UCL Human Resources


Workload Allocation Framework for Academic Staff

Scope and Purpose

University College London (UCL) endeavours to promote a harmonious and healthy working environment and to engender co-operation between colleagues in a spirit of collegiality in which all staff are treated with dignity and respect. This framework enshrines good practice already operating within departments and is aimed at ensuring that workload allocation is both fair and transparent (in terms of both quantity and content) and at avoiding academic staff becoming stressed due to 'overload'. This framework has been developed after consultation with Heads of Department and University and Colleges Union (UCU). The framework relates to both full-time and part-time staff and should be read in conjunction with UCL's policy Managing Stress at Work , which can be found on the HR web site.

Departmental plans & workload planning

Heads of Department are responsible for developing and reviewing departmental plans, for budget planning and the deployment of staff to meet objectives. Heads are also responsible for establishing a transparent and fair procedure through which administrative duties, departmental roles (such as Admissions Tutor etc.), participation in committees and teaching responsibilities are allocated. A summary of the distribution of such duties should be communicated widely within the department.

Allocation of duties

The balance of teaching, research, administrative tasks and external activities undertaken by any individual should reflect the priorities of the department and the particular contribution they can make to them. The development needs of probationary staff in relation to teaching and their need to establish a research profile should be taken into account in allocating teaching and administrative duties. The balance between teaching, research and administration will reflect individual aspirations and preference as far as practicable, in the context of the department's needs and the skills and experience profile of the department. It is acknowledged that teaching loads will vary between subject areas and departments dependent on student numbers and teaching, learning and assessment methods across different departments.

The responsibility for allocation of teaching and administrative tasks lies with the Head and in allocating duties; they should take into account the following:

  1. The balance between time spent on teaching, research and administration is a matter for discussion with the individual.
  2. Workload allocation must conform to UCL policy on conflicts of interest, consultancy work and all other relevant policies and procedures.
  3. The Head will ensure that any major changes in workload distribution are discussed in advance with the staff affected and are communicated throughout the department or relevant part of the department, as appropriate.
  4. Individual strengths and development needs identified through the Appraisal process will be recognised as far as possible in allocating workload.
  5. UCL's policy on Sabbatical Leave will be applied consistently and openly across the department.
  6. Cover for maternity leave or long-term sick leave will be made in light of the capacity within the department to cover the work in question. Information on financial assistance for covering staff on maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave is available on the HR website.
  7. Individual’s willingness and capacity to contribute to UCL’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion groups.

There are a number of different systems already in operation across UCL, which assist Heads in distributing workload allocation equitably and further information can be obtained from your Organisational Development Consultant.

Workload Management - good practice

The following is guided by UCL's responsibilities as an employer, under health and safety legislation and draws on good practice already operating within UCL.

  1. The Head will ensure that they are accessible to any member of staff who wishes to discuss concerns about their workload.
  2. If a member of staff feels 'overloaded' the Head of Department must discuss the factors contributing to the problem with the individual and endeavour to identify solutions to the perceived problem.
  3. Individuals shall not be required to work excessive hours for sustained periods and care should be taken to avoid prolonged periods of teaching without an appropriate break. Timetabling should take into account the need for meal breaks and inter-campus travel.
  4. It is acknowledged that individuals have differing working patterns and domestic commitments and therefore meetings should normally be arranged within the parameters of the 'normal working day' for the attendees of the meeting concerned. (It is noted for example that some colleagues within the Clinical Sciences need to convene meetings early in the day, prior to the commencement of their clinical responsibilities).
  5. Any member of staff who wishes to make use of the Occupational Health or Counselling services through the employee assistance programme may take time out of the working day to attend an appointment. Staff should be made aware of how to access UCL's policy on leave for personal or domestic reasons and all other employment (including health and safety) policies. Employment policies can be found on the HR website.
  6. All staff should take regular breaks from working at a PC screen and should aim to take a mid-day break from their office or laboratory. See UCL Safety Services 'SafetyNet' pages for information on using display screen equipment.
  7. In line with UCL's Sickness Absence Policy, Heads of Department will ensure the monitoring of sickness absence in order to identify any patterns of sickness, which may indicate work-related illness (including work-related stress). Advice for Heads of Departments concerned about work-related illness is available from the Occupational Health Service.
  8. Staff are encouraged to take regular periods of annual leave at times agreed with the Head of Department. Requests for leave for personal and domestic reasons will be addressed in accordance with the UCL policy on such matters, which can be found on the HR Web pages.
  9. Academic staff have the flexibility to work off-site where this is consistent with their responsibilities in teaching, supervision and administration, and with the efficient functioning of their department. Many academic staff from time to time work at locations other than UCL, including their own homes. This can contribute to efficiency, and to reduced stress for the individual concerned, but it should be recognised that it can also increase workloads and stress experienced by colleagues based in the department. All academic staff do, however, have a responsibility to attend UCL as necessary to undertake the administrative, teaching and other roles allocated to them, to inform their department where they will be working between Monday and Friday and to follow departmental procedures in reporting any sickness, which results in their inability to work.
  10. Staff are encouraged to contribute to UCL’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work. This enables staff to agree reasonable time off from other activities to contribute to Equality groups and will be taken into account in workload planning and management. UCL formally recognise, and value, service on UCL’s equality groups as a key enabling activity to support UCL 2034.

Training, development and mediation

All managers and staff are encouraged to attend training courses on the identification and management of stress at work in order to be aware of the techniques and practices that can assist in reducing personal stress levels and identifying the symptoms of stress in themselves and in others. Such courses continue to be developed and form a regular feature of the Organisational Development programme. Provision of workshops for particular departments will be considered on request. For further information see the Professional Development Programme.

In the event that communication breaks down between colleagues or where conflict arises between individuals or groups, it is the responsibility of the Head of Department to endeavour to resolve the problem.  They may wish to seek advice from HR Business partnering who can offer advice and access to mediation to facilitate conflict resolution.

Querying Workload Allocation

Any member of academic staff, who considers the quantity or content of their workload to be unreasonable or considers that they are being treated unfairly with regard to workload allocation, should raise their concerns with their Head of Department. In the event that the matter is not resolved, the individual may write to the Dean of the Faculty or Head of School as appropriate, outlining their concerns for consideration*.

Monitoring and Review

This framework will be monitored by the Provost and Vice-Provosts, Heads of Department, Deans, Director of Human Resources and UCU and will be reviewed after 12 months of operation by the HR Policy Committee.

*If once the Dean or Head of School has responded in writing to the concern, the matter remains unresolved, the individual is at liberty to pursue it formally through the grievance procedure.

HR Strategy and Planning
Updated October 2019