UCU ‘contravened health and safety law’ over stress

Union representing UCU employees hopes that decision will act as a ‘wake-up call’

十一月 23, 2023
A pair of clenched hands, suggesting stress
Source: iStock

The University and College Union (UCU) has been found to have contravened health and safety law after a complaint was made about work-related stress.

Unite – the union that represents UCU employees – said it hoped that the decision by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would act as a “wake-up call”.

Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety has been investigating UCU since it received a complaint in June about an alleged lack of organisational risk assessment in place for work-related stress.

The regulator has now concluded that a 2023 risk assessment – which Unite had been requesting be carried out since autumn 2022 – was not “live” and had not been disseminated to employees.

A spokesperson for Unite told Times Higher Education that UCU should model the best practices that it wished to see all employers uphold. “It is deeply concerning, therefore, that UCU as an employer has fallen so far below that standard in its contravention of the very health and safety regulations it uses to protect its own members in their workplaces.”’

HSE said the latest statistics showed a higher level of work-related stress absences for the first nine months of this year than during the same period in 2022.

It ruled that the largest trade union for higher education staff was in contravention of health and safety law because the risk assessment was not “suitable and efficient”.

Posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, Unite UCU said it had tried to engage meaningfully with UCU to address the clear stress issues of members for a year. “They ignored repeated requests to undertake an organisational stress risk assessment. The HSE notification is a direct consequence. We hope that the decision by the HSE acts as a wake-up call and will lead to a change in management’s attitude.”

It marks the second victory for Unite UCU in successive months, after a reversal of the decision to reduce the hours of two employees working on the “postgraduate researchers as staff” campaign.

A letter from the HSE has outlined the steps UCU will have to complete to “put things right”, including completing organisational risk assessment for work-related stress by 19 January 2024.

A spokesperson for UCU said the union takes its relations with staff extremely seriously and aims to be an exemplary employer, adding: "We have been working for some time to complete the relevant risk assessment identified by the HSE and this work will now be intensified."




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