The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has released a statement to the joint higher education trade unions that announces a pay freeze for 2020/2021.

UNISON head of higher education Ruth Levin said:

“With the real-term value of pay having fallen over the past 10 years, due to insufficient pay rises, it’s about time universities provided a decent pay rise to their staff.”

UNISON head of higher education Ruth Levin said: “This proposal is clearly a huge disappointment. Higher education support staff have worked so hard over the past few months to support students and colleagues to keep universities going.

“Universities will play a vital role in getting this country through the pandemic, in rebuilding the economy and in providing opportunity to the increasing numbers of eighteen year olds, and others, in coming years.”

The proposed pay freeze is at odds with the joint unions 2020 / 21 pay claim made in March, details of which are given below.

The 2020 / 21 Joint Unions Pay Claim

In March, HE unions submitted a ‘timely and serious’ pay claim for 2020/21 to include:

  • An increase in all higher education salaries by the Retail Price Index plus 5% on all 49 points of the national pay spine; for all pay related allowances including London weighting, to have same uplift;
  • The minimum hourly rate of pay for staff employed by universities to be £10.50 per hour. This is to be applicable to staff at all HEIs whether the standard full-time weekly employment contract is 35 hours per week or above
  • For the standard weekly full-time contract of employment to be 35 hours per week at all higher education institutions
  • Ending pay injustice – meaningful, agreed action to tackle the race, gender and disability pay gap; to take an intersectional approach to the ways in which intersectionality and protected characteristics impact on pay equality
  • Meaningful, agreed action to address excessive workloads and unpaid work; action to address the impact that excessive workloads are having on workforce stress and mental ill-health.


Northern College – working differently during COVID-19

Digital short courses running in September.

Start Date End Date Course Name
3 Sept 4 Sept Digital foundations
9 Sept 10 Sept Web Design with WordPress
15 Sept 16 Sept Intro to App Creation
24 Sept 25 Sept Further database

The courses are all delivered remotely and tutor led, running time 9.30 am – 4 pm with hour lunch breaks and lots of ‘away from the screen’ time doing blended learning.

To apply visit Short Courses and select “apply for a course online” and complete the online booking form.

When applying, please remember to select the box saying you are a UNISON Member.

If you have any questions about the course please contact Nicky Straughan at Northern College on Tel: 01226 776000  E-mail: nstraughan@northern.ac.uk, Web: www.northern.ac.uk

Staff Skills Academy

UNISON has formed a partnership with the Staff Skills Academy to give members access to over 550 free online courses, from time priority management to how to manage virtual teams to remote workers’ security. 

All the courses are CPD certified, allowing members to show proof of their learning to their employers.

To request a Staff Skills Academy account, members will need to email learningandorganising@unison.co.uk, quoting “Skills Academy” in the email subject line.

For a list of the courses available view our website at:

 UNISON partners with Staff Skills Academy to give members free online learning


Dave Prentis, our current General Secretary, has announced he is to retire on 31 December 2020. An election will be held to appoint a new general secretary.

The union’s National Executive Council at a meeting on 23 July 2020, agreed a timetable for the election: full details and procedures

Voting: Any ballot will run from 28 October to 27 November 2020. Any results will be issued on 11 January 2021.

Eligibility to vote: All members, including retired members (but not honorary members), who are on the union’s membership register as of 28 July 2020, will be entitled to vote in this election.

Members not on the membership register on 28 July 2020 will not be able to vote.


UNISON Sheffield Hallam logo

Back in May we sent out a survey asking our disabled members about their experiences of the Sickness Absence Procedure at SHU. We were pleased to receive a very strong response.

The survey showed that over half of the respondents were told at some point by their line manager that their sickness absence levels were too high. It also showed that over 70% of respondents had been put on an informal sickness absence monitoring plan by their manager for disability related absence. Over 40% of respondents felt that their managers hadn’t taken into account their impairment before putting informal sickness absence monitoring in place. 

The Formal ‘Sickness Absence Procedure’

Over half of the respondents who had been entered into informal sickness absences procedure were progressed onto the formal Sickness Absence Procedure. Over half of these members felt that their disabilities were not taken into account by the decision to escalate to formal proceedings, and half also received a formal warning or ‘improvement notice’.

Most of these members requested reasonable adjustments via the process, with mixed success. Only half agreed that reasonable adjustments were put in place effectively for them, and only 35% agreed that the Sickness Absence Procedure was supportive and helped them to improve their sickness absence.

A majority also felt that the absence targets given to them were not achievable. This supports our view that where appropriate, adjusted sickness absence targets should be used to support disabled staff members.

Overall, while some members felt that SHU had treated them fairly, others described their experience of the SHU sickness absence policies as inflexible, and overly concerned with presenteeism. Some members also felt that the policies did not account clearly enough for the different needs of disabled and non-disabled staff members.

Disability Passports

We also took the opportunity to ask all members who responded to the survey about their experience of the ‘Disability Passport’. Only 15% of respondents had been approached by their manager to create a passport and to record the reasonable adjustments they require. 

We would like to see managers utilising the disability passport more for employees. You can find more information about the disability passport here.

Thank you to everybody who took the time to fill in the survey, and we will continue to work towards better support for disabled members.

Ana Yousaf & Rich Nind



Unison Sheffield Hallam branch logo

In May our branch agreed to make a £400 donation to each of the following charities and appeals:

S2 Foodbank

Sheffield Hallam Emergency Coronavirus Appeal 


These charities and appeals have provided direct support for people affected by the pandemic, and continue to do so. Our donation to the Sheffield Hallam Coronavirus Appeal went directly to supporting our students with food vouchers, equipment and other urgent needs to allow them to continue their study. The S2 Foodbank provides food parcels for households in need in the South Sheffield area, and has been active during the pandemic delivering food to households who have lost their income or access to other services. Care4Calais (https://care4calais.org/) has continued to provide food and support to refugees in Calais throughout the crisis, even as NGO’s and the French state removed their support and funding.

We have received thanks and updates from all of the charities and appeals. The Sheffield Hallam appeal has distributed over £700,000 since the beginning of the crisis, and the fund has remained open over the summer to support students continuing to study. The S2 Foodbank continues to experience high demand and expects even greater demand in the coming months, as the Covid-19 crisis continues and Universal Credit is rolled out in the local area. Care4Calais volunteers are providing urgent support for refugees affected by a large-scale eviction by French authorities in July, which saw tents and belongings destroyed and many refugees deported to Marseille and Spain.


On 19th August, members of UNISON at the University of Sheffield celebrated after senior managers announced a dramatic U-turn by rescinding their threat to fire & rehire 8,000 members of staff.    

The move comes after seven weeks of campaigning from the trade union UNISON, who represent non-academic staff on campus. UNISON was angered by the issuing of a Section 188 notice for every member of staff that could have seen workers being dismissed and re-engaged on inferior contracts. This is a tactic which has recently been used by employers such as Centrica, Asda and British Airways.   

At the time of the announcement, local union officials described the proposals as: “Premature and strategically naive.” They pointed out that the University of Sheffield enjoys reserves of nearly £1billion and remains one of the most popular destinations to study amongst students.    

The university had entered into consultation with unions in July with a view to reducing contractual terms and conditions in an attempt to save £100 million. The proposals included voluntary redundancies, pay freezes, cancellation of promotions and a reduction in hours and salary. 

Despite the threat to ‘fire and rehire’, the University of Sheffield UNISON branch entered talks in good faith with a view to finding a resolution. They also ran a superb campaign, utilising support from local MPs, students and the community. Despite lockdown restrictions, they spoke to members regularly as record numbers joined the branch. As a result of the campaign run by UNISON, on Wednesday 19th August the University of Sheffield dropped the plans.   

Leonie Sharp, Regional Organiser at  UNISON said: “As the recession starts to take hold, we have seen a number of high profile employers use the threat of ‘fire and rehire’ in an attempt to reduce workers’ terms and conditions. This victory at the University of Sheffield shows what can be done when workers stick together and campaign for the outcome they want. 

“All credit needs to go to the small dedicated team of UNISON activists on campus. They have run an amazing campaign that will be seen as a victory by the whole trade union movement.”