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Working to contract: What action is the union asking me to take?

UCU is calling on all members in higher education to begin working to contract and working to rule. This means that we’re asking you to abide strictly by the terms of your contract, so the first thing to do is to dig out your contract of employment and refer to that when reading this advice. In brief, we are asking members to:

  • work no more than their contracted hours where those hours are expressly stated, or where they are stipulated in a workload agreement and in any event not to exceed the maximum number of hours per week stipulated in the Working Time Regulations (48 hours a week)
  • perform no additional voluntary duties, such as out of hours cover, or covering for colleagues (unless such cover is contractually required)
  • set and mark no work beyond that work which they are contractually obliged to set and/or mark
  • attend no meetings where such attendance is voluntary on the part of the members
  • undertake no duties that breach health and safety policies or other significant employer’s policies

Some of it sounds simple and basic but we know from experience that Universities run on significant amounts of unpaid labour and goodwill. This is what we are withdrawing in this action.

In support of the above we are also asking you to add the following text to your email signature:

‘PLEASE NOTE: There may be a delay in dealing with your email as I am participating in UCU industrial action by ‘working to contract’ in support of the union’s campaign for fair pay in higher education.’ Further information can be found at http://www.ucu.org.uk.”

Further guidance on working to contract, including a list of FAQs, is available at:


Thank you for your support.

HWUCU Committee




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