Securing Flexible Working at UCL

Written by Kate Geller, Communications Officer, UCL UNISON

We noticed that Grade 6 staff and below were not being offered flexible working at the same rates as staff on higher pay grades in our teams. Looking at the nature and similarities in our work, we thought we also deserved the opportunity to work from home as Grade 7s and above were doing.

Using the UCL Work Life Balance Policy we realised we could put in requests for ourselves, and with support from the hard work of our local union rep, Dan Potrykus, successfully secured flexible working for three grade 6 members of staff.

Top Tips About UCL’s Work Life Balance Policy:

  • Flexible working is not only for those with childcare responsibilities or health requirements, everyone is entitled to request flexible working for their wellbeing: the policy states “requests should be considered favourably with a view to agreement, wherever practicable (section 3.2)” so your manager should be positive about your request
  • Flexible working may be offered to a group of staff by a head of department but as an individual you can also put in a request to suite your individual needs
  • The process starts with a formal request in writing to your line manager of head of department, followed by a meeting to discuss the request (your union rep or chosen colleague can be present), you should then get an outcome within 14 days. If you’re not happy with your outcome, you can appeal within 14 days of the decision
  • Often the offer your made may be for a “trial period” to prove it doesn’t affect productivity or team working
  • If you’re a member of a recognised UCL union, your rep can help guide and support you through the process

UCL offers a number of different kinds of flexible working for staff, here is some of them at glance. (Some may have additional conditions so please check the UCL Work Life Balance Policy for more info)

  • Flexitime: “core hours” are set where you must be in the office, but you set your own start and finish times
  • Annualised Hours: your working time is based on number of hours worked a year, instead of a week – so you can work extra hours in busy periods and less in quiet ones
  • Term-time working: work only within UCL term times (your work activities much only take place in the UCL term time for this one)
  • Shift Working: if you work shifts, you should be able to “swap occasional shifts with colleagues… to address individual domestic commitments (Section 4.7)”
  • Rota working/staggered hours: working hours that suit you instead of standardised hours, these are the same every day for each individual but may vary across a team or department
  • Job share: two people share a role, both working part time (job splitting is also an option, where two people split the responsibilities of a role)
  • Planned remote working: work from home or somewhere other than UCLs campus, this would have to be “occasional” – in my dept we work from home once a fortnight
  • Part-time working: reduce your hours to part time work permanently or temporarily (this affects salary/pension contributions etc.)
  • Flexible retirement and part-time work: (Only USS pensions scheme members are eligible for flexible retirement) receive some pension benefits when you move your hours to part-time
  • Compressed Hours: work longer hours on some days and shorter (or no) hours on other days – in my department we work longer hours each day and have a full day off once a fortnight
  • Career Breaks: take a prolonged unpaid leave with no pension contributions for this time. For staff with more than two years service this could be for personal or professional development. Staff with caring responsibilities can request 6 months unpaid to look after someone who is seriously ill.