Protecting your interests

You make our University the success it is. We’re working hard to protect your interests and benefits.

We have been listening to your feedback on the issues which affect you, as a valued member of our University. We have been focusing our efforts on a number of key areas which we know are important to you: 

  • Casualisation  
  • Workload
  • Equality and diversity issues
  • Pay and Pensions 

There is more to do, but we are committed to continuing the progress we have made relating to these areas, and others. Read on to learn about the improvements we’ve been making. 

If you have any questions or would like to talk to us about what we’re doing, you can make contact via internal-comms@bristol.ac.uk and your query will be directed to the most appropriate team.

Casualisation

Casualisation in the workplace is experienced where permanent roles are replaced by short-term or casual contracts. We have been reviewing our balance of fixed-term and hourly paid contracts across the University against our business needs and have taken steps to make more  employment opportunities more secure for colleagues. 

As an example, since 2019 we have reduced our reliance on Hourly Paid staff (Teaching Support Roles) in favour of fixed-term Pathway 3 teaching colleagues.  

 

HPTs 

P3 Teachers 

2019-2020 

1504 

568 

2020-2021 

1388 

601 

2021-2022* 

615 

TBC (anticipated growth on 20/21) 

*The 2021-2022 figures reflect the number of HPTs for TB1 21-22. The 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 figures reflect the number of HPTs for each academic year.

The overall reduction in HP
 staff across the institution for 2021, as it stands in Teaching Block 1, is currently 23%.
 

HR teams are supporting schools, faculties and divisions to review their reliance on hourly paid contracts and we will continue to identify where fixed-term and permanent roles should be created for sustainable teaching delivery. 

Workload

Workload is a challenge across our institution, impacting differently upon individuals depending on the specific demands of each role. We know that issues around workload are critically important to colleagues, and a significant factor in staff wellbeing. There is not a one-stop solution to workload as this needs to be considered at a local level – we are working hard to support schools, faculties and divisions in reviewing and responding appropriately to their local needs as part of the Integrated Planning Process. 

However, as an example of improvements at an institution level, during the Covid pandemic we have used recruitment to build capacity into some of our academic and Professional Services teams, where there has been a critical need for more resource.

  • Our academic headcount has increased from 3334 in August 2020 to 3448 in August 2021, an increase of 114.
  • Our Professional Services headcount has increased from 4064 to 4301, an increase of 237 over the same period.

In total, our main staff population (those on open-ended and fixed-term contracts) increased from 7398 to 7749, an additional 351 colleagues.  

We are also undertaking the following to help tackle workload across the University:

  • Reviewing process efficiency to identify ways of working which do not add value
  • Discussing with trade unions what activities we should stop
  • Challenging broader systemic issues through the Integrated Planning Process
  • Reviewing the structure of the academic year to identify opportunities to mitigate pressure points in our teaching calendar

Equality and diversity issues

We have undertaken significant work across the institution to build a diverse and inclusive University community where colleagues from the broadest possible range of backgrounds can reach their full potential and thrive at work.

Please refer to our Annual Staff Inclusion Report for details of progress made over the last year. 

Pay  

We support fair and competitive pay for all of our staff, in recognition of your commitment and hard work, which facilitates our mission as a university. Colleagues received sector pay increases this year in August, as part of the 2021-2022 round of negotiations.    

As part of the negotiations, Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA), who are mandated to negotiate pay settlements on behalf of employers, put forward a collective position on pay on behalf of participating HEIs that seeks to maintain competitiveness, is fair and sustainable and which balances affordability across all member institutions. 

The national pay negotiations were concluded in August and the University implemented the nationally agreed salary increases. Colleagues on pay points below spine point 22 of the pay scale received an increase between 1.54% and 3.6%, and pay points at spine point 22 or above received a pay increase of 1.5%. This uplift is in addition to increases arising from incremental progression on the grade structure. 

Staff employed on pay scales Grades A to M also received the increase in their monthly pay for August.  

The outcome offer delivers a fair base pay increase across the sector, with higher base increases for the lower pay points, ranging from 1.5 to 3.6 per cent. We fully support the targeting of higher increases to our colleagues on lower pay, and further demonstrate this with our commitment to paying the Voluntary Living Wage. 

Like all HEIs, we believe the pay uplift carefully balances fairness with affordability and have followed UCEA’s advice to implement the uplifts due from 1 August. 

We are aware that the trade unions who participate in the national pay negotiations have rejected the pay offer. It has become evident following the dispute resolution process that an agreement on a cost of living pay settlement remains unachievable at this time. 

We will continue to work locally with union colleagues on matters relating to pay and conditions that are important to us all including gender and ethnicity pay gaps and security of employment. 

You can read more in our recent Staff intranet news article. 

Pensions  

We understand how important a good pension is to our staff. It is a key part of the package that makes working at a university attractive, and allows colleagues to plan financially for the future 

We are pleased that, together with Unison and Unite, we have made very positive changes to the contribution levels in the University of Bristol Group Pension Plan (UBGPP), the pension scheme supporting staff on grade I and below.  

Staff have made it clear to us that the Defined Benefit element of the hybrid Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) (open to all academic staff and those on grade J and above) is very important because of the certainty it provides when planning retirement. 

In 2018, it was disputed as to whether there was a deficit in the USS scheme. We supported the establishment of the Joint Expert Panel to address this issue. As a result of that work, very few people now question whether there is a significant deficit. The dispute now centres on the size of the deficit and how it should be addressed. 

The USS Trustee (who runs the scheme), supported by the government’s Pension Regulator (who acts to protect the current and future viability of pension schemes) is implementing a solution with a number of elements to shore up the scheme: 

  • Employees and employers are being asked to pay more, but significantly less than was previously suggested.
  • Employers are having to make phased payments over a number of years to eliminate the deficit.
  • As a trade-off for these more modest increases in monthly contribution rates, employees are being asked to take a cut in benefits at retirement, ranging from 8% to 18% depending on their circumstances.
  • As a second trade-off, the USS Trustee will have some influence over how much individual universities can borrow over future years.

This is not an ideal outcome for employees and employers, but the USS Trustee, supported by the Regulator, insists that the changes are necessary for the long-term sustainability of the scheme. 

All parties are trying to achieve a difficult balancing act. While Bristol and a handful of other universities have said that they can afford to pay more for pensions, most institutions have said that they cannot without significant job losses and cuts to services and investments. We have done our very best to influence the process, but in this context, we are bound by our collective bargaining agreement. 

We are running a series of seminars for colleagues during October to explain the fundamentals of USS and the specific issues concerning the 2020 valuation. We continue to invite staff to feed into the various UUK consultations to ensure your voice is heard. 

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