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‘Partial performance’ and the working time directive

October 11, 2011

After details of a letter to managers was leaked yesterday, the University management decided to let its contents be known to all staff in an email from Roger Gair around ten to two. The sentence “Heads may copy this circular to their colleagues at their discretion” indicates that general release was clearly not originally intended.

Letter to managers

On campus web yesterday

The email encourages management to apply a pedantic reading of legislation to be able to wield the threat of docking pay for ‘partial performance’. Members of the University council have already indicated that they would be content to see a 100% pay dock of those offering only ‘partial performance’ during industrial action. The document released yesterday indicates how managers can effectively demand that any member of staff does anything work-related that they request, and explains how they might define ‘partial performance’. Lets consider a scenario.

A member of staff works 55 hours over seven days, fulfilling contractual obligations. During that time, she is unable to complete marking a set of essays before a deadline on Friday, despite having been given strict instructions to do so. She has pointed out that her work pressures have not permitted her to achieve that target, despite working so many hours, and that she could not do so if she were to abide by University procedure in attending carefully to the marking criteria, and wanted to be careful to give students the appropriate credit for their achievements, and fulfil the need to give each student full and productive feedback.

Using the guidance given to managers yesterday, could this member of staff be defined as giving ‘partial performance’? Yes. She has failed to meet a target set by her line manager, and has worked the number of hours required by the tasks set for her. Those 55 hours, managers are told, are a reasonable expectation from workers as long as she does not work in excess of 48 hours per week when averaged over 17 weeks. In quoting University procedure, the manager is told, she might be accused of making an unrealistic appeal to process to deliberately delay achieving her contractual obligation.

Nowhere in the document are managers given any advice about reasonable applications of the vast and baggy parameters they are offered for defining ‘partial performance’, though there is careful consideration given to how they might undermine any reasonable explanation they might be given for why work has not been achieved on time. So much for valuing the staff base.

Once again, the University of Leeds leads the way. And other Universities are watching.

We would like to ask Michael Arthur and Council a question – a simple question, but one they will refuse to answer: If any member of your valued staff works 37.5 hours in a week – the amount of time you have agreed for all in your workload models – and fails within that time to achieve a task set for them, will you dock their pay?

Staff at Leeds – the so called ‘most valued asset’ – will not get an answer to this question, we predict.

The University management declares in this letter that the legal advice UCU has received is a ‘misconception of the legal and contractual position’, a statement that is already causing indignation not only around campus, but beyond.

All members are urged to take the Action Short of a Strike, namely to abide by the terms of their contracts (including their obligation to perform their duties in an efficient manner), but to do no more than that; and in particular:

  • to work no more than their contracted hours where those hours are expressly stated, and in any event not to exceed the maximum  number of hours per week stipulated in the Working Time Regulations;
  • to perform no additional voluntary duties, such as out of hours cover, or covering for colleagues (unless such cover is contractually required);
  • to undertake no duties in breach of health and safety policies or other significant employer’s policies
  • to set and mark no work beyond that work which they are contractually obliged to set and/or mark
  • to attend no meetings where such attendance is voluntary on the part of the member.

Managers have been told how they can define manifestations of these things as ‘partial performance’. We will nonetheless advise and defend you, and ensure there will be no pay docking for work to rule.

Check the FAQs on action here:

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