Performance Development Review – appraisal process and forms

As RHUL is now asking staff at an extraordinarily busy time, in ‘unprecedented’ and challenging circumstances, in the middle of the ‘September Sprint’, to turn our minds to appraisal, we would like to suggest you consider the following:

1. If you have the bandwidth to engage with the appraisal process you may use the old or the new appraisal form, whichever suits you better. The one addition that the UCU would like to be added to the guidance notes of the new form concerns the PDR process not being used as the sole trigger for capability – this is a very small risk and so UCU are content that either the new or old form can be used. You can download the 2015 version of the form here.

2. This year we suggest that you may wish to consider documenting via your appraisal form all that you consider relevant to your situation in terms of, for example, workload, health and safety, stress, the continuing fallout from schoolification, concerns about cleaning regimes, ventilation, commuting etc. Documenting the stress points at this stage could prove to be very useful later on.

3. If you do not wish to identify yourself to your line manager as a UCU member, you may wish to consider using a version of the following: “I understand that the UCU branch continues to have many concerns over aspects of returning to the workplace and face to face contact with students, and that negotiations are continuing but are not yet resolved.”

Please feel free to direct non-union members to this blog post.

Posted on behalf of the RHUL UCU Committee.

Reminder on PDR

The eagle-eyed among our members will have spotted an item in the staff newsletter yesterday reminding us all that the PDR deadline is 31st October and urging us to ‘use the forms introduced last year’. We would remind members that while new forms were introduced last year, they have not yet been agreed with the branch, and we continue to be extremely concerned about the possibility of the new form being used to trigger capability proceedings.

We have noted before the unfortunate move within college as a whole towards attempting to push through changes in policy and expectations without the proper consultation with the recognised trade union. This is another example of that trend. We therefore advise all members to continue to use the approved approved appraisal form agreed with the branch in 2015.

Posted on behalf of the UCU branch committee. 

The return of PDR

Members will have noted a reminder in the last staff newsletter of the academic year that all PDRs (performance development reviews, or appraisals in old money) should be completed by Thursday 31st October. Members may also remember that the branch raised grave concerns about the revised review process last year, not least because of concerns the revised PDR process could be used to trigger capability proceedings.

Some small movement has been made on this, and negotiations with the branch over the form and the guidance to reviewers are on-going. With that in mind, we recommend that wherever possible, colleagues postpone completing their PDRs until the outcome of these negotiations is clear.

That said, should colleagues feel any need to complete their appraisal soon, we recommend that they continue to use the Performance Appraisal Review Form agreed in 2015.

Posted on behalf of members of the RHUL UCU branch committee.


Notes from the UCU General Meeting, 27th February 2019

We will be circulating the minutes of our most recent general meeting to all members very shortly, but in the meantime, here’s a selection of highlights.

Personal Development Review – “Appraisal” in old money

Officially the Branch’s position on the PDR proposals remains that we suggest members use the agreed 2016 appraisal form, with associated guidelines. We also stand by our call for members to boycott the consultation process on PDR, as it bypassed meaningful campus trade union involvement. At our October meeting with senior management they agreed to work with us to change the PDF guidelines, in particular to ensure a PDR could never be the sole trigger for starting capability proceedings. This work is as yet incomplete.

Ballot outcome

We were re-balloted about action over casualisation, gender gap, pay, and workload – UCU thought a national ballot meant that less engaged branches could be carried by more engaged branches. With only a 40% turnout, this probably means that the 2018 pay claim is now over. We will not be taking any action over pay and equalities. National advice is now for local branches to pursue campaigns on the issues raised on the ballot. Last year’s pensions dispute is far from over.

Pensions Update

We suspended our industrial action over the threat to defined benefit pensions when a joint expert panel (JEP) was agreed by employers and UCU. The JEP initial report looked at the previous valuation (the one about a large deficit), which USS and UUK argued meant we couldn’t have a defined benefit pension. The creation and membership of the JEP was endorsed by employers and UCU, and both sides were hopeful of a long term resolution. The first two recommendations have now been rejected by Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). It is difficult to foresee a positive outcome from the second stage of the JEP’s work, without more pressure from institutions, so our pensions are still potentially under threat. We will be writing as a branch to ask the Principal of Royal Holloway to use his influence, with other employers, to encourage USS to accept the recommendations of JEP, which indicate a defined pension is feasible with lower contribution increases than those currently planned. Continue reading “Notes from the UCU General Meeting, 27th February 2019”

Boycott the College’s Performance Development Review Survey

This College has long relied upon principles of consensus. It has allowed us to avoid the inefficient slavery to fashions that have cost other universities dearly. Instead, we have worked together to punch well above our weight. HR and the unions have worked together in this spirit over the last decades, to the benefit of members and the College more generally.

For reasons that are unclear, more recently HR has sought to avoid this legally mandated consultation process and replace it with its own non-transparent mechanisms. The recently announced Performance Development Review Survey is an example of seeking to replace the correct institutional approaches by ad hoc focus groups and artificial surveys.

The local branch has opposed the new approach to appraisal. Appraisal should be about everyone working together to help individuals develop. More experienced academics can advise on the best approach to publishing and seeking grants, as well as teaching and administrative work. This teamwork approach is in everyone’s interest.

Instead, HR seems to want to focus everything upon the grievance, disciplinary and capability mechanisms. These should be rare events, not central to the College. But HR has even put these into the sabbatical policy, stipulating that sabbatical is no longer a normal expectation as part of international quality research, but subject to ‘good behaviour’ as measured by the absence of grievances, disciplinary actions and capability processes against you. It is as if academic staff are students at school, not internationally-recognised researchers and teachers.

We advised staff not to use the new forms and instead to use the negotiated and agreed forms from previous rounds of appraisal. In the same way, we urge staff to boycott this bizarre survey.