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.


22 July 2020


This introductory 1-hour session is aimed at all UNISON members with an interest in Neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is an umbrella term for autism, dyslexia, ADHD and dyspraxia.  For further information and how to register for this course click here

If you are interested in attending a UNISON course and would like to know more – please contact the Branch Education officer, Linda Wood, for a chat: l.wood@shu.ac.uk


Northern College Micro Courses

These free online courses are open to anyone and are designed to introduce you to a range of subjects through an e-learning experience before committing to one of our longer traditional courses.

  • Employability skills – Whether you’re looking for your first job, have been out of work for a while or are even looking for a change in career, this bundle of resources will help you kick start your job search.
  • Digital literacy skills – Digital literacy skills are a must-have in a world which is increasingly becoming online and virtual. This course is an introduction to the skills required for those taking their initial steps in using ICT and the internet and is a starting point for further study.
  • Numeracy skills – Ideal for learners working at Entry Level 3, who might have some gaps in their maths knowledge and/or skills. This course will give you confidence to take a more formal and accredited course at this level.
  • Maths – Level 2 refresh – Good maths skills are an essential part of everyday life and this course will assist learners working at Level 2 who might have some gaps in their knowledge and/or skills. It has been split into 3 separate areas; fractions and percentage, number and BIDMAS, perimeter, area and volume.
  • English skills (part 1) – This micro course has been designed as the first part of a two part offer, and it will assist learners working at Entry Level 3 who might have some gaps in their knowledge and/or skills. Once completed you can continue-on to part 2.
  • English skills (part 2) – This micro course is the second of a two part offer to assist learners working at Entry Level 3 who might have some gaps in their knowledge and/or skills. This course should improve your skills and confidence to take a more formal and accredited course at this level.
  • English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) – Good language skills are important, and this micro course covers some of the essentials needed to develop English language skills at a basic level.  It presents you with an ideal opportunity to improve your skills and your confidence before studying in a more formal manner.
  • Covid-19 and safer workplaces – a guide for UNISON members – Covid-19 and the lockdown has left UNISON members feeling concerned, anxious, even stressed. This Micro Course has been designed to help plan what steps you will need to take, and how you can ensure you and your members are being as safe and risk aware as possible.

If you are interested in any of these courses, please visit Northern College website at:- https://www.northern.ac.uk/courses/micro-courses/

For more information about UNISON online courses for members and activists, please visit our website at:- https://yorks.unison.org.uk/online-training/


 UNISON Learning & Organising Services

Courses currently available for members:

⇒ Mental Health and Well Being
⇒ Staff Skills Academy
⇒ Bereavement awareness workshops for members in social care
⇒ Personal Development for UNISON Members
⇒ Help with Digital Skills
⇒ Get online with Learn My Way
⇒ Everyday Skills in Maths and English
⇒ Family Maths Toolkit
⇒ Activist Learning
⇒ UNISON e-learning
⇒ Organising Space

If you are interested in attending a UNISON course and would like to know more – please contact the Branch Education officer, Linda Wood, for a chat: l.wood@shu.ac.uk


Last year’s staff engagement survey revealed that an alarming number of staff (26%) had experienced or observed bullying or harassment.   While most staff said they knew what support mechanisms existed, a significant minority (23%) did not.

A working group was set up to develop actions in response to this, and we hope to see concrete actions arising from that. But following discussion at Branch Committee, we thought it was useful to provide more information to help members understand and address the problem.

What is bullying?

The University’s “Dignity at Work Policy”, developed in consultation with UNISON and the other recognised unions, can be found here: https://sheffieldhallam.sharepoint.com/sites/3005/polproc/dignity/SitePages/home.aspx.

It contains widely accepted standard definitions of harassment, victimisation and bullying.

“Harassment” is defined as “any form of unwanted conduct [that] occurs with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”

“Victimisation” is “where a person or group receives less favourable treatment than others because they have referred to or asserted their rights under anti-discriminatory legislation and/or university policies.”

And bullying is “persistent, unwelcome, offensive and intimidating behaviour or misuse of power, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable and undermines their self-confidence.”

The focus of this article is bullying.

Bullying does not have to be physical, it could take the form of spoken or written conduct, or non-verbal behaviours.   It could include ‘jokes’ or practical jokes, being shouted at, ridiculed, demeaned, undermined, or subjected to sarcasm or derogatory or inappropriate remarks. Threatening behaviour can be bullying whether physical or psychological, as can overbearing or intimidatory management or supervisory behaviours.  However, it is also possible for a manager to be bullied by someone they manage.  Bullying can also take the form of systematically withholding information, excluding people from meetings or communications without good reason, the “silent treatment”, or abuse of power.

If the bullying is related to a protected characteristic such as gender reassignment, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy or maternity status, marriage or civil partnership status, race, religion or belief it may be covered by the provisions of the Equality Act, which provides specific protections against harassment.

Of course, some behaviours may be unacceptable without constituting bullying. The Dignity at Work policy includes further examples.

We often speak to members who feel unsure whether the behaviours they have experienced are “OK” or not, and it can be reassuring and empowering to know that what has been happening is bullying and that it is definitely not “OK”.   Speak to a Union representative if you have any concerns or want advice about your situation or are unsure what to do.

Bullying is unacceptable

It is important to be clear that all employees have the right to work in a safe environment, and the University is responsible for (and the Policy makes it clear that they are formally committed to this) creating a workplace that is free of harassment, victimisation, discrimination and bullying, and where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

The Dignity at Work policy states that “The University has a zero tolerance approach across all protected characteristics as outlined above to Bullying, harassment and victimisation which are all disciplinary offences and will be dealt with under the University’s disciplinary policy. Bullying  and  Harassment can constitute gross misconduct and can lead to dismissal without  notice.”

The Policy states that allegations of bullying will be investigated.

What can I do about bullying?

There are several steps that any individual who believes they are being bullied should take.

  • Document what is happening. Keep a written or electronic record or diary of the behaviour whenever it happens, whether it’s a big issue or an apparently minor one. Make a note of past incidents too.
  • If you feel able to, speak (or write) to the person you believe is bullying you, explain why you think their behaviour is unacceptable and make it clear you would like it to stop.   Givce specific examples and explain how they make you feel. Sometimes this is all it takes for the behaviour to stop. Speak to a Union rep for advice on how to do this.
  • If challenging the behaviour has not stopped it, or you do not feel able to speak to the person yourself, raise the matter with your line manager (or your line manager’s line manager, if appropriate).   Speak to a Union rep for advice if you’re not sure how to do this. We can raise the issue on your behalf, with your permission, or attend meetings with you.
  • You can also raise the issue by contacting HR.
  • Make use of the employee assistance programme: https://sheffieldhallam.sharepoint.com/sites/3005/polproc/eap/SitePages/Home.aspx?web=1
  • If the issue has not been resolved informally, or by management intervention, or if the behaviour is serious enough to warrant immediate formal action, then the University’s grievance procedure can be used.   Get advice from a Union rep on how to write and submit a grievance – we can also support and accompany you through the process.

The University’s policy is that bullying allegations are taken seriously and will be investigated.   If the investigation upholds the complaint, then disciplinary action can be taken.

It is recognised that it is not easy to raise complaints about bullying, so do seek support from UNISON.

Can I complain anonymously?

Yes. The University will investigate anonymous complaints as thoroughly as possible given the information available. The accused person would be informed that a complaint has been received and given an opportunity to respond.   However, be aware that it may not be possible to investigate an anonymous complaint.

Isn’t it just one person’s word against another?  

Not at all.

The purpose of an investigation is to come to a conclusion on the balance of probabilities rather than trying to find indisputable proof, which of course may not exist.   Notes taken at the time an incident occurred are important evidence, as is evidence that you have discussed the matter with HR, a line manager, or a Union representative or colleague.  Emails, text messages and social media posts may exist, as may meeting notes (or the lack of them).  There may have been witnesses to some of the behaviour complained of, if not all of it   And a person accused of bullying will not necessarily point-blank deny the behaviour, but may seek to justify or explain it away.

If an investigation is unable to uphold a grievance, due to contradictory or lack of evidence, action to deal with conflict between individuals may still be appropriate.

Bullying is unacceptable, but the staff survey suggests it is common but under-reported.  UNISON representatives are keen to support members in fighting bullying wherever it occurs and whoever is doing it.   Please get in touch if this is happening to you.

For more information see: https://www.unison.org.uk/get-help/knowledge/discrimination/bullying-and-harassment/