Working to Contract

Here are several resources to help you to manage your time and find out exactly where your working hours are going:


Campaigning Around Workloads

Liz Lawrence, UCU branch member and activist has written a paper Campaigning on Workloads . She says:

“This is something I have been involved with for many years as a union activist. Please share the paper with work colleagues and other union activists you are in touch with, who may be interested in this subject.”


Liz Lawrence, former UCU President and retired SHU branch member
Workplanning Advice from UCU
Measuring your time

A key theme in making sure that you are taking on a manageable workload is to look at how you are using your total time, with the 37 hours working week a safeguard to try to stick to.

The measurement of teaching and equivalent time (set as a maximum of 462 hours for the year) remains an important safeguard, but where you are given a role like course leader with 30 hours against 462 the expectation is that you might spend up to 90 real hours on the role – if you are actually spending 200 you clearly need more time and should ask for it (BUT it will only be meaningful to do so if you count up your total hours because an extra 100 hours which are not counted as equivalent of teaching has no value unless you have a workplan that shows that the overall total of your working time comes to more than the annual maximum of 1576 – a figure we believe most staff exceed, with evidence for this coming from the TAS returns as well as anecdotally).

For research staff the measurements are a little different but the broad principle of counting your time is equally relevant.

If you are asked to take on tasks that take you longer than the allocated time:

DO ask for more time;
DO ask what to stop doing; or
DO report what you are not able to complete and pass it back to your manager – and if he/she needs help to get more resources UCU will be supportive.
DO measure how your time is used – and if you are told that as a matter of a formula or a local policy you can only be given a certain number of hours, make it clear that if the work cannot be done within those hours you will expect to be given more.
DO book and take all your holidays.
DO tell your manager when you are taking self-managed time – and put this into your work-plan and into your diary or electronic calendar.
DO ask for extra hours if you have new classes (e.g. – two hours for preparation and marking to go with an hour’s teaching, rather than the one-for-one that work planners usually record, because it is the minimum).
DO ask for extra time if you are dealing with Distance Learning students and the hours do not cover the work you are doing.
Relating your work to health and safety

Some staff agree to a workplan without lunch breaks BUT this is inefficient for you, and bad for your health, so don’t do it!

Some staff occasionally work in ways that do not comply precisely with the contract, BUT only do that if it suits you – and you should not be put under pressure to do so (and from a UCU perspective we prefer you not to do this because it may be seen as having implications for others – e.g. the message we hear from some managers that you ought to do extra because others do – to which we need to respond that if a whole work team is over-stretched the manager should be working actively to get more resources.)

Some staff are happy to work more evenings than the two you can be required to do, BUT if you do, make sure that it is clear to your manager that you are agreeing this exceptionally.

Overwork is one of the main health and safety issues for academic staff, and although legislation is weak in protecting employees in most aspects of work, health and safety legislation still offers some valuable protection.

If you regularly ignore the advice above, and work far more than your contracted hours you are encouraging management to believe that the university has plenty of staff to cover the work that needs doing, and that is not in your interests or in the interests of any of your colleagues or future colleagues. It is also potentially putting your health at risk – and ignoring your own health and safety is both dangerous and a breach of university policy. DON’T DO IT.

Copyright 2012 UCU branch committee at Sheffield Hallam University