such as Open days, admissions, or even to exam marking (the University chooses to have boards so close to exam periods, creating the pressure, so other solutions are available). Weekend working should be reserved only for those tasks that absolutely have to be done at the weekend and this absolute need should be demonstrable. Everything should be done to avoid it where possible. Where it is essential that work is carried out on weekends this should be stipulated in contracts and time off in lieu should be automatic. At present, for academic staff time off in lieu would be problematic. If staff are to work weekends, time off in lieu should be clearly stated in a precise manner and be as close to the weekend worked as possible (which days etc.). I also think that there should be some stipulation, if we are forced to accept this, to the effect that staff would not be required to work more than seven days in a row (there is something in the European Working Time Directive about this, but I can't remember how may days it stipulates before a rest day must be taken).
  • ·       I find it outrageous that the University has changed position on this just to squeeze a few more pounds out of us for daring to go on strike in an attempt to save our pensions. I hope others feel as strongly as I do about this and that UCU is able to give the University a clear message about the goodwill that it is losing over this sort of behaviour. At the very least, if they are to seek to impose weekend working they should pay back the difference between the 1/261 and 1/365 in strike pay deducted. Perhaps they should pay for a variation in our contracts to give them greater flexibility over the deployment of our labour - say a 1000 pound tax-free lump sum payment for every member of staff affected.

5

Like other researchers I am expected to come in at weekends (and stay late in the evenings) to complete my research. In the advert for my job it said that I would be expected to work outside of normal contracted hours from time to time. Usually this is to do practical tasks to maintain experiments that require daily attention. It can also be in order to complete data analysis or writing/reading, or use equipment that is booked up at other times.

This is an accepted part of being a research scientist, and I don't generally have a problem with it. However, it can sometimes be abused by some senior staff, who expect that their staff will work every evening and every weekend as a matter of course. There can be a culture of pressure to do this, and guilt over taking one's full leave allowance. People who expect to adhere to their contracted hours can be made to feel inadequate and poorly suited for their jobs. Personally, I am happy with the university's position that they cannot demand that we work weekends, as it puts me in a better position to not be expected to work weekends. Having read their statement on it, I find their position fair in this case.

Probably my biggest complaint relating to working hours would be the monitoring of leave amongst research staff, and the absence of any time-off-in-lieu arrangements. At other universities, my leave was monitored only by my line manager, with records kept available for HR should they need them. This meant that a more flexible approach was possible, where a particularly long day (16-18 hours was not uncommon) could be followed by a short one, or a morning off could be made up at other times. Here, all leave must go through HR, making it much more formal. Recently, to get an afternoon off I had to use a half day of annual leave (4 hours of contracted time) despite the fact that in the preceding 3 days I had worked a total of 10 hours more than my total contracted hours for those days. Although our leave is very generous, it can cause bad feeling when no additional time off can be given despite numerous overtime hours being worked.

I have felt that the weekend workloads of research staff have been rather overlooked, with very teaching-specific things such as marking and open days being specifically mentioned, which is a shame, since weekend working is an accepted normality of research.

4

I do work some weekends, not because I am told to but because sometimes it makes life easier for me in the week. However management have given up the right to insist on this.  The only way around it for them is to negotiate and the starting point should be that they reimburse strikers accordingly and deduct 1/365 not 1/260.  Then, if they would like staff to work weekends, in many private sectors staff would be paid overtime for these times at 1.5 to 2 times depending on the time and day, so this should be negotiated. They can’t have it both ways saying you don’t work weekends when docking pay and expecting us to work for free when they deem fit. 

3

I was told when I joined the university (decades ago) that I was expected to complete my work despite weekends.  So this included marking, reading papers for Monday meetings, teaching preparation, etc.  It was accepted that this was what happened routinely.  It still happens around examination time because the administration fail to organise the examination period so marking can be done sensibly.

The moment pay was deducted based on a 5-day week I felt that this was a watershed.  I am reluctant now to do much over weekends and yet I have responsibilities to students as well as to myself and colleagues.

If it was a 'mistake' then the college should refund the pay deducted as a sign of goodwill!. 

Personally I think we should stick with the 5 day week formula. There might then become a more realistic evaluation of what can be done in a working week.  This idea has been lost as far as I can see in all discussions and evaluations within my School.

2

I certainly have to work on weekends. Not because my line manager explicitly asks me to, but because it's impossible to cope with my workload otherwise.

1

Our working hours are so flexible that we cannot reasonably complain if there is a once-a-year weekend event such as the examples you give. It's about give and take. We gain enormously by having a job with such flexibility. I have caring responsibilities but with notice I can arrange cover, as can the vast majority of carers.

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