Newcastle University emailed employees before a national strike on 31 October to warn them that working to contract constituted a “breach of contract” and this entitled them to withhold “100% of salary”.
Members of the University and College Union have been working to contract - such as not doing unpaid overtime - as part of a pay dispute since November 1.
On 24 October, Newcastle employees were told that if they took part in this action “they breach their contract of employment and are no longer entitled to their contractual pay and conditions”.
“The university is very clear that it will not accept partial performance of a contract of employment and that any industrial action is a breach of contract for which the university is entitled to withhold 100% of salary,” wrote Veryan Johnston, executive director of human resources.
The news comes after it emerged that the University of Wales Trinity Saint David had also given staff the same warning prior to the strike.
No pay had been docked for working to rule nor were there any plans to do so, a Newcastle spokesman said.
In a statement a spokeswoman for Newcastle said that the university was “very clear that it will not accept partial performance of a contract”.
But she stressed that it would “only consider withholding pay from staff as a last resort and where there had been a clear breach of their contract.”
“Our students expect a high standard from us and the university cannot accept anything which has a detrimental impact on the teaching experience,” she said.