Academics in marking boycott deducted pay for weekends

Sheffield Hallam says policy means pay deductions are applied ‘fairly and consistently’

July 17, 2023
Source: iStock

A UK university is withholding weekend pay of academics who are taking part in the ongoing marking and assessment boycott.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are currently refusing to grade assignments and exams as part of a long-running dispute over pay with employers.

Members of the Sheffield Hallam University UCU branch asked their institution for clarification if pay deductions for participating in the strike included weekends, as well as weekdays.

They were told that 100 per cent of their daily pay – based on 1/365th of their annual salary – will be withheld for the entirety of the duration they take part.

A spokesperson for Sheffield Hallam University told Times Higher Education: “This is in line with the position we have communicated previously and the guidance provided by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (Ucea).

“This approach ensures that the policy of withholding 100 per cent of pay for those taking part in action is applied both fairly and consistently.”

The Campaign for Reasonable Academic Workloads organisation tweeted that this protocol “explicitly equates weekdays with weekends”.

“Part of the #AcademicWorkload problem is that it assumes maximum flexibility and maximum efficiency of all employees all the time, but it’s rare to see this expressed so bluntly,” they added.

Umberto Albarella, a professor at the nearby University of Sheffield, said he was not sure where actions like this would lead.

“We are also paying the price for generating a system that has allowed the most incompetent and selfish individuals to reach top managerial positions in our universities.”

Mike Hibberd, a legal director at workplace law firm Doyle Clayton, said how deductions are calculated for strike action will depend on the employment contract – how a “day’s pay” is calculated and the working patterns of the employees in question.

“While no pay for days spent on industrial action amounting to a strike is permitted, how it is calculated is fact specific,” he added.

“Contracts will often specify if a “day’s pay” for those paid an annual salary is calculated based on 1/260 or 1/365 of an employee’s salary.

“Wages for days spent in industrial action short of a strike are not deductible in the same way.”

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