University introduces four-day working week for April

Alex Walker discusses the introduction of a four-day working week for lecturers this April, despite concerns that this measure is insufficient.

Alex Walker
7th April 2020
Image: Magnus Hagdorn on Flickr
The University has announced the introduction of a four-day week in April to help lecturers deal with the stress and difficulty caused by the Coronavirus outbreak. The University has said that this decision has been made to "help you try and achieve more of a balance between work and home-life", and that is "designed to help reduce the pressure on everyone".

While the measure will be introduced with no loss of pay, the decision has still received some criticism. Dr Becca Wilson, the current leader of DataSHIELD, critiqued the decision saying that, "I think the main thing is that universities have a broad range of staff, all with different circumstances and roles/responsibilities. Whilst having a paid day off is likely welcomed by people with families or caring responsibilities, the reality is that many researchers already have fixed deadlines they are committed to. I would love to take Friday off to wind down, play computer games or get on with some DIY in the house."

"If I took all the Fridays off in April, I know I will not meet my deadlines. So I will not benefit from this policy change."

Dr Becca Wilson, current leader of DataSHIELD

Dr Wilson continued, saying: ‘[most research staff] are not entitled to time of in lieu (so the leave cannot be transferred as a benefit to myself in May) OR overtime under our conditions of service, so for myself the new leave is unusable. It would be better if the University paid me for those days at standard rate or an overtime rate."

Dr Wilson's criticism seems to highlight a serious flaw in the University’s planning, and a failure to account for the more complex needs of many members of staff.

However, despite this, the decision does avoid many of the mistakes often made by the introduction of a four-day working week. Thomas Leach, Social Media Officer for Newcastle University Labour Society, offered some context on the problems with the introduction of a four-day working week in general.

Leach said that "labour disputes concerning universally shorter working weeks…must always come with the caveat that there should be no cuts in pay and that the workload per day remains thereabouts the same. Stress from increased financial instability or pressure in the workplace only serves to undo the decrease in stress such four day week projects often seek. On top of this, employers must not use the four day week as cover to lay off employees."

Ultimately the four-day week has only been introduced at Newcastle for the period of April, which includes Good Friday as a bank holiday, meaning that there will only be three paid days off. Similar policies have been implemented at other universities across the UK including Aberdeen, Manchester and Nottingham.

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AUTHOR: Alex Walker
An English Literature student, who enjoys playing devils advocate. Interested in sharing my vacuous opinion on Film, TV, Music, Sports, and Political history. Find me on Facebook if you want write a piece together, or just want to tell me my articles are rubbish somewhere Zuckerberg can hear. Twitter, @TheAlexJLWalker

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