Section 8: Academic-Related Staff Handbook

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It is the policy of the University to ensure that fair and effective arrangements exist for dealing with disciplinary issues, and to ensure that uniform standards are developed throughout the University with regard to both work and behaviour.

The following procedures apply to all staff employed in the University’s academic-related scales and grades, other than those on probation, procedures for whom are given in section 8.2. The procedures recognise that it is the employer’s responsibility to avoid the need for disciplinary action wherever possible by providing guidance and constructive criticism, and to take whatever disciplinary action is necessary promptly and consistently.

The formal procedures allow for a member of staff to be accompanied at his or her request by a union representative, or by an accredited elected staff representative, or by a colleague of his or her choice from within the University. It is also the University’s normal custom and practice to permit a member of staff to be accompanied in situations outside the formal procedures, if he or she believes there is a need for this. Requests for such representation should be directed to the Departmental Administrator*.

* Note: in some departments, faculties and other units the role of Departmental Administrator may be carried out by an equivalent person with a different title.

Wherever practicable the formal procedures should be preceded by private and informal counselling. Where, therefore, the work or behaviour of a member of staff is in question the department should arrange for him or her to be interviewed informally with the object of establishing the cause of the problem and advising appropriate remedial action. Should it be the case that this informal counselling does not resolve the problem and it is judged appropriate to invoke the formal procedure, then the provisions of section 8.3 will apply.

The formal procedures are designed to deal with situations where the members of staff concerned know clearly what is expected of them by way of standards of work or behaviour.

They require that periods of time are specified between certain interviews. The period should in no case be less than one month or more than three months.

Normally where an employee has completed a period of one year during which he or she has maintained the necessary improvement then previous warnings, both oral and written, should be reviewed in discussion with the employee with a view to removing the record of any formal warning from his or her file in his or her presence. Records so removed from an individual personal file will be held on a highly confidential and restricted basis by University HR in the University Offices, to be retained for three years, in the event that they may be required for an employment tribunal or similar external proceedings. Records so retained will only be accessed by members of University HR in the event that the records may be material to a claim raised at an employment tribunal or similar external body and the records may only be made available to those directly involved in such proceedings. Records retained for these purposes in University HR will be destroyed automatically after a period of three years.

Certain disciplinary issues may also involve an employee in criminal proceedings. In such cases the University reserves the right to suspend, with or without pay, or dismiss the employee according to the circumstances of the case. Criminal offences outside work will be dealt with in accordance with the ACAS Code of Practice.

8.1.1 Arrangements for dealing with medical capability matters

The University does not regard medical capability as a disciplinary matter. However, where an employee’s sickness absence renders him or her incapable of satisfactorily carrying out his or her duties, with the result that the employing department cannot continue to sustain his or her employment, the formal procedures set out below will be used as a medical capability procedure to warn the employee of his or her position and, where necessary, to terminate employment. In such cases correspondence with employees will, of course, refer to medical capability and not to misconduct or poor performance.

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    - procedures for dealing with work or conduct issues in respect of all academic-related staff on probation

    If a problem relating to a probationer's work or conduct is identified at any stage of the probationary period, the probationer should normally first be given private and informal counselling, with a view to establishing the cause of the problem and advising appropriate remedial action.

    If this informal counselling does not resolve the problem, or if the problem is sufficiently serious to warrant formal action without the need for prior informal counselling, a formal interview should be arranged between the department and the postholder to consider the situation. The probationer should be advised in advance of the aspects of his or her work or conduct which are causing concern and that he or she may be accompanied at the interview by a union representative, or by a colleague of his or her choice from within the University. At the meeting the departmental representative(s) will set out their concerns and the probationer will have the opportunity to state his or her case. If, on the evidence available, the department believes that a formal warning is appropriate, this should be given in the course of the interview. This warning should be confirmed in writing to the post-holder. The letter should make clear that if the necessary improvement is not achieved within a specified period (which may involve an extension of the probationary period) the appointment will not be confirmed and the probationer dismissed with appropriate notice. This will therefore constitute a final warning.

    Following any formal warning, departments should monitor the situation and, within or at the end of the period specified for improvement (as appropriate), should formally review the progress of the probationer. This should culminate in a formal interview at which the department will give its view of the probationer's progress and the probationer, who may be accompanied by a union representative, or by a colleague of his or her own choice from within the University, will have the opportunity to state his or her case, before any decision is taken concerning his or her employment.

    In cases of alleged serious misconduct the probationer must not be dismissed instantly: rather the head of department, or a duly authorised nominee acting on his or her behalf, should normally suspend the probationer on the currently appropriate rate of pay pending an investigation and any subsequent hearing. The currently appropriate rate of pay is the basic pay to which the probationer would be entitled under the terms of his or her contract were he or she not suspended (the currently appropriate rate of pay would normally be full pay; but it may for example be, or change during suspension to, half pay or no pay under the provisions of the University's sick pay scheme). All cases involving such suspension should be reported at once to University HR. The subsequent hearing should normally be held within five days and the probationer concerned will be informed of the complaint against him or her. The probationer will have the right to state his or her case and be accompanied at his or her request by a union representative, or by a colleague of his or her choice from within the University.

    In cases of alleged serious misconduct, following the hearing described above, University HR should be consulted before disciplinary action (if any) is taken. The head of department, or a duly authorised nominee acting on his or her behalf, will then inform the probationer in writing of the disciplinary action (if any) which will be taken. In cases where serious misconduct has been substantiated dismissal may be summary; i.e. dismissal without notice and without payment in lieu of notice.

    Examples of some acts at work for which after the due processes of investigation and hearing the disciplinary action of summary dismissal may result include theft, violence, wantonly endangering the safety of others, harassment (as defined within the University's Policy and Procedure relating to Harassment), wilful damage to university property, and incapability through alcohol or being under the influence of illegal drugs.

    If the head of department or an authorised nominee decides to dismiss the probationer, the probationer will have the right of appeal under the provisions of Statute XII, Part H. Any such appeal should be notified in writing to the Registrar at the University Offices in Wellington Square within twenty-eight days of the date on which the document recording the decision appealed from was sent to the appellant.

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    Discipline, dismissal, removal from office, removal for incapacity on medical grounds and appeals for academic-related staff

    The procedures to be used are laid down respectively in Statute XII, Part D, E and H.

    Statue XII, Part D: Discipline, Dismissal, and Removal from Office

    Statue XII, Part E: Removal for Incapacity on Medical Grounds

    Statue XII, Part H: Appeals

    For these purposes the term "academic staff" should be taken as including academic-related staff.

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    These are laid down in Statute XII, Part F.

    For these purposes the term "academic staff" should be taken as including academic-related staff.

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    All members of University staff have the right, under the provisions of the 1992 Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act, to join any trade union of their choice for which they satisfy the membership requirements. The 1999 Employment Relations Act confirmed that all trade union members have the right of individual representation by their union if they are required to attend a formal disciplinary or grievance hearing.

    Membership of a trade union is not a condition of employment in the University. Participation in activities within working hours is only permitted in accordance with the terms of any facilities agreement made by the University, the relevant national legislation, and with the consent of the head of department.

    The attention of members of staff is drawn to the following arrangements that exist for the representation of the academic-related staff.

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    1. The University recognises the University and College Union (UCU) as the appropriate trade union for purposes of consultation and representation in respect of staff employed by the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford in its academic and academic-related scales and grades in the terms, and as regards the matters, specified below and in the appended Schedule. Matters negotiated nationally will not be the subject of local discussion except in so far as questions of local application may arise, over which the University has discretion.

    2. There will be established a local joint committee of the University and the UCU which will consist of six persons appointed by the University, one of whom will be chairman of the joint committee, and six persons in the employment of the University appointed by the Oxford UCU, one of whom may be the UCU Joint Secretary. At least two members from each side will constitute a quorum.

    3. There will be two joint secretaries, one appointed by the University and one by the Oxford UCU from amongst their members who are employees of the University. The joint secretaries will be responsible for distributing the agenda and related documents at least five working days before each meeting and will agree minutes of the meetings for confirmation by the committee.

    4. The committee will meet during the fifth week of each Full Term, and on such other occasions as either joint secretary requests, normally at not less than five working days' notice.

    5. It will be the duty of the committee to consider matters referred to it by the joint secretaries under the provisions of this agreement with the object, where appropriate, of making joint recommendations to Council wherever possible. Any such recommendations will normally be made through the General Board or Staff Committee, as appropriate.

    In addition, the committee will act as a channel of communication between the Association and the central bodies of the University.

    6. The matters which may be included on the committee's agenda by the joint secretaries will be limited to the following:

    • (a) the local application of nationally determined salary structures and awards;
    • (b) superannuation arrangements;
    • (c) changes in the formula for fees and extra duty payments, including payments for additional lectures, examining, invigilating;
    • (d) arrangements for sick pay and maternity leave;
    • (e) hours of work and the conditions under which leave of absence may be granted, including holiday entitlements and sabbatical leave;
    • (f) grievance and disciplinary procedures;
    • (g) such other terms and conditions of employment as the committee shall from time to time add (with the approval of the University and the UCU) to the list;
    • (j) such other matters, not specifically terms and conditions of employment, as the committee shall from time to time add (with the approval of the University and the UCU) to this list.

    7. It is accepted that in the course of discussion either side may wish to refer back to the body or bodies appointing them, but a meeting may only be adjourned for this purpose with the specific agreement of both parties. Equally adjournment in the course of a particular meeting may only take place by mutual agreement.

    8. In the event that the committee is unable to make a joint recommendation, it will be open to either side to register a 'failure to concur', in which event the separate conclusions or proposals of the two sides will be reported formally to Council. Alternatively, it will be open to either side, as distinct from registering a 'failure to concur', to request that discussion on the matter stands adjourned. Any such adjournment must, however, be with the specific agreement of both parties. If, after any such adjournment, the committee is still unable to make a joint recommendation, the separate conclusions of the two sides will be reported to Council. It is open to Council to accept or reject any joint recommendation and, in the case of a 'failure to concur', having considered the separate conclusions of the two sides of the committee, to implement a decision, procedure having been exhausted.

    9. Matters involving individual members of staff will not normally be considered by the committee. Such matters will be raised initially, informally or formally, within the department or institution concerned.

    10. This agreement will be subject to termination only by either party giving twelve months' notice in writing to that effect.

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    The period of this agreement

    1. This temporary agreement is intended to have force until 30 December 2021. Its temporary nature is intended to:
    • recognize the immediate pressures on the representatives of the Oxford branch of the UCU created by COVID-19, in terms of consulting the University about new and revised policies in response to COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns and supporting staff affected by these issues; and,
    • allow a period of time for reflection and discussion between the University and the Oxford branch of the UCU concerning a permanent facility time agreement. The intention is to have this temporary agreement in place until this permanent agreement can be finalized through the joint committee process and come into force for the beginning of 2022.
    1. The clear intention of both the University and the Oxford branch of the UCU is to have a permanent facility time agreement in force for the beginning of 2022 but, if that proves not to be possible for whatever reason, this agreement can be extended by mutual agreement of the parties.
    1. This agreement will be reviewed by the Deputy Director of HR and the Vice-President of the Oxford Branch of the UCU in March 2021 and may be amended then by the agreement of both. This is not intended to preclude amendments in advance of March 2021 should experience demonstrate that, in the view of both parties, it is necessary or desirable to make them.

    The scope of this agreement

    1. This agreement is not intended to cover facility time for Health and Safety representatives, whose roles and rights are defined in legislation.
    1. It is recognized that much union activity happens on a good will basis: union members and officials use their own time or the flexibility inherent in many of the University’s contracts and working practices to manage their jobs around the time they spend on union activities. This agreement is aimed at supporting those in key union roles which require a substantial commitment of time that cannot be accommodated through these means. For those individuals, this agreement covers paid facility time for the purposes of supporting them in casework, branch activities and union business, such as committee or member meetings and the preparation of papers and materials for those meetings, attendance at national and / or regional conferences, preparation for and attendance at joint committee meetings, and any other union duties and activities associated with membership of the branch committee or the holding of any office position within that committee. This list is exemplary and not exhaustive and any other activities relating to the UCU are intended to be within scope of this agreement, except as exempted in clause 4 above.
    1. Nothing in this agreement is intended to limit or influence the matters to be covered in the permanent facility agreement to be agreed before 30 September 2021.

    Paid facility time

    1. University employees who are members of the UCU and who hold a position within the local branch (i.e. accredited caseworker, committee member or other named position) may take paid facility time i.e. paid time away from their University duties, in their normal working hours, in order to carry out union activities as defined above.
    1. In deciding the appropriate level of such paid facility time, the following have been taken into account:
    • the number of members and the density of membership;
    • the number of employees overall in the staff groups collectively represented;
    • the current intensity of change and the large number of policies that are being introduced or reviewed in response to COVID-19, the lockdown(s) and the (anticipated) return to on-site working, noting that this pace of change is not expected to abate during the period of this agreement;
    • the potential impact of Brexit and associated visa and work permit regime changes;
    • examples and experience from across the sector, as far as known.
    1. The paid facility time to be taken by the individuals defined in clause 7 shall not when taken together exceed 3 FTE, as averaged over the period of this agreement. ‘FTE’ shall be interpreted to mean 37.5 working hours per week.
    1. No individual shall take more than 20% of their working hours (i.e. 0.2 FTE for a full-time employee, pro rata’ed for part-time employees) as facility time, as averaged over the period of this agreement.
    1. Any individual who holds or wishes to stand for more than one substantial union role and who anticipates that this may mean that they need to spend more than 20% of their contractual working hours on union business should discuss this with the Deputy  Director of HR and the Vice-President of the branch. If both parties agree, an extension to the facility time for an individual may be approved, but this would be on an exceptional and temporary basis, and only with departmental agreement[1].
    1. The specific time to be taken for union duties should be agreed with the individual’s line manager in advance, and these discussions should take place as early as possible. It may not always be possible to take facility time at the exact times that the individual wishes, due to the demands of the role, but departments will be expected to accommodate reasonable requests wherever it is possible to do so without an undue impact on departmental duties.

    Recording roles and facility time

    1. The Oxford branch of the UCU will undertake to ensure that the UCU does not exceed 3 FTE (on a 37.5 hours per week basis) over the course of this agreement and that no individual exceeds 0.2 FTE on average over the period of the agreement (unless a temporary exception has been agreed in accordance with clause 11 above).
    1. The branch will provide the University (ie the Head of the Policy Team, currently Ms Ruth Kinahan) with a list of accredited case workers and union officials who intend to use facility time within one week of the start of this agreement and update that list when the agreement is reviewed in March.

    Disputes

    1. It is intended that this agreement shall be provided to union officials and case workers for the purposes of discussions with their departments about their facility time, along with their union accreditation.
    1. Any queries over the interpretation of this agreement should be referred to the Deputy Director of HR and the Vice-President of the local branch of the UCU in the first instance.
    1. Should an individual be unable to agree paid facility time with their line manager, they should refer the matter to the Deputy Director of HR, who will seek to facilitate an agreement acceptable to both parties. It may not always be possible to agree the requested facility time due to operational constraints.

    Costs

    1. Departments will be expected to adjust, rearrange or cover duties where necessary to allow union officials and caseworkers to undertake union activities within the bounds of this agreement. If this places an unsustainable financial burden on a department (eg where the individual works on an external grant), the matter should be raised with the Deputy Director of HR, who will explore possible ways forward with the department and the union[2].
    1. Similarly, individuals who seek to take facility time will be expected to be as flexible as possible about how much time they take and when in order to mitigate any negative impact on research activities, their colleagues or their departmental duties.
    1. The University will not bear any other costs associated with union activities, such as travel or phone costs.

    18 November 2020

    [1] It is noted that such discussions will be necessary in support of the current President of the local branch, who will also hold the role of Joint Secretary.

    [2] This is relevant to the current branch Chair and Joint Secretary; discussions have been initiated.