Human Resources

Frequently asked questions

When is the strike taking place?

The strike will take place from Monday 25 November to Wednesday 4 December 2019 inclusive. Further strike days may be announced. UCU also has a lawful mandate for ‘action short of a strike.’ 

What is action short of strike (ASOS)?

Action short of a strike is defined by UCU as:

Working strictly to contract; not covering for absent colleagues; not rescheduling activities lost due to strike action; not undertaking any voluntary activities.

Action short of a strike will run for the same period as the strike action (i.e. 25 November – 4 December inclusive) but will also extend beyond that. UCU have a mandate for strike action and ASOS through until 30 April 2020.

How will we know who is striking?

UCU members at the University of Sussex have a lawful mandate for action. UCU members who wish to join the strike action are not obliged to tell us in advance if they intend to take industrial action but they are required subsequently to inform us they have taken strike action so that appropriate deductions can be made from pay (as striking is a breach of contract and therefore not paid).

What is the impact for members of other unions and non-union staff?

Only UCU secured a mandate for lawful strike action so members of other recognised University unions at UoS should work normally. Members of staff who are not a member of any union (‘non-union members’) also have a legal right to strike if they wish to. Any member of staff who participates in strike action must ensure that they complete the electronic self-return form so that appropriate deductions can be made for each day that they do not work.

What will be the impact on our students?

The University recognises that the strike action will be disruptive. However, our aim is to minimise any disruption and in so far as it is possible to avoid any detriment arising to the education of our students.

So will the University remain open as normal during the strike action?

Yes. The University will operate as normally as possible.

Can annual leave be taken during the strike or as an alternative to going on strike?

Annual leave must not be used as a substitute for participating in industrial action. Any annual leave that has already been approved and booked on scheduled strike days will be honoured. However, no further annual leave will be permitted for any member of staff on the scheduled strike days to enable planning for any potential disruption to take place except in exceptional circumstances.

Do I have to notify the University if I have taken strike action?

Yes, you do. You must notify your line manager / Head of School / Director. You must also complete the University’s electronic return form to confirm the date(s) on which you took strike action.

Are part time members of staff required to notify about strike action in the same way?

Yes, part-time staff are required to notify the University in the same way as full time members of staff, making a declaration for each day of strike action. Payroll will be aware of employees varying contracts and will work with HoS and Divisional Directors to clarify any issues prior to pay being deducted. 

Will members of staff get paid whilst on strike? 

No. Strike action, as a matter of law, involves a breach of an individual’s contract. Consequently, if you decide to take part in strike action, you will not be entitled to your contractual pay for the strike days. Pay will be withheld at the rate of 1/365of annual salary for each day of action, pro rata for part-time staff and adjustments to pay will be made in the next available payroll.

When will pay be withheld from?

Deductions will be made for any strike action in the month following on from the action and as declared in line with the dates specified by the individual. This means that for the published strike days in December, deductions will be made in January 2020. Staff must self-declare all the strike action they have taken via the electronic notification system.

Will members of staff still get paid if they participate in action short of a strike?

The University will monitor the impact of action short of strike (ASOS) and will respond according to the level of impact caused. However, the University does not accept partial performance. Should any ASOS amount to a breach of contract, the University reserves the right to withhold pay for the day or days in question. We will remain mindful of the broader approach taken across the HE sector which may also be subject to changes and reserve the right to deduct up to a full day’s pay for ASOS, should the specific circumstances dictate this due to the sustained impact of that action.

What will be the impact on pension of any strike action?

Members of staff will not be entitled to their contractual pay for strike days. The University has previously maintained employer pension contributions during strike days. Death in service benefits will also be maintained. 

What will be the impact on death in service benefits and ill-health cover?

Members of staff who participate in strike action will not be entitled to contractual pay including pension contributions. USS, during previous industrial action, confirmed that pension contributions not paid due to strike action would not affect death in service benefits. It cannot be assumed this remains the case for the current industrial action unless or until USS confirm this.

What will happen to flexible benefits for those that participate in industrial action and see an impact on their contractual pay?

Deductions to any flexible benefits will continue as normal (with the exception of the USS salary sacrifice benefit).

What is the position for Associate Lecturers who do not participate in the industrial action? What are they expected to do if the lectures get cancelled as a result of the strike?

The Head of School should work to minimise any disruption to teaching. This can include allocating suitable alternative work.

What is the position on working from home on strike days?

In the circumstances of the current strike days, should staff wish to work from home, they must seek prior approval from their Head of School / Director / Manager. If you normally work from home on the days that the strike action is to take place then such a request would not be unreasonably refused. The Head of School / Director may have to consider the overall situation so the option of working from home should not be assumed. Working from home should not be used as an option to not cross a picket line. If a member of staff decides not to work normally, wherever their working location may be, this should be declared as participation in strike action via notification to your line manager / Head of School / Director. Managers may ask colleagues to clarify if they have participated in strike action or if they are unclear about an individual’s status on a strike day / days.

What steps is the University taking to continue communications with staff?

The University will continue to provide information to all staff via the University web site and email. These FAQs will also be reviewed regularly and added to as questions are raised.

Are non-striking members of staff expected to cover teaching which has been cancelled due to strike action? 

To minimize the impact that this action may have on our students’ welfare and their academic progress, duties may be reallocated amongst available staff, as required. Managers must also ensure that any redistribution of work is done in a fair and equitable way. 

Can staff be required to work additional hours during the strike action as a direct consequence of the industrial action - how will they be compensated? 

Industrial action may require some staff to take on additional duties. Where the duties are clearly additional and not part of the normal expected role, existing policies will apply. In summary, these are that additional hours for staff in grades 1-6 may be addressed first by (plain) time off in lieu or overtime for hours worked in excess of normal full-time hours. Payment of any overtime must be agreed in advance and should only occur if TOIL is not viable.

What is the position on crossing an official picket line?

Picket lines are permitted by law (recommended limit per picket line is 6) and must operate peacefully. They may not inhibit or obstruct free movement. You are entitled to come to work normally and the picket line must not obstruct you from doing so. The University recognises that a period of industrial action is difficult for everyone involved. The University is committed to maintaining safety and well-being of all its staff in this period. We hope that all involved will act at all times with respect in both words and action.

Can others (non UCU members) join an official picket line?

The law on picketing is clear that it can only be undertaken by a worker employed by the University, a worker who has lost their job for a reason connected to the dispute or if they are a union official picketing with members they personally represent.

Information for Tier 2 and 5 visa holders

For staff on Tier 2 and 5 visas, are periods of unpaid work whilst participating in industrial action an exception to the UKVI reporting obligations?

Yes where it is legally organised industrial action. 

Even though (as detailed below) the University is required to report to UKVI (UK Visa and Immigration) a significant change in salary arising from participation in industrial action, the University is not required to stop sponsoring you as a result of this (Guidance paras 26.26, 26.30 and 26.31).

For background, the University is required to provide a report if through taking part in industrial action, reductions in your salary amount to significant changes to salary from that stated on your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) or if the salary received is below your required salary threshold which will be outlined by the occupational classification Code you have been given (Guidance para 15.5). 

Will deduction from salary for industrial action participation and ASOS require reporting? 

Yes, if they amount to significant changes to salary from that stated on the CoS or the thresholds outlined in the Code you have been given.  However, please note we are not required to stop sponsoring you as a result of a significant change in salary arising from your participation in industrial action. (Guidance paras 26.26, 26.30 and 26.31).

If you have a Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa, we advise you to familiarise yourself with both your Certificate of Sponsorship and the salary thresholds you have been given that relates to your occupational classification Code. If this advice is not clear, please contact Shakeel Chohan in HR. 

What are the University’s usual reporting obligations in respect of Tiers 2 and 5 workers?

The University has reporting obligations with UKVI for staff on Tier 2 and 5 visas.  This covers instances of non-attendance, non-compliance with visa or immigration conditions, disappearance or significant changes in circumstances. Reporting by the University must happen within 10 working days of occurring, so that the appropriate action may be taken. 

As a reminder the University must report a) any absence from work without pay that is 4 weeks or more unless such absence is covered by an exception detailed in the UK Governments’ Home Office Guidance; b) any absence from work that is 10 or more consecutive working days without permission and; c) a significant change in circumstances including for example a change of salary from that stated on the CoS (Guidance para 15.5).

Will buses and trains be running as normal?

Buses will be travelling to the University throughout the industrial action. Buses will come on to campus as usual after 3pm and continue until 7.30am the following morning. Between 7.30am and 3pm they will stop just outside campus on the A27 slip road and then near Falmer Station. For service updates, see the Brighton & Hove Buses website.

A shuttle bus service around the campus for disabled students and staff using public transport will be provided from 9.30am until 3.30pm. See the shuttle bus route [PDF 850KB]. This will operate from the Biology Road bus stop on the Southern Ring Road. You can show the driver a Helping Hand card, a Disabled Person’s Bus Pass or a Sunflower Lanyard to ensure those most in need can use the service. There will also be a wheelchair-accessible taxi from 7.30am until 9.30am for staff who need it, collecting from the bus stop opposite Biology Road (circled at the bottom of this map [PDF 850KB]). To speak to someone about the taxi service, call 01273 873465. If you have a disability and need more advice, please speak to your line manager (or HR business partner).

Trains will be running as normal on strike days. However, there is some unrelated Network Rail work that means buses will replace trains between Brighton and Lewes (including Falmer Station) from Friday 29 November to Sunday 1 December. Find out more information.

Death in service benefits will also be maintained.