Have Your Say
We want to make sure our students and staff have a great experience at the University of Edinburgh. Through our 'Have Your Say' suggestion box, you can tell us how we can make staff or student experience better: what’s working well and how we can improve.
All of your suggestions will be taken into consideration, with answers and improvements being posted periodically below.
Please do not use this form in an emergency as it is not checked outside working hours. Please contact our trained support staff on 0131 650 2257 or visit edin.ac/crisis-support.
Responses to your comments and suggestions
If you would like to view answers to the submitted questions for the recent Staff Town Hall, please go to our SharePoint site. Staff Town Hall FAQs
Below you will find answers to the suggestions we have received via the Have Your Say suggestion box. We have taken all of the recently submitted questions, split these into themes, and collated answers for the most pressing topics.
We recognise that flexibility over working hours is an aspect of employment which is highly valued by staff and we pride ourselves in offering and accommodating a wide range of daily and weekly working patterns to help staff manage and achieve better work-life balance. We have not to date considered extending this to a formal ‘flexitime’ scheme but will keep this under review as we consider all aspects of our benefits offering and so improve staff experience.
This will be particularly pertinent as the Re-Shaping Workstream of Adaptation and Renewal develops its thinking regarding hybrid and home working.
Managers can turn to their local HR Advisor for advice on any aspect of University employment policy and practice and are encouraged to test their thinking with them, particularly when seeking to be fair to team members regarding flexible working requests.
Streamlining the Annual Review process
The new People and Money system offers us a great opportunity to review our approaches and processes around talent and performance development, including Annual Review. Work is well underway on this and should be launched in Phase 3 of the programme in Spring 2021.
Support for professional services staff who have a PhD or other qualification to allow them to continue to have an academic presence
There are a number of ways you can get support:
- Resources - you can access all of the online research resources on IAD.
- Time - you can discuss options with your line manager to identify what is right for you and the department.
- Funding - you could seek advice from the Research Support Office.
Staff development and opportunities to gain new skills and experience
We encourage all staff to own their own personal and career development, through study (which can be funded by the University), access to a wide range of development programmes and resources, sabbaticals, work and study abroad, secondments etc. We believe that this open access approach offers any member of staff the opportunity to learn and develop rather than focussing on a few.
The new People and Money system is giving us an opportunity to update our competency frameworks and we are replacing them with the digital competency framework, which is more up-to-date and better reflects the requirements of jobs at all levels in the University. In addition, we are looking to develop a framework of behaviours associated with our University Values which will also help staff at all levels understand the expectations of their roles and help in their personal and career development.
Tuition funding opportunities for staff
The University has two scholarship schemes already in place for staff:
- the Staff Scholarship Scheme - covers the funding for the member of staff themselves to undertake part-time postgraduate study for career enhancement within the University.
- the Children of Employees Undergraduate Scholarships Scheme – provides between 50% and 100% of the undergraduate fees for children of University staff who are not eligible for normal student support (as domiciled in Scotland would not pay tuition fees if eligible for student support).
Setting up a University-wide policy for Go Abroad opportunities
The University’s Erasmus Charter for Higher Education demonstrates our institutional commitment to ensuring “equal access and opportunities to mobile participants from all backgrounds”. However, we recognise that there is some variation across Schools and Units in their approach to enabling participation in Go Abroad for Staff activities.
While participation in Go Abroad Staff activities is dependent on line managers’ approval and the value they place on the proposed activity, we agree that a university-wide policy should be developed to ensure that all eligible staff have a fair and equal opportunity to participate. We will raise this with the University’s Study and Work Away Resilience and Development Group at its next meeting in September and will continue to raise awareness, and encourage recognition, of the benefits of this opportunity not only to individual participants, but also to their teams, Schools and Units and to the University as a whole.
Gender pay gap and representation of women at the University
We agree that the gender pay gap and the underrepresentation of women in senior grades are issues that require our constant attention and efforts. Although these issues are not unique to the University, and indeed are prevalent across the globe, we aim to be sector-leaders in tackling gender inequality. The University is the only university in Scotland, and one of a small number in the UK, to hold a Silver Athena SWAN award recognising our commitment and progress towards achieving gender equality. As a result of our targeted work and initiatives, our gender pay gap is closing and we have significantly increased the proportion of women at senior grades and in visible senior roles. We also have a large programme of ongoing work to improve the work-life experiences of our female staff. We still have much more to do, but we do hope you will consider staying at the University after your studies and joining us in our work to ensure equality for all.
Communicating contribution awards to staff
We’ll take feedback on board in the preparations for the next round of contribution reward as we most certainly want it to be a positive experience for staff.
The HR Reward team is currently reviewing ways to optimise the range of staff discounts which are already available. Please do have a look at our SharePoint site at: https://www.ed.ac.uk/human-resources/staff-benefits/discounts). They’re also working on the launch of a new portal which will introduce further discounts from a range of national retailers (including supermarkets). We aim to launch this early in 2021 so please do look out for more information in the near future.
As Arcadia at Kings Buildings is only 25 minutes on public transport from the city centre or a 15 minute drive, it does offer a very convenient for option for staff and students located in the central campus. It is also worth noting that while many staff and students work and study in the city centre, they do not necessarily live in the city so nurseries outside or on the outskirts of the city centre can be better for commuting parents/carers. Finally, the Arcadia nurseries offer high quality childcare in custom built accommodation, which were located on the Kings Buildings and Easter Bush sites during existing site refurbishment. In order to build the same level of childcare accommodation on the City Centre campus, the service would need to significantly increase charges to parents/carers to cover the costs, which would not present an attractive childcare solution.
Changes to the number of annual leave days that can be carried over
(New 18 November)
Throughout the pandemic, the University has been committed to ensuring the health, safety and well-being of all staff and students is our top priority.
The decision to increase the carry-forward allowance from 5 to 10 days for full-time staff, pro rata for staff who work part-time, for the 2021 calendar year, was taken at a meeting of University Executive on 8th September. It was based on a need to balance encouragement for staff to take leave and appropriate down time, against recognising that they had less opportunity to do so once semester one began. We have always encouraged staff to take regular breaks throughout the calendar year, as it is important for wellbeing even if people are unable to travel far.
Teaching and Learning
Issues with online teaching and lecture recording
(New 18 November)
The University provides an extensive programme of training and support to colleagues who teach using computers and equipment for them to use at home is available for loan if they need it. It may be that individual teachers are unaware that you cannot hear or understand what they are saying, so contacting them directly is a good way to give this feedback on your learning experience and encourage them to ask their local IT support for a better microphone.
Health and Wellbeing
The University is committed to supporting mental health and wellbeing at work and we will do everything we can to support you. This includes promoting healthy working practices which can help prevent stress and create positive working environments where people can thrive. We encourage you to discuss ideas for achieving this in your area with your line manager.
We encourage all staff to visit the Wellbeing Hub, which aims to bring together all University services and support into one location. Services include the University Chaplaincy's Listening Service which is available online - it doesn’t matter if you are not at all religious, they are there to support all members of the University community.
Wellbeing is especially important in the current circumstances and every member of staff can play a part in looking after their colleagues. Line managers do have some duty of care, although they are usually not qualified professionals and so their responsibility is to support in appropriate ways, signposting where professional help may be available, for example. The University cannot - and should not - take the place of the NHS and anyone struggling with mental or physical health concerns is advised to seek medical assistance via their GP.
Equality and diversity
Ensuring trans and non-binary students and staff feel safe and supported
The University has a strong and long-standing commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion and to promoting a positive culture which celebrates difference, challenges prejudice and ensures fairness. Our staff and students are our greatest assets and all members of the University community should expect to be able to excel, and to be respected and valued for their unique perspectives and contributions.
The University has a zero-tolerance stance towards harassment, bullying, discrimination and victimisation of any kind – this includes zero tolerance towards transphobia. Regarding the anti-trans slogans, we removed the materials upon discovery and reassure students and staff that, where applicable, these matters will be dealt with through disciplinary action.
The University should be a safe place for difficult conversations. We are committed to defending freedom of speech and expression, as long as it is carried out within the law and in a respectful manner. We have not organised a transphobic event. Given the size of our community, it is inevitable that the ideas of different members will often and, quite naturally, conflict. We encourage members of our community to use their judgement and openly contest ideas that they oppose, and feel protected in doing so.
The University will continue to support colleagues in expressing views even when the subject might be considered challenging by others in our community. We are clear that the University should both be a safe place for discussion and that freedom of expression is essential
Costs associated with the HR Helpline
The main advantage of the HR Helpline is service quality and consistency of response. The HR Helpline will become a centre of expertise in responding to HR queries so that people will get the same response wherever they raise a question. Not only does this align to Service Excellence principles but it also means that we can identify opportunities for continuous improvement: if the same question is raised repeatedly, we know that we need to provide more information in our guidance materials or that we need to share further information. In the current model, even where a fantastic answer was provided, that response is lost.
We’ve also looked at external benchmarks with the objective of reviewing how similar organisations deliver support through a HR Helpline. This has helped us to size the operation so that it is efficient but still able to meet the needs of its customers. We estimate that after we have passed the initial launch period we will manage to manage around 600 queries per month, with some peaks and troughs caused by cyclical activity. Most benchmarks also suggest a ratio of approximately 1 first line support advisor per 3,000 employees. Therefore we are confident that our thinking is in right area.
Finally, many of the local HR support teams provide excellence service; however, as a University we also have challenges in relation to cover, succession planning and maintaining knowledge amongst a dispersed population. Introducing the HR Helpline mitigates this risk.
The service is cost neutral and will utilise the new People and Money system as its main platform.