In recent years, the University of Surrey has introduced some Open Days to take place on a Sunday, while also they were introduced in relatively recent days on a Saturday in the era of tuition fees and growing competition to attract applicants and students. The UCU Surrey branch notes the extra workload that this brings upon staff to give substantial parts of their weekend on Saturdays and/or Sundays in order to run Open Days. Furthermore, under UK law any staff member of an organisation has no obligation to work on a Sunday and that, if required, this must be agreed in writing. It is therefore very important to consult widely with academic and professional services staff who may be directly or indirectly affected by the introduction of Sunday Open Days and to respect their position in light of the law as is common practice amongst many employers.
Staff across the University may have differing views on whether Sunday Open Days are right or wrong in principle. However, legally the University is required to consult widely with all staff involved and seek their agreement to take part. Furthermore, organising a Sunday Open Day in the hope staff will willingly participate may indirectly put obligation on staff to participate, and such an obligation is illegal. This problem has undoubtedly been exacerbated by some staff choosing not to participate in a Sunday Open Day, which then obliges other colleagues to have to take their place. Therefore, a Sunday Open Day must only ever happen subject to the following conditions given in this charter in line with the law:
1. A full consultation is made with all staff potentially affected. They are to be asked to provide their formal agreement that they will participate on a given date. If an insufficient number and demography (i.e. from every department and relevant central services in the University) agree to take part, the Sunday Open Day must categorically not happen or be re-scheduled to another day.
2. On any consultation with staff, it must clearly be communicated to all involved that they are not under any obligation to support the proposed Sunday Open Day and that the University fully respects their right not to work on a Sunday.
3. No member of staff must be obliged to find cover for their role at a Sunday Open Day that they do not wish to participate in or for which they are unavailable. Staffing responsibilities should lie with the Open Day organisers and not individual staff members.
4. Consent to participate in Sunday Open Days must be sought annually.
A further issue that arises as a result of the Sunday Open Days in relation to the University’s employment policy is that academic staff and professional services staff above level 5 are not explicitly covered by the time off in lieu (TOIL) Guidelines and thus not entitled to it, which can be considered less favourable treatment. Staff at level 4 and below are entitled to two days time off in lieu for working on a Sunday. Therefore, with two Sunday Open Days and a Saturday Open Day, a member of staff can gain a week’s extra annual leave. This causes internal staffing problems to cover for extra time off. For academic staff it may be less within their interests of wellbeing to participate in a Sunday Open Day as any time off in lieu is unavailable and unlikely to be possible to take soon after due to substantial teaching duties the following days.
Additional to the legal requirements on Sunday working, it is also important to note the Equalities Act in light of a Friday, Saturday or Sunday Open Day requires the need to avoid discrimination in relation to matters including health, religion or belief, caring responsibilities in particular. This further emphasises the need for wide consultation with all staff affected. The University are requested to follow the above guidelines for the wider benefit of the University community which values our staff and in turn works for the better in running our Open Days.