F.A.Q.

1 What do I do if I am called to a meeting with line management and HR are unexpectedly present?
  • Ask for written clarification as to the status of the meeting, for example, is this a formal meeting?
  • Ask whether this meeting is part of a University procedure, and if so, which procedure?
  • If the meeting concerns disciplinary action and could result in a warning been given then you have a statutory right to have a UCU rep present. If no rep is available then you should seek a postponement. Please note that if the meeting is an investigation you do not have the statutory right to be accompanied, although responsible employers should allow you to have a rep present. Contact your UCU rep once you have been invited to an investigation meeting.
  • Ask if the meeting is being minuted and if so, when you will receive the minutes (i.e. you may want to check these minutes and make amendments)
  • Even if the meeting is minuted, make notes if possible. Do not be afraid to ask the other participants to speak more slowly or repeat what they have said (especially if the matter is serious).
  • If you find taking notes difficult, and the meeting is taking place online/remotely, you could also ask for permission to record the meeting. However this can only be done with the agreement of every participant.
  • If you feel upset or anxious, ask for an adjournment. This can be done regardless of whether the meeting is in person or being done remotely.
  • Do not agree to anything under pressure that you feel is incorrect/detrimental, but state that you need time to reflect and will get back to the University via email in 24/48 hours with your response.
  • If you are questioned , just answer what is being asked and do not expand, particularly in cases where you are not accompanied by a UCU rep.
  • Immediately after the meeting make a note of the main points. In some cases you may want to send this to the other participants as a record (particularly where no notes or minutes were taken). If your account is disputed it is up to the other participants to challenge it.
  • Contact UCU for advice if necessary
2 What do I do if called to a meeting and redundancy is raised?
  • Depending on the context, be very careful of what you might say and refrain from engaging in a discussion which may give the impression you are happy to have hours cut, being made redundant, being relocated etc. unless you are happy to do so.
  • Ask if the meeting is being minuted and if so, when you will receive the minutes (i.e. you may want to check these minutes and make amendments)
  • Make notes if possible
  • If you find taking notes difficult, and the meeting is taking place online/remotely, you could also ask for permission to record the meeting.
  • Ask that any information/documentation that is presented to you is forwarded after the meeting via email
  • Ask for a full consultation meeting so that you have time to prepare in a second meeting: https://www.acas.org.uk/your-rights-during-redundancy/how-your-employer-must-consult-you
  • If you feel upset or anxious, ask for an adjournment
  • Do not agree to anything under pressure that you feel is incorrect/detrimental, but state that you need time to reflect and will get back to the University via email in 24/48 hours with your response
  • After the meeting, check that the meeting corresponded with the University procedure
  • Contact UCU for advice
3 What do I do if I am called to a meeting and changes to my contract are suggested?
  • Ask if the meeting is being minuted and if so, when you will receive the minutes (i.e. you may want to check these minutes and make amendments)
  • Be very careful that what you say might may give the impression that you are happy to have detrimental changes made to your contract or way of working.
  • Make notes if possible
  • If you find taking notes difficult, and the meeting is taking place online/remotely, you could also ask for permission to record the meeting.
  • Ask that any information/documentation that is presented to you is sent after the meeting via email
  • If you feel upset or anxious, ask for an adjournment
  • Do not agree to anything under pressure that you feel is incorrect/detrimental, but state that you need time to reflect and will get back to the University via email in 24/48 hours with your response. It is perfectly reasonable to say that you need time to think and consult with your UCU rep before you can respond fully.
  • After the meeting, check your contract
  • Contact UCU for advice
4 What is the union position on the return to working on campus?

Please see UCU’s post-16 education recovery principles: UCU – UCU’s post-16 education recovery principles

5 What rights do I have as a fixed term employee?

If someone has been on a fixed term contract for more than 4 years, then under employment law you are potentially eligible for a permanent contract. See https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/3567/Fixed-term-regulations-requesting-confirmation-of-permanence for more details. Requests for permanence should be made as soon as possible after you have been working for the employer for 4 years and the original contract has either been replaced or amended in that time. If someone has been employed by the University for 24 months or more, then they are entitled to redundancy. This involves not only a potential payment, but also rights to ensure that selection for redundancy has been carried out under fair and proper selection processes. You can’t be selected for redundancy purely on the fixed-term nature of your contract. The University needs to discuss ways to redeploy you if possible, which will include training you for a new post if necessary. For more UCU guidance on this please go to https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/3547/The-ending-of-a-fixed-term-contract—some-information#redundancy, and to see a calculation of the basic minimum redundancy pay that you would be entitled to, please go to https://www.gov.uk/calculate-your-redundancy-pay. Transferring to a permanent contract is advisable in a sector that relies more and more on precarious contracts, as there is an increased level of protection. This will benefit an employee outside of work (example, it may be easier for you to apply for a mortgage) as well as within work (example, for fixed term staff, the employer does not have to give you notice at the end of your contract, and can potentially attempt to renew the contract on less favourable grounds).

6 What do I do if I feel I am being bullied/harassed?
  • If possible, ask the person bullying or harassing you to stop. Keep a note of your discussion e.g. a follow up email to show you raised the problem and what, if anything, was agreed.
  • It is important to understand what is happening and recognise the many manifestations of bullying / harassment behaviour: https://www.acas.org.uk/if-youre-treated-unfairly-at-work/being-bullied
  • Start making a diary of unwanted events/incidents/conversations/interactions.
  • Make a note of those who witnessed any unwanted behaviour. If possible, approach them afterwards to check. If the problem remains unresolved you may need witness statements.
  • Gain help with any emotional and/or physical consequences (by talking to your GP / Occupational Health / Independent counselling services if necessary e.g. https://www.educationsupport.org.uk/)
  • Consider the relevant University policies.
  • Read the following guide: What to do if you are being bullied or harassed – advice for UCU members
  • Ask the union for advice if you have been unable to resolve the problem informally.
7 What do I do if I feel that I am being treated unfairly compared with others?
8 What do I do if I am called to a meeting and any of the following are mentioned: Settlement Agreement / Mutual Agreement / Protected Conversation / Without Prejudice Conversation?
  • It is important to understand what is happening. We have recently been made aware that some members of staff are being invited to attend unexpected meetings with their Faculty Management. Once within the meeting, the member is faced with Faculty Management and HR, who then initiate a discussion about taking an ‘enhanced’ offer/opportunity to leave the University. If this offer is not accepted within a short period, the member of staff may be told that they can expect to be made redundant (with considerably less by way of a financial settlement) or face formal proceedings (such as the Capability Procedure).
  • If another procedure has been referenced (e.g. Redundancy/Capability), request that the relevant policy is sent to you after the meeting.
  • Request clarification as to what is the exact basis of the ‘conversation’ in case of subsequent legal proceedings. Is this a Mutual Agreement conversation, a Protected conversation, a Without Prejudice conversation?
  • Ask if the meeting is being minuted and if so, when you will receive the minutes (i.e. you may want to check these minutes and make amendments)
  • Even if the meeting is minuted, make notes if possible. Do not be afraid to ask the other participants to speak more slowly or repeat what they have said.
  • Do not agree to anything under pressure that you feel is detrimental.
  • You can ask to halt the meeting so that you can seek advice from your Trade Union rep
  • Ask if you can re-arrange the meeting for a later date and bring a UCU rep with you to the re-scheduled meeting (as per paragraph 13 of the ACAS Code of Practice on settlement agreements: https://www.acas.org.uk/code-of-practice-settlement-agreements
  • If you prefer to continue with the conversation to see what might be on offer, you can of course do so
  • After the meeting check guidance, for example (i) this simple guide to protected conversations
    https://www.ibblaw.co.uk/insights/blog/5-things-you-need-know-about-protected-conversations, and
    (ii) the ACAS Code of Practice on settlement agreements: https://www.acas.org.uk/code-of-practice-settlement-agreements
  • Get in touch with Surrey UCU for support
  • If exploring any potential ‘offer’, UCU members can access free financial advice via Lighthouse: https://www.ucu.org.uk/financialadvice
  • If you need more time to explore a potential ‘offer’ then request an extended deadline from HR.
9 What is the Surrey UCU advice regarding MEQ metrics being used within appraisal and probation targets?
  • UCU maintains that MEQ scores are not compulsory targets and any annual updates to appraisals should routinely go to the unions for negotiation and consultation in the same way that any other policy would, especially should it have implications for working conditions or terms of employment
  • Do not sign up to anything which you believe to be detrimental or outside of your control
  • Strike through or delete the pre-filled part of the form where MEQs are mentioned. You may wish to include a specific statement that you are not signing up to achieve a particular MEQ score because this is not a SMART target.
  • You can illustrate your commitment to teaching by setting yourself targets and aims that are fully within your control. Updating teaching material; implementing an idea to do something novel, or building on something you trialled in the last year that went well are examples of SMART targets – predicting a minimum threshold of students who will appreciate your efforts is not.
  • We also note that changes have been made for staff who have a teaching requirement in their contract – in their appraisal they must state how they have used their research to enhance their teaching. If you have been allocated teaching that is peripherally rather than directly linked to your research, or if you are a Teaching Fellow whereby research is absent from workload allowance you may wish to consider approaching this target along the following lines:

    “I was allocated to teach topics A, B, and C, on module XXX001 – although I have an excellent background in these subjects I am not currently conducting my research directly in this area. I am nevertheless enthusiastic to cover areas of the syllabus for which I have appropriate background and expertise, and where there is no other direct research activity taking place on this topic in the Department.”

    “As a Teaching Fellow I do not have research in my contract of employment, and do not have an allocation in my workload for pedagogic research. However, I utilise the time allowed in my workload for activities such as scholarship and module organisation as efficiently as possible so that I can keep up to date with relevant developments in my field of expertise and update my teaching material accordingly.”

    “My teaching is linked to a [professional / vocational] course. My teaching material is therefore informed and updated through my [continued professional practice / continuing professional development / registration and engagement with the corresponding professional body / degree accrediting body], rather than through research.”

  • You can ask to halt the meeting so that you can seek advice from your Trade Union rep
  • Contact UCU for advice if necessary.