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November 2015
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MAW - Management of Academic Workloads

Partnership Outputs: Information Sheets/Reports

Info Sheet 4 MAW and Equality and HSE Challenges

To see the Health and Safety Executive presentation on work related stress, the problem, standards, and implementation plans, click here

Links to the HSE   with work related stress pages.

 Equality Challenge unit can be found  at To see details on the new Equality bill click here and to see how this impacts on Higher Education click here 

To see the presentation on Change Management click here

Workshop 4: MAW and Equality Challenges

 This sheet is a synthesis by Dr Lucinda Barrett, MAW project coordinator, of the network activity. It is available as a word document, Click here  For more details please contact or

 The work from the Equality Challenge Unit shows that different demographic groups behave in different ways, and this is important to managing academic workloads and the longer-term consequences for those different groups. For example, research shows that there is a significant lack of women in senior positions in higher education owing to a wide range of reasons. Women’s reluctance to put themselves forward to the same extent as men may be one reason, however, when women do apply for promotions they do well.

It seems that there are groups that are more at risk of disadvantage from certain institutional practices. For example staff on fractional contracts will find difficulties in being submissable to the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), which is widely believed to help promotion. It is perhaps no coincidence that 42% of female academics work part time, compared to 27% of males (HESA, 2006/7) and of submitting departments, 58% of women were entered in the 2001 RAE compared to 74% of men. Another area highlighted through the statistics is that 69% of white, other and Asian staff were submitted in 2001 compared with 50% of black staff. In a HEFCE (2006) report on this it was suggested that evidence from the bibliometric analysis indicates that there was not evidence of ‘unjustifiable bias’ in selection (p4). However the implication is that certain groups are less able to be active in research. For example, carers will find themselves disadvantaged in a work culture that favours those who are able to work for long and unsocial hours. Further, although it is recognised that for many part-time work offers flexibility, opportunities for promotion can be affected through the resultant difficulties in building a balanced CV. Further research done in HE in Australia has found that flexibility, such as from home working, can mean that they can not use their absence to ensure sharing of child care responsibilities (Probert B 2005) (p69).

European law (the European Court in Danfoss C -109/88) anticipates that informal workplace systems will tend to favour men in terms of pay, and that transparency is necessary if there is to be a shift from the status quo. By analogy, transparency of the information in workload systems could help to raise general awareness and sensitivity to the above type of issues when allocating work.

Decisions made at an individual level may seem appropriate and defensible, however, analysis at an organisational level can highlight particular trends and areas of unwitting discrimination. To help avoid this, risk and impact assessments can create focus and prioritise action. But in order to do this information on workload allocation needs to be visible so that an institutional view can be gained. To support MAW processes at school level the university policy on transparency, equity and equality requirements needs to be disseminated widely through a training and development programme. This can be supported by human resource departments, which can then monitor for equitable processes and outcomes.

The main theme coming through from this discussion on MAW and equality issues is the benefit that a transparent MAW system, at department and institutional level, can deliver for the effectiveness of an institution’s response to equality issues. 

The Contribution of MAW to Equality Challenge Issues: Using the Example of Gender and Career Progression

1Transparency - Informal system of allocation with limited ability to assess equity in the size and distribution of roles allowing for any discriminatory process to go undetected. -Criteria and outcomes of allocation transparent, through agreed process/model highlighting any areas of unfairness and discrimination- Planning for and providing a more equitable distribution of work .

2 Fractional contracts - Inability to create balanced CV to build portfolio of activities necessary for career progression - Incorporation of staff on fractional contracts into work planning model- Consultation leading to provision of balanced work portfolio, incorporating other work areas in proportion to overall contract time. - Discussion on work patterns e.g. flexibility and availability, to inform work planning model- Linkage to appraisal process- training and development needs.

3 Allocated Roles - Tendency to allocate women certain roles , ,such as pastoral care, which are often heavy in work terms, but do not facilitate career progression / promotion. Other research has shown women recruited to ‘high risk’ leadership roles -Through consultations in development of a model and transparency of its outputs: raising awareness of potential problems/ trends leading to more equitable distribution of roles and defensible decisions.- Linkage to appraisal process as above.

Figure 1: MAW and Equality Challenges: example of Gender and Career Progression

Workshop 4: Health and Safety Executive and MAW

Dr Lucinda Barrett, MAW coordinator, November 2008

From the occupational group statistics from the labour force survey (Jones R et al. 2006) it can be seen that teaching and research professionals are amongst the most high risk groups for work related stress. Kinman and Jones (2004) in their study of HE staff suggest that this is not due alone to hours worked, but to a more complex set of factors, such as control within the work environment and this ties in with HSE studies in organisations generally. Through their work the HSE have developed standards to help reduce the levels of work- related stress through addressing six key areas that they see as the primary sources of stress at work: These are demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.

The HSE insists on the difference between work pressure, which can be positive, and work related stress, that is an adverse reaction to excessive demands. In brief, as part of an organisational risk assessment an initial stage would be to understand how the six risk factors translate to the institution in question and the specific risks for staff. Through gathering and analysing information and data an assessment could then be made about who is likely to be harmed and how. The HSE have found that it is after this stage that the process is most likely to break down and not move onto the next stage of: evaluating the risks and exploring/ consulting about the problems en route to developing solutions/actions to the specific issues found and giving feedback on the process. When this does occur action plans can then be developed and implemented further and recordings made of progress. Within this cycle the agreed work should be monitored and reviewed, for example through meetings and surveys, to assess effectiveness and decide on any further work or data collection needed to help improve outcomes. Whilst this process looks towards issues likely to affect groups of staff the standards place a duty of care on employers to protect the wellbeing of individuals and address their concerns.

Although the focus and objectives of MAW, in aiming for a transparent and equitable use of human resources, differs from these, it can be seen that information made available and the processes used in explicitly managing academic workloads should assist in meeting the HSE objectives. The data from this could also help the institution monitor allocations of work and to highlight potential problems and take action accordingly. However although having a University wide system does create the potential to have an institutional level view, it also needs to be twinned with an explicit (evidenced) institutional audit process to check that high workloads are actually being addressed and, if not, that action is demanded and delivered. MAW can significantly contribute to a risk assessment, but we are not suggesting that it is a suitable, sufficient and documented risk assessment in itself.

MAW Process Contributions to the HSE Stress Management Standards : 

 1 Demands -

2 Control -

3 Support

4 Relationships

5 Role(s)

6 Change