Four Fights: Workload

What is this dispute about?

Staff in this sector very often work long hours. A recent UCU workload survey found that staff in HE work an average of 50 hours a week. The same survey found the 4 in 5 HE staff had struggled with their workload. UCU are requesting a standard 35-hour week so that staff can enjoy a safe working environment and reclaim the work-life balance they deserve.

On average HE staff do more than 2 days unpaid work a week (UCU, 2019).

A 2022 report by UCU following a survey of HE staff found that: “staff at universities across the United Kingdom are doing the equivalent of at least two days’ unpaid work every week. The report details sky-high levels of overwork that would breach Working Time Regulations of a maximum 48 hour working week and fall short of Health and Safety Executive mandated stress management standards. In universities, the responses show staff on the lowest wages and most insecure contracts are being forced to work the longest hours, the equivalent of up to four extra days unpaid per week. Overall, 87% of university staff say their workload has increased over the past 3 years, with more than two-thirds (68%) saying it has increased significantly.”

Read the full report here.

What does this mean for our local members?

One of our members has this to say about workload:

“Workload is one of the main causes of stress and anxiety for me. I find it literally impossible to do my job in a 37-hour week. I always work during evenings and usually over weekends. I have never used up anything like a full annual leave entitlement. When I do take time off, during term time especially, I use it to recover from busy weeks, rather than to catch-up with friends or family – which has a real impact on my relationships. Though most people are over 100% on our workload models, additional work continues to be allocated, and deadlines are not movable or flexible. And then, of course, not undertaking enough REFable research is used as a reason not to promote staff. It’s a vicious circle.”

A testimonial on how high workload directly affects one of our staff at the University of Liverpool.