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Human Resources

Human Resources at SOAS: Flexible Working Procedure

Contents

1. Introduction
2. Scope and eligibility
3. Principles

3.1 Duration of flexible working requests
3.2 Role of trade union representative or colleague
3.3 Confidentiality
3.4 Human Resources Management Advice
3.5 Equality and Diversity

4. Procedure

4.1 Making a flexible working application 
4.2 Invitation to attend a meeting
4.3 Meeting to discuss the flexible working request
4.4 Failure to attend a flexible working meeting
4.5 Written notification of the decision

4.5.3 Accepting a flexible working request
4.5.4 Declining a flexible working request

4.6 Written notification of appeal
4.7 Invitation to an appeal hearing
4.8 Appeal meeting
4.9 Failure to attend an Appeal meeting
4.10 Written notification of Appeal decision
4.11 Withdrawing a flexible working application
4.12 Grievance Procedure

5. Definitions
6. Review
7.  Associated Policies and Procedures
8. Associated Forms

1 Introduction 


1.1 The School recognises the importance of helping its employees balance their work and home life and is committed to considering and agreeing, where ever possible, requests for flexible working to enable staff to manage their responsibilities caring for children or adults.

1.2 This procedure supports the implementation of the Flexible Working Regulations 2002, the Flexible Working (Eligibility, Complaints and Remedies) (Amendment) Regulations 2006 and the Flexible Working (Eligibility, Complaints and Remedies)(Amendment) Regulations 2009  which gives certain employees the right to request flexible working arrangements arrangements and sets out a legally compliant procedure for the School to carefully consider such requests.

1.3 Eligible employees can request a number of different forms of flexible working including changing their hours, patterns or times of work, job-sharing or home-working (whether for all or part of the week).   To help enable them to meet their caring responsibilities, staff can also request changes to their working pattern such as annualised hours, compressed hours, flexi-time, staggered hours, or term-time working.  Explanations of these forms of working can be found in the definitions section of this procedure below.

1.4 The School will only decline requests for flexible working arrangements where there is a good business reason and will provide a clear explanation of the refusal in line with this procedure and legislative requirements.

1.5 This procedure is not intended to limit or restrict the flexible approach the School takes to dealing with requests to work flexibly for a wide range of reasons, including those which fall outside of the scope of legislation.   This includes disabled staff who require flexible working as an adjustment to their role.   Many requests for flexible working can be dealt with informally by line managers without the need to use this formal procedure. 

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2 Scope and eligibility 


2.1 This procedure applies to all employees of the School who meet the relevant qualifying criteria set out below.  This includes employees who already work on a part-time or flexible basis.

2.2 To be eligible to make a flexible working application under this Procedure, staff must meet all the following criteria:

  • Be either a parent or carer who meets all the criteria outlined in 2.3 or 2.4 below.
  • Have worked continuously for 26 weeks at SOAS at the date of their flexible working application.
  • Have not made another application to work flexibly under this Procedure at SOAS during the last year.   This is regardless of whether a previous application was made in respect of a different caring responsibility (e.g. if an employee has made a recent application to care for a child, they will still have to wait twelve months if they wish to make a second application to care for an adult).  Note, however, the School may consider more than one request per year; for example, if an employee has a sudden and unexpected change in circumstances affecting their caring arrangements.  

 

2.3 To be eligible to make a flexible working application as a parent caring for a child, a member of staff must;

  • Have a child aged under seventeen or a disabled child aged under 18
  • Make the request no later than the day before the child’s 17th birthday or 18th birthday if the child has a disability
  • Have responsibility for the upbringing of the child and be making the application to enable them to care for the child
  • Be either:
  • the mother, father, adopter, guardian or foster parent of the child or;
  • be married to or the partner of the child’s mother, father, adopter, guardian or foster parent


2.4 To be eligible to make a flexible working application as a carer, a member of staff must be, or expect to be, caring for either;

  • A spouse, partner, civil partner or relative (see definitions) or
  • An adult in need of care who lives at the same address as the employee.

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3. Principles 

3.1 Duration of flexible working requests 

3.1.1 If approved, flexible working requests will be made on a permanent basis and the employee’s terms and conditions of employment will be changed permanently.

3.1.2 In some cases, managers and staff may agreed to a trial period for the new arrangements to be tested by both parties, with a view to making the arrangements permanent if the trial proves successful.  Both parties must agree that the trial has proved satisfactory, before the arrangement are made on a permanent basis.

3.1.3 Staff and managers may agree to flexible working for a fixed-period only if appropriate according to circumstances.

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3.2 Role of trade union representative or colleague

3.2.1 Employees have the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative to meetings under this procedure.

3.2.2 The role of the colleague or representative is to support the employee at the meeting and they can address the meeting or confer with the employee during the meeting.  The colleague or union representative is not permitted to answer questions on behalf of the employee.

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3.3 Confidentiality

3.3.1 Documentation relating to employees will be treated with the utmost confidentiality and will be subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) as appropriate.  Employees will have the right to feedback and to access any documentation held on them that fall within the scope of the DPA.

3.3.2 Employees when making their flexible working request, should understand that managers involved in the process may need to discuss and consult relevant colleagues on their application. This could include seeking advice from the School's Health and Safety Officer or asking team members if they are able to provide additional cover which may be required by the flexible working arrangements if agreed.

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3.4 Human Resources Management Advice

3.4.1 Managers are responsible for ensuring that flexible working decisions are consistently applied in accordance with this procedure.  They can obtain further advice, training and support on the operation of this procedure from the Human Resources Directorate.

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3.5 Equality and Diversity 

3.5.1 The procedures outlined here should be carried out with due regard to any diversity issues which may have affected either the original situation or the current process.  The School’s Diversity Adviser and diversity specialists within the Human Resources Directorate are available to support colleagues in this area.  Where a diversity issue (e.g. a disability including chronic physical or mental health conditions) has been disclosed to the School, whether prior to the situation which triggered this process or during the process, the line manager co-ordinating the process is responsible for checking with the employee to determine their needs and for making the appropriate arrangements.  Employees who have not previously disclosed a diversity issue which may be relevant to this process are encouraged to do so, as early as possible, so that it can be taken into account.

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4 Procedure 

4.1 Making a flexible working application 

4.1.1 Eligible employees who wish to apply to work flexibly should complete the School’s Flexible Working Application form (Flexi1 form). By fully completing the Flexi1 form, staff will comply with the relevant statutory requirements for such written requests to work flexibly, in addition to providing the information the School requires to carefully consider their request.

4.1.2 Employees can obtain further information on completing the form from the Guidance for Staff on the School's Flexible Working Procedure, or from their designated HR Officer or a trade union representative.

4.1.3 Staff should send the completed form to the appropriate manager in their area, who will normally be the Head of Department or Manager of Service Section. A copy of the form should also be sent to the Human Resources Directorate.

4.1.4 If the employee has not fully completed the Flexi1 form, they will be asked by their manager/Head of Department who received the form to re-complete the form.  The steps of the procedure and timescales outlined below will not commence until the employee has re-submitted their fully completed form.

4.1.5 Employees should submit their Flexi1 form in good time to allow for their request to be fully considered and this procedure completed. In making their request, staff should bear in mind that it is possible that the School might take 14 weeks or more to consider their request.

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4.2 Invitation to attend a meeting 

4.2.1 The manager/Head of Department who received the Flexi1 form (or their delegate), should invite the employee to a meeting to discuss the flexible working request.

4.2.2 The meeting must be held within 28 days of the receipt of the Flexi 1 form. If the meeting cannot be held within this period, both the manager and employee must agree in writing to an extension of this period.

4.2.3 The employee has the right to be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague or a trade union representative.  Disabled staff may additionally request to be accompanied by their support worker (as appropriate) and in such cases, should notify the manager prior to the hearing so necessary arrangements can be made.   If the employee wishes to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative, they must notify the manager in advance of the meeting.

4.2.4 If the employee’s colleague or trade union representative is unable to attend the proposed date for the meeting, the member of staff should endeavour to rearrange the meeting for a time convenient to themselves, their colleague/representative and their manager/Head of Department.  The rescheduled meeting should take place within seven days of the original proposed date for the meeting.  If this cannot be achieved, the employee should consider bringing an alternative colleague or trade union representative.

4.2.5 A member of the HR Directorate may also be invited to attend the meeting to advise the manager/Head of Department on this procedure and help facilitate the meeting.

4.2.6 The meeting should be arranged for an appropriate location, normally a confidential room or office.  Staff on maternity leave or adoption leave, or who normally work solely from home, and who are unable to visit the School premises, may wish to ask for the meeting to take place at an alternative location such as their home.  If a flexible working meeting takes place at an employee’s home, the manager/Head of Department will be accompanied by a member of the HR Directorate.

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4.3 Meeting to discuss the flexible working request 

4.3.1 The meeting will be normally conducted by the Head of Department or Manager of Service Section or the employee’s line manager (if this is not the Head of Department or Manager of the Service Section).

4.3.2 The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss the flexible working request including how this could be accommodated, what the impact will be on the section and colleagues, and any possible health and safety implications.

4.3.3 The manager/Head of Department and employee may wish to discuss whether a trial period could be useful and how the trial period may operate.

4.3.4 If the employee’s requested working pattern cannot be accommodated, the meeting also gives the opportunity to explore alternative flexible working options with the employee.

4.3.5 The manager/Head of Department will keep a record of the main issues discussed at the meeting and give a copy of the record to the employee.

4.3.6 The manager/Head of Department does not need to reach a decision to approve the flexible working pattern at the meeting and in some cases, it may not be possible reach a decision immediately (for example, if additional information or measures such as a home working risk assessment are required).  The employee will be notified of the manager’s/Head of Department’s decision in writing within 14 days in accordance with the steps laid out below in section 4.5.

4.3.7 If a manager/Head of Department needs further time to reach a decision, they must obtain the employee’s written agreement for an extension to the 14 days in which they are required to inform the employee of the decision.

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4.4 Failure to attend a flexible working meeting 

4.4.1 A member of staff who fails to attend the flexible working meeting without prior notification in advance, should contact their manager/Head of Department as soon as possible to explain why they were unable to attend the meeting.

4.4.2 Where an employee has provided a reasonable explanation for failing to attend the meeting, the manager/Head of Department should rearrange the meeting at the next mutually convenient time.  If the rescheduled meeting cannot be held within 28 days of the receipt of the Flexi1 form, the employee and manager/Head of Department should both agree in writing to extend this timescale to enable the meeting to take place.   

4.4.4 The School reserves the right to treat an employee’s flexible working application form as withdrawn, if the employee fails to attend a flexible working meeting more than once and does not provide a reasonable explanation for their failure to attend.

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4.5 Written notification of the decision 

4.5.1 The manager/Head of Department should notify the employee of their decision within 14 days of the flexible working meeting, using the Flexible Working Written Decision form (Flexi2 form). A copy of the completed form should be sent to the HR Directorate by the manager.

4.5.2 Managers/Head of Department should refer to the Management Guidelines on Flexible Working when completing the form and can seek further advice from their designated HR Manager.

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4.5.3 Accepting a flexible working request 

4.5.3.1 If a manager/Head of Department accepts an employee’s flexible working request they should indicate this clearly on the Flexi2 form  and complete a Variation of Contract form where appropriate and obtain the necessary authorisation for any contractual change.

4.5.3.2 On receipt of the copy of the Flexi2 form/Variation of Contract form, HR Directorate will write to the employee confirming any change in terms and conditions and making any necessary salary adjustments (if applicable).

4.5.3.3 On receipt of the copy of the Flexi2 form/Variation of Contract form, the HR Directorate will write to the employee confirming any change in terms and conditions and making any necessary salary adjustments (if applicable).

4.5.3.4 The manager/Head of Department, working with the employee, will need to make any other appropriate arrangements required to implement the employee’s new flexible working pattern.  This will include informing other colleagues in the section or any other parties who may be affected by the change.

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4.5.4 Declining a flexible working request 

4.5.4.1 If a manager/Head of Department is unable to agree to a flexible working request, they should clearly indicate this on the Flexi2 form and provide the organisational grounds why the request cannot be accepted and clearly explain why these organisational grounds apply in the circumstances.
4.5.4.2 A manager/Head of Department can only decline a flexible working application for one (or more) the following organisational reasons:

  • Burden of additional costs
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
  • Inability to recruit additional staff
  • Detrimental impact on quality
  • Detrimental impact on performance
  • Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
  • Planned structural changes.


4.5.4.3 The Flexi2 form will indicate to the employee that they have the right to appeal the decision to decline their flexible working application.

4.5.4.4 If the manager/Head of Department is unable to accept the flexible working request exactly as the employee requested but is able to accommodate an alternate form of flexible working which was discussed at the meeting (see 4.3.4 above), this should be indicated on Flexi2 form. If the employee wishes to accept this alternative arrangement, they should confirm this in writing to the manager/Head of Department and the HR Directorate. The stages outlined from 4.5.3.24.5.3.4 above should then be followed.

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4.6 Written notification of Appeal 

4.6.1 If a manager/Head of Department declines a flexible working application, the employee has the right to appeal against this decision.

4.6.2 An employee who wishes to appeal, should complete the Flexible Working Written Appeal Form (Flexi3 form) and send this to the Human Resources Directorate within 14 days of the receipt of the Flexi2 form.

4.6.3 On the Flexi3 form, the employee should state the grounds for their appeal (e.g. procedural, new information not raised at the Flexible Working Meeting or a challenge to the facts in the explanation of the organisational reason for the rejection of the request).

4.6.4 The employee should also list a number of dates and times when they and their colleague/representative (if applicable) will be available to attend an appeal meeting.

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4.7 Invitation to an Appeal meeting

4.7.1 Following receipt of the Flexi3 form, the Human Resources Directorate will appoint an appropriate manager to hear the appeal (the Appeal Officer). This will normally be the Dean of Faculty or Head of Service Area (unless delegated) or the line manager of the individual who made the decision to reject the flexible working application and conducted the flexible working meeting.

4.7.2 The Human Resources Directorate will invite the employee to an appeal meeting.

4.7.3 The meeting must be held within 14 days of the receipt of the Flexi3 form. If the meeting cannot be held within this period, the employee must agree in writing to an extension of this period.  The School will endeavour to arrange the meeting for one of the dates indicated by the employee, subject to the availability of other parties.

4.7.4 The employee has the right to be accompanied at the appeal meeting by a work colleague or a trade union representative.  Disabled staff may additionally request to be accompanied by their support worker if appropriate.   If the employee wishes to be accompanied by a colleague, trade union representative and/or support worker, they must notify the Human Resources Directorate in advance of the meeting.

4.7.5 If the employee’s colleague or trade union representative is unable to attend the proposed date for the appeal meeting, the member of staff should endeavour to rearrange the meeting for a time convenient to themselves, their colleague/representative and the Appeal Officer.  The rescheduled meeting should take place within seven days of the proposed date of the meeting.  If this cannot be achieved, the employee should consider bringing an alternative colleague or trade union representative.

4.7.6 A member of the HR Directorate may also be invited to attend the Appeal to advise the Appeal Officer on this procedure and help facilitate the appeal.

4.7.7 The Appeal meeting should be arranged for an appropriate location, normally a confidential room or office.  Staff on maternity leave or adoption leave, or who normally work solely from home, who are unable to visit the School premises, may wish to ask for the appeal to take place at an alternative location such as their home.  If an appeal meeting takes place at an employee’s home, the Appeal Officer will be accompanied by a member of the HR Directorate.

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4.8 Appeal meeting

4.8.1 The purpose of the Appeal meeting will be to consider fully the employee’s grounds for appeal and to see if their flexible working application can be accepted in the light of these reasons for appeal.

4.8.2 A member of the Human Resources Directorate will normally attend the Appeal meeting to advise the Appeal Officer on procedure and to assist in facilitating the meeting.

4.8.3 The manager/Head of Department who made the decision to reject the flexible working request, may be invited to attend the appeal meeting to respond to any of the reasons for the appeal, provide additional information and/or to answer any questions that the employee or Appeal Officer may have.  They will have no decision-making role in this stage of the process and the decision to either uphold or reject the appeal will be taken by the Appeal Officer.  

4.8.4 The Appeal Officer will ensure a record is kept of the Appeal meeting and a copy of this will be given to the employee.

4.8.5 The Appeal Officer does not need to reach a decision at the meeting and in some cases, it may not be possible to reach a decision (for example, if additional information or measures such as a home working risk assessment are required).  The employee will be notified of the Appeal Officer’s decision in writing within 14 days in accordance with the steps laid out below in section 4.10.

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4.9 Failure to attend an Appeal meeting

4.9.1 A member of staff who fails to attend the Appeal meeting without prior notification in advance, should contact the Human Resources Directorate as soon as possible to explain why they were unable to attend the meeting.

4.9.2 Where an employee has provided a reasonable explanation for failing to attend the Appeal meeting, the Human Resources Directorate should rearrange the meeting at the next mutually convenient time.  If the rescheduled meeting cannot be held within 14 days of the receipt of the Flexi3 form, the employee and Appeal Officer should agree in writing to extend this timescale to enable the meeting to take place.

4.9.3 The School reserves the right to treat an employee’s flexible working application form as withdrawn if the employee fails to attend an appeal meeting more than once and does not provide a reasonable explanation for their failure to attend.

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4.10 Written notification of Appeal decision 

4.10.1 The Appeal Officer should notify the employee of their decision within 14 days of the Appeal meeting, using the Appeal Written Decision form (Flexi4 form). A copy of the completed form should be sent to the HR Directorate.

4.10.2 Appeal Officers should refer to the Management Guidelines on Flexible Working when completing the form and can seek further advice from their designated HR Manager

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4.10.3 Upholding an appeal

4.10.3.1 If the Appeal Officer upholds the employee’s appeal, they should sign and date the Flexi4 form and provide the start date for the new flexible working arrangements and outline the new working pattern. If a trial period has been agreed, this also should be outlined on the form.

4.10.3.2 The Appeal Officer will send a copy of the Flexi4 form to the manager/Head of Department who conducted the Flexible Working meeting and ask them to implement the flexible working arrangements by following steps 4.5.3.2 to 4.5.3.4 above. In some cases, the manager/Head of Department will also need to complete a Variation of Contract form and obtain authorisation for any contractual changes (as appropriate).

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4.10.4 Dismissing an appeal

4.10.4.1 If the Appeal Officer dismisses the employee’s appeal, they should clearly indicate this on the Flexi4 form and state the grounds for their decision and clearly explain why these grounds for refusal apply in the circumstances.

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4.11 Withdrawing a flexible working application  

4.11.1 An employee who wishes to withdraw their flexible working application should do so in writing to the Human Resources Directorate as soon as possible.

4.11.2 In such cases, the employee will not be eligible to make another application for 12 months from the date their original application was made except in cases covered by 2.2.iii.

4.11.3 The School reserves the right to treat an employee’s flexible working application as withdrawn if the employee unreasonably refuses to provide the School with required information. For example, if an employee requests home-working, the School will need to ensure their home work-station meets health and safety standards.  If the employee refuses to comply with the risk assessment, the School will treat the employee’s application as withdrawn.

4.11.4 As stated above, the School reserves the right to treat an employee’s flexible working application as withdrawn if the individual fails to attend two flexible working or appeal meetings without a reasonable explanation.

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4.12 Grievance Procedure

4.12.1 There are no further steps in the flexible working procedure. Employees not satisfied with the outcome are entitled to use the appropriate Grievance Procedure (e.g. if procedural errors occurred or where new information has come to light following the appeal)

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5 Definitions 

Area: the term area means the relevant Faculty, Directorate or IFCELS.

Service Area: professional services directorate such as the Library & Information Services, Finance & Planning, Estates & Facilities.

Line manager: the line manager will be the individual nominated by the Dean of Faculty/Director of Directorate or Head of IFCELS to have supervisory responsibility over the employee.

Manager of Service Section: a manager of a team or section which forms part of a Directorate. The manager will normally report to the Director of Directorate.

Head of Directorate: e.g. Director of Library & Information Services, Director of Finance & Planning, Director of Human Resources.

Flexible working: a pattern or method of working which varies from the standard working arrangements at the School (e.g. 35 hours worked each week between Monday to Friday from 8.00am to 6.00pm) or from the employee’s existing working arrangements.

Relative: A relative is defined in the Work and Families Act 2006 as a mother, father, adopter, guardian, special guardian, parent-in-law, son, daughter, brother, brother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, uncle, aunt, or grandparent.  Step-relatives and half-blood relatives are also included.   In addition, the legislation covers adoptive relations and relationships that would have existed but for the adoption (e.g. an employee caring for either their adoptive parent or natural parent could make an application under the legislation).  The legal regulations have omitted daughters-in-law and sons-in-law from the definition of relative but the Government intend to rectify this.  The School will consider applications from employees to care for daughters-in-law or sons-in law in the meantime.  

Carer: an employee who is responsible for an adult in need of care.  The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) lists the types of caring activities that carers of adults may be responsible for;

  • help with personal care (e.g. dressing, bathing, toilet)
  • help with mobility (e.g. walking, getting in and out of bed)
  • nursing tasks (e.g. daily blood checking, changing dressings)
  • giving/supervising medicines
  • escorting to appointments (e.g. GP, hospital, chiropodist)
  • supervision of the person being looked after emotional support
  • keeping the recipient company
  • practical household tasks (e.g. preparing meals, doing shopping, domestic labour)
    help with financial matters or paperwork.

This list is not exhaustive and carers may be involved in a range of activities depending on the needs and circumstances of the adult needing care.  For example, BIS states that carers of people with mental health problems and who are in paid work may need to help the person with routine tasks such as getting to work.

Business reason; a statutory term meaning good operational or organisational reasons.   Requests to work flexibly can only be turned down for one of a number of recognised business grounds that are listed in this Procedure above.  Applications cannot be rejected for any other reasons than these recognised business grounds.

Disabled child: means a child who is entitled to a disability living allowance within the meaning of Section 71 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992.  The School reserves the right to consider applications from parents of disabled children who are not entitled to disability living allowance but qualify as a disabled person under the Disability Discrimination Act.

Annualised hours: is the organisation of working time on based on the number of hours to be worked per year rather than per week.  It is usually used to fit within peaks and troughs of work.  Pay may vary monthly depending on the actual hours worked or special arrangements made for regular monthly pay but with specific terms for leaving employment.

Compressed hours: is a method of organising working time by working the total number of agreed hours over a shorter period.  For example, an employee could work for 35 hours over a four day week (rather than the standard 5 day working week).  The employee would be paid for a full-time job but would not receive overtime payments for the agreed extra hours they work in one day.

Flexi-time: is a method of flexible working which allows employees to choose their start and finish times, outside of agreed core times.  Normally, employees will work and be paid for a set number of hours and any hours worked above these hours (flexi-time) will be taken as time off in lieu (flexi-day) but sometimes employees can be paid for the actual hours they work.

Home-working: working from home rather than on SOAS premises, either on a full-time or part-time basis.

Job-sharing: normally involves two people employed on a part-time basis, but working together to cover one full-time post.  Both employees will be paid according to the hours they work and special arrangements may be applied to annual leave.

Term-time only working: a method of working where an employee will work (either full or part-time) during the School terms and take annual leave and unpaid leave during the School vacation periods.

Staggered hours: allows employees to start and finish their day at different times and is sometimes used to extend core office hours or provide extra cover for busy periods.

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6 Review 


6.1 Reports on part-time staff and equal opportunities monitoring information will be made to the School’s Equality Committee.

6.2 To ensure compliance with this Procedure, a senior member of the HR Directorate may be invited or elect to attend any stage of this procedure.

6.3 This Policy will be reviewed regularly in line with any changes in employment legislation.

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7 Associated Policies and Procedures 


7.1 Grievance Procedures
7.2 Maternity leave policy
7.3 Adoption leave policy

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8 Associated forms 


8.1 Flexible Working Application form (Flexi1 form)
8.2 Flexible Working Written Decision form (Flexi2 form)
8.3 Flexible Working Written Appeal Form (Flexi3 form)
8.4 Appeal Written Decision form (Flexi4 form)

This Procedure was approved by UCU, UNISON and Staffing Committee (June 2007).

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