Model Answers & Best Practice (internal)

The sections on this page provide you with model answers from both departmental and the institutional Athena SWAN submissions, along with examples of best practice initiatives across the University. These can be used as a guide when completing your submission, and reminder of where various good practice initiatives could be evidenced across your submissions. You can also download full copies of submissions.

Download departmental Athena SWAN submissions

Download examples of best practice across the University  



Model answers from the institutional submission (Silver, November 2018)

Section 5.3

(i) Training

Example: 

All Staff can access the resources on the “Develop. MANAGE. Lead” website on topics including equality, leadership, management skills, as well as topics relating to personal, professional and career development. We also offer a number of learning events specifically targeted at female staff., including Get Noticed, Dealing with Difficult Situations and the Art and Practice of Networking.

A suite of e-learning relating to equality and diversity is open to all staff; Diversity in Practice, Disability Confident, Gender Matters, Sexual Orientation, Transgender Awareness and Understanding Unconscious Bias. 

Section 5.3

(ii) Appraisal / development review

Example:

All staff take part in the University's annual Staff Review and Development Scheme (SRDS). As part of this process, academic and research staff consider what they have achieved in the past year, receive feedback from the designated Reviewer (usually their line manager), set objectives for the coming year and identify any training required to support the objectives. The department has developed separate forms for Academics and Researchers to ensure conversations are relevant to staff groups.

There is a bespoke SRDS form for Early Career Researchers and associated guidance documentation, co-produced between researchers, academics and Professional Services, which has been widely adopted. In the University agreed recommendations of good practices for positive research environments, it is agreed that an ECR can have an SRDS with someone other than their line manager/PI, and in some Departments this is standard practice.

Section 5.3

(iii) Support given to academic staff for career progression

Example:

During 2018 the University introduced an Academic Career Pathways framework, clarifying expectations of academic staff (covering those staff that undertake research and teaching), teaching staff, and research staff at every grade, to be systematically used during all appraisals and promotion cases. A core element for each staff category is leadership and citizenship, which explicitly includes the criteria to ‘Actively contribute to the collective interests of the University through individual action and inclusive, collaborative working.’ This includes taking a lead role in ED&I or demonstrating responsibility for it, and were deliberately included to enable managers to recognise, in appraisals and promotion cases, the contribution of staff involved in ED&I work (with staff networks and Athena SWAN given as examples).

Section 5.4

(i) Training

Example:

The Sheffield Professional Framework is a series of straightforward and inclusive statements under themed headings which describe the approach we expect staff working in professional roles to take to their colleagues and their work, creating common purpose and helping to break down boundaries. It was developed partly with employee feedback, and its content created, tested and validated through rigorous research with professional colleagues involving focus groups, 1:1 interviews and group exercises.

Section 5.4

(iii) Support given to professional staff for career progression

Example:

GROW is a cross-University mentoring scheme for professional services staff across the five academic faculties, and the Departments of Research and Innovation Services and Estates & Facilities Management. It is a six months mentoring programme which runs each year commencing in March. All grades of staff and levels of experience are invited to participate.

TechNet is a Technicians Network for collaborating and sharing expertise amongst technicians, managers and professional staff. TechNet started out at the University of Sheffield, but is open to technicians from other Higher Education Institutions.

Section 5.5

(iii) Cover and support for maternity and adoption leave: returning to work

Example:

Our Women Academic Returners’ Programme (WARP) provides additional support, over and above maternity cover, to academic and research women who are returning to work following a maternity leave period of at least six months. This is a positive action scheme to provide female academic and research staff protected time to focus on research activities, aiming to minimise the often negative impact on the research, career development and progression of female academics following a period of maternity leave. It benefits the individual, the department, and the University which is able to retain talented female staff.

Women can currently request up to £10,000 funding to support an additional post, or up to £5000 to support other research related activity. Applications must include detail of the intended use of the funds and a business case explicitly stating how it will benefit the applicant and their department. Must be accompanied by a supporting statement from the Head of Department, and a completed Maternity Planning Template, which provides a focused plan for the maternity absence.


Model answers from departmental submissions

Section 5.1

(ii) Induction

Example A: Computer Science

We significantly enhance the University’s induction policy. All new staff are given a full induction and academic staff are invited to a three-part course in the Faculty covering “Learning & Teaching”, “Research Impact & Knowledge Transfer” and “Management & HR”. In addition, each new academic on probation is required to submit a detailed, 3-year probation plan. New staff are assigned a departmental probation mentor and encouraged to meet with them regularly.

Example B: School of Mathematics & Statistics

Both SoMaS and the University have induction procedures for new academic staff, with specific activities tailored to different levels of staff. We now have an Induction checklist document that is introduced at the first Induction meeting, and we also provide information on our internal Wiki. The document outlines the people with positions of responsibility, who should be introduced to new staff members, where to find things, important procedures, and other information and links to information. It has the aim of reflecting SoMaS culture on the well-rounded academic; flexible working arrangements; University policy on gender, equality and diversity; parental and carer leave; mentoring and networking opportunities within SoMaS and the University.

Example C: Electronic & Electrical Engineering

The FoE provides an induction programme specifically for FoE academics new to TUOS. The programme is mandatory for EEE new academics and covers:

  • Learning and Teaching;
  • Research, Innovation and Knowledge Transfer;
  • Management, Staff Recruitment and Human Resources;
  • Academic Career Development and Opportunities;
  • University and Faculty Finance.

EEE assigns a senior academic (from the same research group) as mentor for each of the academics new to the department. Probation process and criteria for the new Lecturer are explained and monitored by the HoD in a series of review meetings, attended also by the Mentor. Each new academic also join the EEE Director of Research for a welcome lunch (individually or in groups of 2/3), to establish the right kinds of supports for the academics concerned.

For new Lecturers, the Director of Research provides coaching sessions for various aspects of research proposal preparation, and comments on research proposals prior to submissions. For research staff joining as research fellows (these are usually on competitively-won fellowships), they attend the same FOE induction programme and are also assigned mentors from EEE. The Vice-Chancellor Research fellows (EEE currently has one) participate in their own cohort induction programme and mentoring scheme (mentors and mentees from different departments). A current VC research fellow is a mentee and a senior academic was a mentor. EEE also assigns mentors for research fellows.

Section 5.1

(iii) Promotion

Example A: Chemical & Biological Engineering

Promotion of academics to a higher grade occurs through the Departmental Reward and Promotions Panel (DRPP) that meets once per year. The DRPP is composed of the Executive Committee. Submissions are via line manager or self-submission. The line manager will provide support and suggest promotion during the SRDS. The applications are discussed at the meeting then put forward to the Faculty Reward and Promotions Panel (FRPP) for approval. Applicants are not put forward to the FRPP if there is insufficient evidence at that stage, and in that case the HoD meets with them and discusses the next steps with them for promotion.

Example B: Computer Science

Promotions are handled by the Departmental Reward and Promotions Panel (DRPP). The DEC champion is a member. We ensure that it contains both men and women – we have an elected member which must be of the under-represented gender. Currently, we have 44% women on the DRPP. In addition to the meeting schedule required by Faculty, our DRPP holds an extra promotions meeting each year; applications for promotion are invited early in the cycle allowing iteration of their case, and at a preliminary meeting we explicitly consider all staff (whether they have applied or not); the HoD then encourages further applications. We view this as a crucial part of our staff development. When considering promotion cases, all elements of academic life (outreach, admin etc.) are taken into consideration. Staff have a very high awareness of this as well as of the promotion criteria; the rate of ‘agree’ and strongly agree’ have increased for both questions since 2012, and with fewer or same level of people answering ‘Don’t know’ (Figure 33).

Find out more about the Departmental Reward and Promotions Panel (DRRP) here: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/hr/thedeal/panel

Section 5.3

(ii) Appraisal / Development review

Example A: Electronic & Electrical Engineering

Appraisal via the annual Staff Review and Development Scheme (SRDS) has 100% return rate for academic, administrative and technical staff within the department. SRDS is viewed as an annual discussion between the reviewer and the reviewee to:

  • review progress against previous objectives and role expectations;
  • provide feedback;
  • discuss future plans and set objectives;
  • agree on a development plan.

All reviewers must attend SRDS training (which include equality and diversity) run by TUOS. Responsibilities for teaching, research, administration, pastoral work and outreach work of the reviewees are covered in CVs submitted as part of the SRDS process. The SRDS form encourages SMART objectives and training needs are identified jointly by the reviewer and reviewee. Promotion readiness is part of the discussion during SRDS and is followed up in additional meetings with the line managers. Furthermore, the Women’s Adviser highlights events on CV and promotion preparation (offered by the Women@TUOS Network) to the eligible female academics.

Example B: Chemical & Biological Engineering

The department has a 100% SRDS return rate, meaning every member of staff meets formally with their line manager at least once per year to assess performance and set targets for the next year. All line managers have undertaken the SRDS Skills for Reviewers training course. Additional information on SRDS was sent to all staff in 2013. To establish the effectiveness of SRDS, the Gender Equality Survey asked staff if they were provided with a helpful annual appraisal. Figure 17 shows 84% of staff (100% of females) agreed or strongly agreed, an improvement for females compared to 2012.

Example C: The Medical School


Academic staff
It is mandatory for all staff to take part in SRDS. Staff are only exempt if they are on maternity / paternity / adoption leave or long-term sick leave. The review process gives staff an opportunity to reflect on the last year, identify training requirements and set objectives & actions for the coming year. HR provide comprehensive training for all line managers undertaking SRDS e.g. a one day interactive course which develops the key skills of delivering feedback as well as agreeing and setting objectives. Additionally, there are also online guidance resources available for both reviewers and reviewees.

Professional staff
As above, the main difference is that a mid-term review at 6 months is undertaken for all professional staff to review progress against set objectives and make revisions as necessary. There are optional reviewee training sessions, but all line managers who will be acting as SRDS reviewers are required to undertake reviewer training and receive guidance on objective setting. After each annual SRDS process the identified training requirements for professional staff are reviewed and used to inform a professional staff bite-size training programme.

Section 5.3

(iii) Support given to academic staff for career progression

Example A: Chemical & Biological Engineering


Probation
New lecturers in the department undergo a 3 year probationary period and are assigned a probationary adviser, usually a professor in the department who acts as a mentor. The department has a policy that they should meet at least once a month. Probationary lectures are not given admin in their first year. Many academics have an additional mentor from outside the department through university-wide schemes.

Futures Mentoring Programme
This is an HR-led university-wide mentoring scheme for senior female academics, initiated in 2010 in response to an item on the FAPAP5. All Faculty Vice-Presidents agreed to mentor senior female academics. This aims to enable senior female academics to discuss their career progression with someone from outside their faculty. Find out more here: www.sheffield.ac.uk/hr/sld/developmenteverywhere/coachmentor/impactfutures

Example B: The Medical School

There are several schemes and initiatives in place for all professional services staff to maximise potential in existing roles or to support development and career progression (see below). Feedback is obtained annually to guide improvements and to ensure the staff requirements are met.

The Think Ahead G7/8 Researcher Mentoring Programme supports individual career ambitions in and beyond academia. There are a suite of mentoring programmes for research staff and research students, designed and developed using a research-led approach. This started in the Medical School in 2009 (www.sheffield.ac.uk/faculty/medicine-dentistry-health/thinkahead/mentoring) and has since been adopted across the University, being nominated for the 2014 European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) mentoring award.

Training is provided for both mentors and mentees and matching supports the needs of all mentees including a variety of desired career directions, ability to request a female mentor or someone who works part-time etc. Mentors support research staff at all stages of careers and into next positions whether that is within the academic environment, or in an alternative career path. The Medical school now has 33 trained mentors and over 100 G7-8 researchers have been mentored in the past 6 years, with 59% of those being female. An even number of males and females are regularly nominated for dedicated outstanding mentors every year (see here for more detail).

GROW Mentoring is a six-month mentoring programme which helps professional staff enhance skills, maximise potential and develop their careers. It launched in 2011 in Medicine and FMDH but has now been expanded to all Faculties. Find out more here: www.sheffield.ac.uk/growprogramme

Section 5.5

(i) Cover and support for maternity and adoption leave: before leave

Example A: Chemical & Biological Engineering

All staff are entitled to take up to a maximum of 52 weeks maternity leave. There is a dedicated University website, the Maternity Leave Toolkit that includes an overview of the process with useful links. When a member of staff announces their pregnancy, firstly a risk assessment is performed by the department health and safety officer in order to ensure that the environment of the worker is safe for pregnant women. Once they have announced the pregnancy to their manager, planning begins for their absence. There is a maternity leave planning checklist and they can determine eligibility for leave and pay. In addition to the university toolkit, the department also created a pro forma for academics taking parental leave to help them consider all aspects of their role.

Example B: School of Mathematics & Statistics

A risk assessment is carried out to identify any risks at work and ensure that these are effectively managed throughout the pregnancy. Staff are allowed paid time off to attend ante-natal appointments. The School aims to be flexible in permitting working patterns to accommodate preparations for maternity or adoption. As part of Athena SWAN activities, we developed a SoMaS checklist to help with management of maternity, paternity and adoption leave for academic staff. The checklist is designed to facilitate meetings with HoS before a period of leave and on return afterwards. This complements related institutional initiatives (which have been greatly developed and improved recently) and provides a checklist which is adapted to our departmental circumstances. The checklist also highlights institutional procedures and support, including Keeping in Touch days, the Parent-to-Parent buddy system, the Parents in Academia network and the Women Academic Returners Programme (WARP).

Section 5.5

(ii) Cover and support for maternity and adoption leave: during leave

Example A: The Medical School

While on maternity/ adoption leave staff are entitled to up to 10 Keep In Touch (KIT) days as detailed in the University policy. The Medical School (as a result of our previous action plan) has developed the Whyte payment for contribution to childcare expenses during one KIT per leave, which is an initiative designed to encourage and support our female colleagues with a financial contribution towards child care with the use of ‘keep in touch’ days whilst individuals are on maternity leave. Since its introduction in September 2015, seven women have taken the payment.

The number of people using KIT days has increased since our previous Athena SWAN award due to increasing awareness of the process. Should a fixed term contract come to an end while a member of staff is on leave, arrangements are made for them to have access to redeployment. In this way one male member of staff on shared parental leave was re-deployed elsewhere in the University during his leave. The majority of staff taking family leave will have access to enhanced leave entitlements that provide generous packages beyond the statutory requirements (including maternity, adoption and paternity leave). For more information visit: The Medical School or ScHARR.

Example B: Chemical & Biological Engineering

The manager and staff member discuss and agree the plans for the return to work, e.g. breastfeeding arrangements and risk assessments (if applicable). The department offers re-induction and checks workload considering and identifying any potential training requirements for their return. The return date is confirmed with the manager, and any annual leave. Keeping-in-touch (KIT) days are used to keep both the academic and department up to date and provide the opportunity to discuss return to work and flexible working. During maternity leave, cover for teaching and admin duties is arranged by the department.

Section 5.5

(iii) Cover and support for maternity and adoption leave: returning to work

The Women Academic Returners’ Programme provides additional support, if needed upon return to work, to minimise the impact of extended leave on research activities. This programme is open to women academics and researchers across all faculties at the University of Sheffield.

Example A: Computer Science

We encourage and help female academic staff to apply for ‘WARP’ (Women Academic Returners Programme) funding, a fund set up by the University to support women returners. Women are able to request up to £10,000 funding to support an additional post (i.e. a Teaching Assistant), or £5,000 to support research related activity.

The HoD speaks to all academic staff before they go on maternity leave to plan their leave, and we cover all work in the absence. For teaching this involves reallocation of tutees and project students and cover of lectures by others (made possible as we teach in “teaching teams”, where the vast majority of courses have more than one lecturer teaching on it). For research this involves reallocation of PhD students (made possible due to our PhD panel arrangements), and taking over of funded projects supervision. This is made possible since almost all grants have Sheffield co-investigators in addition to the PI. It is never the case that we leave work to be done upon return by the woman returner.

Upon return all staff meet with the HoD in a ‘return to work’ interview. Here we discuss what additional support is necessary: this varies case by case, and involves adjustments if the member of staff is returning part-time. We endeavour to make sure we offer support for aspects such as teaching and admin duties by allowing staff to choose whether they keep their prior duties or do different things. These preferences are the first ones fed into any new allocations in the WAM.

For non-academic staff, following the staff members return to work, the line manager will have a 1-1 meeting to review any flexible working arrangements, and to highlight any changes that may have taken place during the period of leave, this may include staffing changes, or an introduction to new or amended systems that may now be in Place. For academic and research staff, the Women Academic Returners’ Programme (WARP) provides additional support to minimise the impact of extended leave on research activities.

Example B: Chemical & Biological Engineering

When the member of staff returns, the department re-induction programme includes discussion and agreement of SRDS objectives. The staff member receives appropriate updates on new or amended systems of work and any new members of staff or staff departures. The department has a policy of no admin and teaching load in the first full semester after returning from maternity leave. This allows the academic to concentrate more fully on research. The Women Academic Returners´Programme (WARP) provides additional support, if needed upon return to work, to minimise the impact of extended leave on research activities. This programme can be accessed if women need additional support, over and above their maternity cover, to keep their research on track. A senior lecturer recently returning from maternity leave successfully applied for WARP funding as was awarded the full £10k. She has been able to appoint to recent postgraduate students to complete experimental work and four journal papers are anticipated in the time.

Section 5.5

(vi) Flexible Working

Example A: The Medical School

The School values flexibility within its workforce and recognises the importance of helping its staff to balance their work and personal life. All applications for flexible working have been successful. Where a contractual change is not required (such as occasional working from home, redistribution of hours (compressed hours), early/late starts and/or finishes), these are negotiated with the line manager and agreed by the Head of Department.

Section 5.5

(vii) Transition from part-time back to full-time work after career breaks

Example A: The Medical School

All staff are supported fully if they wish to return to work part-time after having a child, with the understanding that they can increase their hours again if and when they choose to do so. We help all staff achieve a work-life balance that suits them and review this in the yearly staff review and development scheme sessions to ensure that nothing needs to change. Any staff wishing to increase their hours as their children get older are supported in doing so by their line manager and head of department.

Example B: Chemical & Biological Engineering

The policy is that once a career break has been agreed by the Head of Department, the staff member is guaranteed to be able to return to the same or a similar job. It is understood that working part time after a period of leave may enable a steady transition back to their former role. A formal arrangement is required (a contractual change) and a re-induction or re-training programme must be agreed upon with their line manager upon their return. They must also discuss with the line manager how their work will be covered in their absence.

Section 5.6

(ii) HR Policies

Example A: The Medical School

The Medical School works collaboratively with a dedicated team of HR Professionals who provide advice and guidance on the application of policies and best practice. A cascade approach is generally taken to the dissemination of new policies and procedures, with information initially being shared with the School Management Committee. Information is then communicated via HoDs and Department Executives.

There are comprehensive online toolkits available which provide good practice guides to support Medical School managers to manage such processes fairly, effectively and consistently. Some examples of the toolkits available include Dignity at Work (incorporating bullying, harassment, discrimination and victimisation), Dispute Resolution, Disciplinary, Capability and Sickness Absence Management. These toolkits contain template letters (e.g. invitation to formal meeting; notification of appeal hearing), ‘How To’ guides (e.g. how to chair a formal hearing; how to carry out an investigation), template documents (e.g. investigation report and witness statement templates), as well as procedure flowcharts and guidance documents.

In the event that formal proceedings are instigated (for example disciplinaries, grievances etc), these are conducted with HR professionals present to ensure all relevant procedures are adhered to consistently. The University works closely with the recognised campus trade unions to review policies and procedures, who in turn provide advice and support to their members on a wide range of work-related matters. The Medical School also has a representative on the University’s Dignity and Work Network, which is run by colleagues across the University who have received training in the Dignity at Work Policy and Procedures.

Example B: Computer Science

Exec regularly reviews policy and practice, taking advice from the Faculty HR representative (the HoD and HR adviser meet monthly). We are fortunate to have had very few disciplinary cases or HR issues, and both HR and the UCU monitor the frequency across departments to highlight any potential issues. Any differences between policy and practice are usually due to individual interpretation / action, and these are dealt with informally or formally by the HoD with HR support. We have found that a quiet word will usually illuminate the need for consistent policy, and staff have been uniformly welcoming of our approach. Communication on HR issues is by a combination of University / Faculty / Departmental announcements / talks and discussions, using a variety of means including both verbal and electronic.

Example C: Clinical Dentistry

Our HR lead is a member of SAT and she updates our director of administration and Dean on changes in HR policies, this information is fed through to the School Executive Committee and School Management Team for wider dissemination. This ensures all policies are applied consistently. We had one formal disciplinary case in 2015 where bullying and intimidation was also cited.

The School followed our HR process, involving the University HR department with the result that the person involved was dismissed in December 2015. The case was handled quickly and professionally illustrating to all that we do not tolerate bullying or harassment in any form. This was reflected in our survey (80% response rate) whereby 88% of women and 80% of men felt “confident that their line manager would deal effectively with any complaints about harassment, bullying or offensive behaviour”. We will use every opportunity (including our “Meet your SAT” lunches, to ensure staff continue to be fully aware of all HR policies including grievances and bullying and harassment (AP 6.3).