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Update on petition for flexibility for home working

Over 600 of you have signed our joint BUCU and Unison UoB petition asking the University of Birmingham to enable you to work in ways that work for you, whether that means working from home or a mixture of at home and on campus. That shows there is huge support for the call to University managers to trust you to work well, just as you have all through the ongoing pandemic.

BUCU presented this petition to the University at a meeting on the 6th May. They told us they would be exploring options for ‘blended’ working approaches, but were concerned about making sure they retained a vibrant campus environment. We are more concerned that those with caring responsibilities (often, but not always, women), disabled, chronically ill and neurodivergent staff and others who want the benefits of a better work-life balance are able to make the most of working arrangements that are flexible to their needs.

We have now heard that professional services staff in some departments are being told about new arrangements for ‘blended’ or ‘hybrid’ working. This will also involve some ‘hot desking’ arrangements. We at BUCU were not involved in any discussions about this in advance, and when we asked about risk assessments, display screen equipment (DSE) assessments and accommodations for disabled staff, we did not feel their response gave you either the right to choose where to work, or adequate protections in your workplace.

BUCU and Unison UoB have now written to the University to ask for a formal response to the petition you have signed, and for the following provisions for all staff:

  • Introduce clear, consistent University-wide policy that enables staff at all grades to choose to work remotely if they wish
  • Ensure all staff who wish to work from home have the right equipment and, where necessary, adaptations and assistive technology, to be able to do so
  • Ensure disabled staff who wish to work on campus have timely access to adaptations and assistive technology, so that no one is forced to work from home
  • Produce and publish a risk assessment, including a robust equality impact assessment, for any new ‘agile’ or ‘hot desk’ working arrangements on campus, with a clear plan to mitigate any risk to staff
  • Ensure that any ‘agile’ or ‘hot desking’ arrangements prioritise the needs of disabled, chronically ill and neurodivergent staff, and others who need equipment to ensure a safe working environment. This includes timely access to occupational health and DSE assessments, timely implementation of reasonable adjustments both in the home and on campus, mainstreaming of accessible and assistive technology across IT systems where possible, and support with Access to Work claims where necessary
  • Ensure disabled staff do not face a disproportionate administrative burden in order to negotiate and secure adjustments and accommodations, and ensure any new policy includes guidance for line managers making clear their responsibilities to put adjustments in place.

Sign the petition if you haven’t already, and ask your colleagues to do the same. You can get more involved in campaigning for better working conditions for you and your colleagues by emailing admin@birminghamucu.org.We also have an FAQ on making a formal request for flexible working arrangements available on our website.

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