UCL Human Resources


Information on planned industrial action at UCL

26 January 2023

Information on the upcoming UCU strike action.

UCL Portico building on a bright day with a blue sky

The University and College Union (UCU) has notified us that 18 days of national strike action are planned, to take place between Wednesday 1 February 2023 and Wednesday 22 March 2023, as part of their two disputes over USS pensions and the 2022/23 pay claim. The dates in full are listed below. 

UCU members also voted to support 'action short of strike' (ASoS) from Wednesday 23 November 2022. For those participating in ASoS, it will comprise of only working their contracted hours and duties and not volunteering to do more, not rescheduling classes and lectures cancelled due to strike action, not covering for absent colleagues, and removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action.     

The following explains what systems are in place for those of you who participate in industrial action, what to expect for those who are not and what UCL is doing to address some of the key issues. 

When will the industrial action take place? 

Latest update: 20 February | UCU strike action called off for two weeks

Strike action planned for the next two weeks by our union partners has been paused following constructive negotiations on both pay and pensions.  

This means that the days of strike action which were planned to take place this week on Tuesday 21 February, Wednesday 22 February and Thursday 23 February, and next week on Monday 27 February, Tuesday 28 February, Wednesday 1 March and Thursday 2 March are now no longer happening. 

As it stands, the planned strike action will resume after the period of calm on the following days: 

  • Wednesday 15 March, Thursday 16 March, Friday 17 March

  • Monday 20 March, Tuesday 21 March, Wednesday 22 March

If there are further strike days, UCL will be notified by the union giving the statutory two weeks’ notice.     

ASoS will be continuous from Wednesday 23 November 2022. Strike action and ASoS under these ballots can continue until 20 April 2023. 

What are the implications for staff? 

It is difficult to predict how members of staff will be affected, particularly ahead of time. UCU represents staff across a variety of academic and professional services roles, but not all staff are members. Staff who choose to strike do not have to tell UCL of their intention beforehand and they may not commit to all the days of the strike. We would, however, encourage staff with teaching commitments who strike to give reasonable notice to students, particularly where this industrial action could mean that some classes or lectures are cancelled at short notice. In addition, offices and other support services may not be fully staffed on strike days. 

Where applicable, your full-time or hybrid working arrangements might mean that you are working from UCL buildings on the days of the strike. You may see a picket line made up of UCU members outside some UCL buildings. Participants may be handing out information, explaining why they are on strike.     

You can ask those participating in strike action questions if you wish to, and they may ask you to consider not crossing the picket line (i.e., to join them on strike) to demonstrate your support. They are not allowed to intimidate anyone or prevent anyone from entering the building. Staff who choose not to cross a picket line or who choose not to work that day in support of the strike will need to declare this as a strike day (you do not have to be a union member to join the strike). 

If you are taking part in strike action 

If you have teaching responsibilities, please could you let your students know as soon as possible that you are intending to strike, so for example, they don’t travel unnecessarily. Students may be anxious about the strike and the potential impact on their learning, so we ask that staff reassure their students that they will not be assessed on any material that has not been taught. 

Please use the online reporting system to declare each day you are taking part in the strike. Staff who are not members of UCU but who choose not to cross a picket line are deemed to be joining the strike and should also report their absence in this way.     

You need to enter each day of strike action separately, and within 24 hours of the day it is taken. Deductions for strike action taken in February will be actioned in the March 2023 payroll, and deductions for strike action taken in March will be actioned in the April 2023 payroll. Deductions will be made at the rate of 1/365 of your annual salary per day. The amount withheld for part-time staff will be pro-rated based on their contracted hours on strike days. 

Staff who participate in strike action but who are leaving UCL will be contacted to make arrangements for recovery of the overpayment.     

If you have any questions about these calculations, please contact hr-services@ucl.ac.uk

If you participate in the USS Pension Scheme and provided you maintain your individual employee pension contributions, UCL has decided it will continue to maintain employer pension contributions for this period of strike action, although it reserves the right not to do so in the future. Please inform the UCL Pensions team only if you do not wish for your employee and employer contributions to be maintained.     

If you are part of another pension scheme (e.g. NHS) it might not be possible to maintain pension contributions during a period of strike action.      

If you have questions about the impact of strike action on your pension, please contact your Trade Union or UCL Pensions on pensions@ucl.ac.uk

If you are taking part in action short of strike (ASoS) 

If you are taking part in ASoS which comprises not rescheduling classes and lectures cancelled due to strike action, not covering for absent colleagues, and removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action, this must be recorded as ASoS on the online reporting system. We are currently not intending to withhold pay for this type of ASoS. However, we reserve the right to withhold up to 100% of pay for each day of ASoS where only partial performance of duties is carried out and will keep this under review. Any decision to withhold pay will be informed by the impact of ASoS has on our students and the level of disruption to their education.    

For each day you participate in ASoS which comprises of working to contract only there is no need to record this and UCL will not withhold pay for this. 

If you do not undertake any kind of paid work for UCL (e.g. you are an Honorary), you should not submit strike action dates. 

If you work on UCL premises but are not employed, hired or paid by UCL (e.g. Agency staff, NHS staff, contractors, sub-contractors etc) and you take part in strike action you should not submit strike action dates on this portal but should inform your employer and/or your hiring manager. 

Recording teaching impacted by strike action 

We are asking Departments to keep a record of all teaching that is impacted by strike action. Guidance on this will be circulated to Heads of Operations and staff responsible for planning and delivering teaching. 

What does UCL do with the money that is deducted for strike action? 

Unpaid salaries from striking staff have always gone directly towards supporting our students. Funds from the upcoming strike action will be put into Students’ Union UCL’s Sarah Douglas Hardship Fund

How is UCL tackling key issues? 

We recognise that the current economic and geo-political environment means that these are exceptionally challenging times for our sector, for UCL and for our community. We are committed to driving improvements in each of the areas raised in the ballots and working constructively and collaboratively with our trade union partners.    

We are taking action on a number of key issues including staff pay, pensions, job security, workload, pay gap and equality, and cost of living support for students. For more information on how we are supporting our community please see below

If you support teaching, how can you find out whether your work will be affected?             

Your department will try to inform you about changes to the teaching schedule through the usual channels, i.e., email and Moodle, but please remember that staff who choose to strike do not have to tell UCL in advance. However, as a courtesy, we do encourage staff to give students as much notice as possible of cancellations. 

Throughout the period of action, you should: 

  • Keep a close eye on your UCL emails and look out for Moodle page announcements.     

  • Stay informed by following the links in this update and looking out for announcements in the media. 

If your work is cancelled because staff are on strike, and you are not on strike, speak to your line manager to see whether there are other duties which are part of your job that you may be able to undertake. Either way, your pay will not be withheld if you are available and willing for work. 

What have students been told about the strike?                             

We have published information for students on the Student News webpages and this will be featured in myUCL, the student newsletter, on 30 January 2023. Students’ Union UCL have also published information on their website

While we are disappointed that UCU members have decided to strike, we respect the right of staff to withhold labour, and will continue to encourage UUK and UCEA (who represent the hundreds of employers involved in national bargaining) to work together with UCU to find long-term and sustainable solutions. 

Further FAQs can be found on the HR website

How UCL is tackling key issues


We have worked with our trade union partners over recent months on reward options aimed to support you through the UK’s national cost of living crisis as far as we can within the context of national pay bargaining. 
Pay levels are negotiated nationally on behalf of around 140 universities by UCEA (the employers' association). While we do not have direct control over these national pay negotiations, we are committed to finding ways to invest in your pay and the resources you need to do your job effectively. In the national pay-bargaining process, we pushed for an increase above levels we have seen in recent years, in recognition of the increases in the cost of living. We have encouraged and been supportive of UCEA bringing pay negotiations for 2023/24 early and these negotiations began on 9 Jan 2023. An update on the ongoing negotiations was provided to staff on 19 January.  

We have recently announced an uplifted London Allowance and committed with the trade unions to review this again later in the year. The London Allowance is now £4,000 per annum. This means that, excluding any incremental progression, the additional increase results in a median raise of 4% at UCL, with much higher percentage increase between grades 1-5. 

We have extended the number of staff receiving the London Allowance to include those working in spaces immediately bordering London, such as Dorking, Harwell and Wickford; starting at £2,000 per annum immediately and increasing to £4,000 from August 2023. 

The 2022 pay increase was 3% for staff on all spinal points from 20 or above. Staff below this point receive larger percentage rises, with a maximum of 8% for staff at spinal point 5, the lowest point used by UCL. The pay award results in a mean average award of 3.2%. 

Over half of staff (those not in probation and below the top point in their grade) below Grade 10 received an increment this year, equivalent to an additional pay award of circa 3% of base salary for those staff. Together the national offer and incremental rise constitute an average pay increase of 5.2% in 2022 for non-clinical staff below Grade 10. 

We are also starting conversations about how we might go further in the future, so that we can pay and reward our staff more competitively. 

The challenges of rising inflation and high energy costs are also impacting us as a university. Like any responsible organisation, we are therefore also looking at the measures we can take to protect our long-term financial sustainability so we can maintain our research and teaching excellence. We discussed this with our community through the recent Financing Our Future Town Hall

USS pensions

Our position has always been that the original proposed increases from USS were unaffordable, unsustainable and unfair for all our members. We are on record as one of the few institutions to have pushed for a new valuation of the scheme.  
Through UUK (Universities UK - which represent the 340+ employers in USS), we continue to push for a full review of the scheme’s governance to increase the accountability to the organisations involved, as well as for a potential lower-cost scheme section for staff who are currently outpriced from joining the scheme, and an exploration of conditional indexation or other options to support the long-term sustainability of the scheme. UCL remains committed to the scheme and achieving the best possible outcome for all our staff. 

Successive monthly monitoring has indicated that the financial health of USS is in a more positive position than when the last valuation was undertaken on 31 March 2020. UC has welcomed the improved position, and we believe that the sustained period of recovery leading up to the next valuation on 31 March 2023 may provide the USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) with an opportunity to explore options that could improve the existing benefit structure for scheme members going forward. UCL will reiterate our position during the valuation process.  

Job security

In 2020, we launched our Teaching Concordat in partnership with UCU, which created new rules of employment for teaching colleagues. Through this, we have significantly reduced the use of fixed-term contracts for teaching staff and have moved the majority of PGTAs from hourly payment onto FTE contracts. 
We already engage our research staff on open-ended contracts, rather than fixed term contracts. Further work is progressing to improve development opportunities and career pathways for research staff. 

We have also invested over £10million per year to harmonise pay and benefits for our outsourced colleagues in cleaning, catering, security and portering. We now pay some of the best rates for these roles in the sector. These staff are employed under the same terms and key conditions as in-house staff and UCL contributes the same percentage to their pensions. 
In 2021, we were officially recognised as a London Living Wage employer and have incorporated a minimum London Living Wage requirement into standard terms and conditions for all our external suppliers. 


Workloads were tracked throughout the all-staff My UCL Experience Survey and through the pandemic with the People Pulse (Wellbeing). We recognise that workload management is an issue for many staff. The Enabling our academic mission discussion paper (Strategic Plan consultation) proposed the establishment of an institutional framework for workload allocation, which is now being worked up. 

In the last year, we have invested in over 1,000 additional teaching staff (including PGTAs) to respond to the increase in student numbers. While it is challenging to recruit staff to cover specific demand, we continue to work with colleagues on this issue as we transition back to the in-person teaching as required by the Government and our regulator. 
By engaging with our staff communities, we will streamline our processes and align our systems to user needs, reducing workload and improving experience – for example, reducing the time to fill vacancies from 128 days on average to a more manageable 60 days. This is one of the success criteria measures for Talentlink’s implementation and will help to reduce the burden placed on staff covering open vacancies. 

Discussion paper five, Education priorities and programmes, in the strategic plan consultation proposes ways to reduce teaching and assessments complexity to help improve workloads and we will work with our trade union partners to look at further ways to relieve work pressures. 

Equality and pay gaps

Improving equality at UCL is a priority and a dedicated team is working to drive change here. 

We are working on measuring the disability pay gap at UCL and plan to have this in place by next year’s pay report, which will be available around March 2023. While we have the second lowest gender pay gap in the Russell Group based on last year’s published results, there is much more work to do in this area. 

Last year, we launched a new positive action secondment scheme ‘Accelerate to Leadership’ in our professional services areas to broaden the pool of BAME candidates for future Grade 9 and 10 roles and we have begun to see people promoted via this route. This scheme has been extended to Grade 8 professional services roles, to expand diversity within the talent pipeline for senior positions. 

Cost of living support for students 

We have announced a package of measures to support students, including bursaries, increased doctoral stipends, emergency loans and grants, and mental health support. We have committed over £2.3m of additional support and our student support budget this year is greater than in any previous year. Additional support includes a £500 increase to each of the UCL Undergraduate Bursary award levels and for this increase to be permanent (i.e not just for one year), an additional £500,000 for the Financial Assistance Fund (aka hardship fund), a £25k increase in emergency accommodation support by £25k.  

We have been working closely with our Student Union partners on the provision of additional support and they have announced increases in their Participation Fund to support access to extra-curricular activities and their Sarah Douglas Hardship Fund for severe need.  

All students have information and advice about our direct financial support, which helps to fund studies, our financial assistance fund, which supports living costs, and short term loans for students who experience a delay in their normal funding.  A team of dedicated Student Funding Advisers is also on hand, to offer support, advice and guidance to students. 

We launched a Cost of Living Hub to share further information with students in Autumn Term 2022 featuring the additional support that is available to them, including managing money advice, study support such as laptop loans, ‘working during your studies’ guidance, debt advice and other resources. 

We are also working with the HE sector to seek additional support from Government. 

The UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team works in partnership with independent advice and counselling services to provide additional support which you can access at any time, including immediate help via telephone on the 24/7 Student Support Line. Staff can also access immediate support via phone, online or WhatsApp via our Employee Assistance Programme: Staff Support Service. This includes access to specific and qualified experts on Financial Wellbeing issues such as financial, tax and debt advisers.