Union says ‘intolerable’ workloads driving rise in staff sickness

High stress levels revealed by Nottingham Trent staff survey have raised concerns over effect of growing demands on academics

April 2, 2019
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Fresh concerns over the well-being of UK academics have been raised after a survey showed that more than nine out of 10 staff at one university suffered from workload-related stress.

In the latest evidence that excessive workloads are taking their toll on the UK sector’s staff, a report released by the University and College Union on 2 April says that 94 per cent of academic staff at Nottingham Trent University felt that their workload had a negative impact on their mental health.

Half of staff (51 per cent) said they found their workload unmanageable most of the time, and three-quarters (75 per cent) claimed that sickness absences had risen in their team in recent years.

The findings, which are based on a UCU poll of 272 academics, tally with a recent staff survey conducted by the university itself in which just 9 per cent of respondents said that they never felt stressed at work, the UCU claimed.

The union is now calling on the university to make tackling long hours a priority as three-quarters (74 per cent) of staff said they did at least six extra hours a week and three in 10 (29 per cent) put in more than 11 hours of unpaid overtime.

Mark Weinstein, UCU branch secretary at Nottingham Trent, said the survey “lifts the lid on intolerable workloads at Nottingham Trent University and the damage it is doing to people’s health”.

“Staff complain that working weekends and evenings is now the norm, with huge strain being put on their personal lives,” said Dr Weinstein, who said this “extra work is leaving [staff] exhausted and forcing people off sick”.

“None of this is good for the staff, but it is also extremely damaging for students as their learning conditions are our working conditions,” he said.

The survey, which also found that 86 per cent of staff believed that workloads had expanded in the past four years, is likely to further highlight concerns about what many believe is growing long-hours culture in academia.

The issue has been in the spotlight recently following the suicide of Cardiff University academic Malcolm Anderson, who killed himself at the university last year and referred to work pressures and long hours in a note he left.

The union has published a 10-step guide that it wants Nottingham Trent to adopt to help its employees, which calls for more staff to be employed and additional help for those who are not on a fixed contract.

The union says that it is difficult for people without a fixed contract to plan their lives and adds that staff who have been with the university for two years should be given that security.

A Nottingham Trent spokesman said that its own staff survey had found that 89 per cent of staff felt that the university was a good place to work.

“As with most such surveys within universities, issues around workload were raised by colleagues,” the spokesman said. “We are working on an action plan which will contain practical steps to address these concerns.”

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

POSTSCRIPT:

Print headline: ‘Intolerable’ workloads driving rise in staff sickness, UCU says

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Reader's comments (7)

For more of this kind of thing see #UniveristyNearYou
Yup, and it's not just Academic's, technicians are having excessive 'teaching loads' dumped on them too, especially where the 'Academic' is on several part time contracts in different Universities and is only on campus 1 day every 2 weeks. Academic's working 'split-shifts' teaching the same course material several times in the day due to over stuffed courses (more 'bums on seats' = more money for the University) is becoming common place too.
To be honest; it's really academics fault in the sense that we didn't act when all this began. Audit and the general drive to count everything just takes time away form other activities like research and teaching. At some point we should just say no - all together.
Only the Nazi-like efficiency of the cult of managerialism has very successfully created a dreadfully bullying climate of total fear in our universities. Mark Weinstein of NTU is a rare academic hero. Most dare not do what he has done. The Board of Governors of NTU should sack its VC (in my opinion) - kick out its worst bullying managers (with no golden handshake deals), stop its legal department from intimidating those who speak out, and appoint Mark Weinstein as VC! Yu watch how well the university would improve then, how the adverse publicity will melt away.
Some former employees did act (responding to Millnerpa1), we wrote to the most senior officers and, in some cases, resigned.
The results of the Staff Survey for the Department of Sociology are rather late this year. Does anyone know why?
By all accounts the staff have been revolting. HR appointed a professional independent consultant to interview staff to investigate. Staff have not held back in telling it as it is.

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