UCL Human Resources


Reviewing Workforce Requirements - a guidance note for managers

Guidance supporting the Organisational Change Procedure, which outlines options to consider when reviewing staffing numbers and workforce plans.


Appendix A - Business case for a change involving re-structuring of posts
Appendix B - Good practice guidance on managing organisational change


1. Managing staff and other running costs is demanding of managers who are tasked with maintaining and developing core provision, sustaining the department's strategic direction and supporting staff morale. The purpose of this note is to provide guidance to managers on options they should explore fully before making plans for more significant organisational change.

2. The HR Business Partnering team is available to advise managers on the range of policies and issues outlined below and must be consulted about all organisational change proposals.


3. In considering staffing requirements, especially in time of budgetary constraint, it is important that whenever a vacancy is on the horizon (resignation, retirement etc.) serious consideration is given to whether:

  • the work still needs doing?
  • the tasks can be distributed (in whole or part) to colleagues who have scope to take them on?
  • The work of others could be re-organised to allow them to take on some of the key duties of the vacant post?
  • some of the tasks could be streamlined or re-engineered to allow completion in a different way in less time or by another team
  • re-organising the work could lead to needing only a part-time post or a post at a lower grade?
  • a temporary filling of the post would allow time for reviewing and changing the processes and procedures in order that the post can be deleted

4. It is obviously important that the deletion of any post or a redistribution of duties does not result in overloading other staff. Realignment of duties must be the subject of consultation with the staff affected and posts can only be advertised at a lower grade if duties have been reduced in complexity and job evaluation has confirmed the grade. If reducing staff numbers or making changes to working methods it is important to ensure that the health and safety of staff is not compromised in any way.

Where it is considered necessary to fill a post, seek approval in accordance with UCL’s Financial Authorisation Process for Recruitment.


5. Managers must advertise vacancies on UCL’s online redeployment site and consider expressions of interest by any redeployee, before advertising a vacancy externally in line with UCL's redeployment policy. HR will also review suitable matches to ensure that UCL meets its commitment to attempt to redeploy all staff facing redundancy and to consider redeployees quickly for vacancies in which they express interest.

6. Effective redeployment retains valuable knowledge and skills within UCL and ensures that it reaps the benefits of its investment in training and development.

7. Any potentially suitable redeployee they must be given a priority interview. If there is no suitable redeployee then low cost advertising options, e.g. online rather than hard copy publications or newspapers, must be used as far as possible to reduce costs. Where hard copy publications are used advert size must be kept to a minimum with referral of applicants to UCL's website for the details of the post and the HR Process team will assist with this. Jobs advertised on the UCL website and through JobCentre Plus are free. Websites such as jobs.ac.uk have modest costs. Agencies should not be used to assist in recruitment or to hire agency workers, other than in exceptional circumstances.

Working hours and patterns

8. In some areas where the workload allows it, it may be possible to consider flexible working patterns which are less than full time. Changes to working patterns for existing staff can only be effected with their consent but full time posts can be made part-time, job-share or term-time only if a review of workload confirms that the workload is manageable within those hours/patterns. Flexible working methods can reduce costs as well as improving the work-life balance of the staff involved.

9. Changes to working patterns may require a review of how work is traditionally undertaken, e.g. you might review whether you need as many meetings and whether decisions can be achieved through conference calls so participants can be involved remotely? Many processes could also be made less time consuming by using electronic methodology. This can free up time, including travel time between sites that can make working more efficient.

Information on a range of flexible working options can be found in the Flexible Working Policy.

Changes can be agreed for a fixed or trial period and reviewed to allow an assessment of their workability in practice.

Unpaid leave

10. In addition to flexible working arrangements it may exceptionally be possible in some areas, to offer staff periods of unpaid leave in order to reduce staffing budgets if the skills and experience of the individuals will be valuable to UCL in the long term but the department can operate without them for a fixed period. Such arrangements would need to be clearly confirmed in writing and advice is available from the HR Business Partnering team if this is an area that you wish to explore.

Equalities Considerations
Flexible working and options for time off are positive tools to help retain and support different groups of staff, especially those trying to balance family and work. In considering any request, consideration should always be given to any knock on effect on other staff. This includes ensuring all staff have an opportunity to make requests, even if it is not possible to approve all requests.

Pay and reward

Managing pay and subsistence costs

11. Managers must periodically review additional payroll costs to ascertain whether savings can be made from stopping or reducing:

  • overtime
  • use of casual 'as and when' staff
  • use of agency staff

12. There are times when the above are the most efficient use of resources, or the only viable means of covering a short term need to maintain minimum staffing levels and deliver a service or meet health and safety requirements. However such use should not be regular and if it is, alternative options should be considered. See contract options or seek advice from the HR Business Partnering team.


13. It is important to maintain staff morale and productivity during periods of pay restraint. 
National pay negotiations have, of necessity, limited cost of living increases over the last couple of years. Restraint is likely to continue in the future, if we are to manage restricted income streams with minimal job losses.

14. Where staff demonstrate outstanding performance and exceed a set of stretching objectives in the course of a year they may, in exceptional circumstances, be awarded an additional increment or a lump sum payment. The latter is preferable to an accelerated increment or contribution point, which should only be used where outstanding performance has been sustained over a significant period. See accelerated increment and contribution points policy for criteria. Lump sum payments may be more appropriate for exceptional work on one off projects, for example.

15. The range of additional staff benefits and include childcare vouchers, cycle schemes, season ticket loans, staff discounts and advice on reducing tax and NI liability should be promoted.

Full costing

16. In costing applications for grants it is important to remember that all employees have equal rights to benefits such as pensions, sick pay and redundancy pay, including fixed-term and part-time workers and those on open ended contracts with fixed funding.

17. In addition UCL gives researchers an entitlement to regrading from Grade 6 to Grade 7 on completion of a PhD (for more information see the Promotion Procedures policy). It is really important, therefore that all aspects of future pay and benefits are fully costed in any research or other grant bid.

18. There is a commitment to partnership working within UCL and there may be opportunities to promote or sell services to other organisations. Advice should be sought from your Finance Director if you are discussing such an enterprise with a partner organisation to ensure that all costs, including overheads, are fully accounted for.

Equalities considerations
Non-compliance with UCL policies in relation to fixed term or part time staff would leave UCL vulnerable to claims, including potential claims of indirect sex discrimination.
Equal pay issues must also be given express consideration when rewarding staff. This includes supplementary payments (e.g. market supplements) as well as base pay.

Reducing running costs

19. There are significant savings to be made through more efficient use of resources. These could include:

  • Green initiatives for carbon management, waste management, recycling and energy saving ideas and activities.
  • smarter procurement. UCL's procurement team ensures that through consortia and finding partners to maximise buying power, costs are driven down and contracts renegotiated.
  • re-engineering of business processes to streamline and increase efficiency thus making it possible to review staffing levels. ISD Business Analysts (isd-ba@ucl.ac.uk) are available to assist in review and re-engineering of business processes through facilitating workshops, documenting the results and working with staff to develop and implement new ways of working. They promote good practice and advise on optimisation of processes based on extensive experience.
  • hot desking - where staff are job sharing, working part-time or working at home for part of the week
  • working towards a paper free office - minimising stationery costs and space costs
  • limiting unnecessary hospitality or refreshment costs
  • reviewing subscriptions
  • achieving best value on conferences, training, accommodation, flights & rail travel - again through the procurement team


20. Clear leadership and effective communication are critical in maintaining employee engagement, when difficult or tough decisions need to be made and communicated.

21. In response to the Staff Survey, improved leadership training is available for UCL's senior academic and administrative managers, including improving communications and the effective management of change. This includes training for managers at all levels regarding the management of performance to support them in maximising the performance of their team. For Faculty or Divisional based development needs contact the OD team.

Managing performance

22. Managers have a responsibility for setting and agreeing standards of performance and stretching objectives, for explaining these standards to members of staff and for supporting staff to achieve them.

23. Any problems should be addressed swiftly and consistently. See UCL's guide to managing under performance for guidance. The HR Business Partnering team is available to give advice and support in its implementation.

Managing sickness absence

24. Staff absence can be a significant cost to UCL when deadlines are missed because of absence or where work needs to be covered. Currently not all absence is accurately or consistently recorded across UCL and it is important that this happens to ensure equality of treatment and that sick pay (including statutory entitlements) and holiday pay is accurately calculated and paid. In addition to the financial costs, sickness absence can affect team performance and morale and can lead to undue loading on other staff, affecting their health and well being.

Managers must ensure that:

  • there are clear systems for all staff to report sickness and other absence
  • sickness absences are recorded
  • sickness rates are regularly reviewed (your DA can download sickness absence reports through MyHR)
  • return to work interviews are held - this may identify any recurring themes or emerging problems, or a disability on which occupational health advice can be sought
  • referrals are made to Occupational Health, where appropriate and follow up action taken.

25. For further guidance see UCL's sickness absence policy HR Business Partnering team will provide additional advice.

Equalities considerations
In order to avoid claims of discrimination or unfair practice it is important to ensure that procedures are carried out fairly and consistently in all departments and that UCL can demonstrate that this is the case. 
Ensure full consideration is given to any disability issues where these impact on someone's performance or attendance. Ensure any reasonable adaptations are made promptly to professional services staff in being able to deliver effectively. The Equalities and Diversity website has more information on disability issues, including the Access to Work scheme which can provide financial support for adjustments.

Organisational change

26. All the above measures should be considered by HoDs looking to reduce costs and improve organisational effectiveness. However, budget restrictions may mean that HoDs will also need to consider changes to specific jobs or organisational structures.

Reducing staff numbers

27. Where a manager identifies that a department could reduce the number of post holders undertaking a particular type of work and there are a number of staff undertaking the same or similar work volunteers may be sought for voluntary severance or early retirement in the first instance. In the event that volunteers are not forthcoming, compulsory redundancy processes will then be followed. Any proposal for post reductions other than by natural wastage must be subject to a business case, the template for which can be found at Appendix A to this note. In drafting a business case, managers must consult their HR Business Partner.

28. Good practice guidance on managing organisational change can be found at Appendix B.  In addition please see the separate Guidance notes on selecting the 'pool' of staff who are at risk of redundancy. The HR Business Partnering team will further advise on the mechanisms and processes for this, including the selection of redundancy pools from which volunteers would be selected and the packages available to facilitate severance or retirement. The HR Business Partnering team would also assist with communication and consultation over this process.

HR Employment Policy 
September 2021