Industrial action information for staff

Information for staff about industrial action.


Latest updates

18 September: Industrial action update

From Monday 18 September, the Sheffield branch of UCU are asking their members to take up to ten days of local strike action, relating to the University’s approach to pay deductions from the 179 people who participated in the marking and assessment boycott which ended on 6 September.

In addition, and running concurrently with the local strike action, next week (Monday 25 - Friday 29 September) there are nation-wide strikes planned which will impact nearly 150 UK universities linked to the ongoing national dispute.

Director of HR Ian Wright provides an overview of the local and national situation.

Read the full update

General information

Which trade unions are taking industrial action?

The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) balloted its members for action over both pensions and pay/related matters. UCU obtained a mandate for action in both disputes, but as of 19 April 2023, action is being taken solely in the pay/related matters dispute, with all action under the USS dispute paused pending further positive progress on the valuation process.

When does industrial action start and end?

UCU announced Action Short of a Strike to take place on a continuous basis from Wednesday 23 November 2022. They renewed this mandate in late March, so are now able to take industrial action on these disputes until 30 September 2023.

UCU members at Sheffield will be able to take strike action from 18-29 September 2023, in a combination of local and national action. 

Action short of a strike includes UCU members working to contract, not undertaking voluntary activities, not covering for absent colleagues, removing uploaded materials relating to and/or not sharing materials related to lectures or classes that will or have been cancelled as a result of strike action, and not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action.

The boycott of marking and assessment processes, which UCU asked its members to take part in from 20 April 2023, has ended.

What is the current dispute about?

Nationally, UCU has declared one dispute in relation to changes to USS (the pension scheme for staff on grades 6 and above), and another over national pay negotiation outcomes and working conditions.

On 19 April 2023, UCU informed the University that whilst the dispute on USS remains in place, they would pause industrial action in this dispute following positive progress in relation to commitments to improve benefits in the scheme.

Read more about our stance on these national issues

Sheffield’s branch of the University and College Union (UCU) will call on members here to take continuous strike action in the first two weeks of the new semester; 18-22 and 25-29 September (intro week and week one). This is local action in response to the approach taken to pay deductions for participants in the marking and assessment boycott, which has now been called off.

What is the University of Sheffield's view on the national disputes?

These are complex matters and the national issues are of concern to us in Sheffield as well as across the higher education sector.  We continue to work closely with our trade union colleagues locally, with the aim of helping to make Sheffield a great place to work and study.
Please take the time to read this article by Ian Wright, Director of HR, which highlights what we have been doing locally for colleagues in relation to the issues raised in the UCU ballot.

About industrial action

Who can take part in the industrial action?

Where a mandate for industrial action is obtained and a trade union calls on its members to take industrial action, those trade union members who were balloted are able to participate in industrial action. It is also possible for staff who choose to join that trade union after the ballot to take part in the industrial action.

Trade union members from unions which do not have a mandate for action or which are not calling on their members to take industrial action cannot participate in industrial action.

What is action short of a strike (ASOS)?

ASOS is when trade union members engage in an action that falls short of a full withdrawal of labour, sometimes known as partial performance of the contractual duties.

This can take many forms including a refusal to carry out specific duties or responsibilities. In the current UCU mandate, members are being asked to work to contract, not undertake voluntary activities, not cover for absent colleagues, remove uploaded materials relating to and/or not share materials related to lectures or classes that will or have been cancelled as a result of strike action and not reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action.

From 20 April 2023, UCU called on members to participate in a boycott of marking and assessment processes as a form of action short of strike. This has now ended.

What is a picket line? Can I cross it? 

During strike action it is possible that picket lines of striking staff might be present around the University campus outside various buildings. Picketing is a lawful activity where staff who support the strike stand outside their normal place of work to inform other staff members why they are striking.  Picketing should be undertaken peacefully and it should not prevent those who are not striking to go to work or continue doing their usual work. 

We do not anticipate any problem arising as a result of any pickets or protests that may form during industrial action and have spoken to UCU about their pickets. Representatives of our local UCU branch have assured us that they do not tolerate harassment and they will have picket supervisors available to manage issues and that anyone picketing will be made aware of the national UCU guidance on lawful picketing. 

Should you, any of your team or students have any concerns with pickets outside your place of work please email or contact your HR team. 

If you feel intimidated in any way or witness any behaviour you find concerning which requires a more immediate response, please telephone Security Services on 0114 2224085 to raise your concerns or 0114 2224444 for an emergency response. 

If you feel that you have been the target of harassment or bullying during the strikes then you can use our Report + Support platform to make a confidential disclosure or a formal report.

More information regarding picketing can be found here.

What to do if you want to participate in industrial action

Who should I inform if I decide to participate in industrial action?

If you participate in the strike action, you must complete a strike notification form.

You must complete and submit the notification form to your Head of Department on the first day you are back at work following the end of the strike action.  

If you participate in action short of a strike (more detail below), you must complete the separate ASOS notification form. We will confirm the process for submitting these forms as soon as possible.

Working during industrial action

What work should I prioritise during the industrial action?

Our aim during the industrial action is to minimise the impact on students. For this reason, we ask all staff to prioritise, where possible, student-facing activities. Your Head of Department/manager will be able to advise as appropriate. This may mean you will be asked to prioritise teaching over other academic and administrative activities for a short period.

I am not taking part in the industrial action and have been asked by my manager to cover for a colleague who is taking industrial action, is this ok?

During industrial action, all staff are asked to prioritise student facing activities, which may mean departments may require flexibility in what work is undertaken to enable this. You should only be asked to undertake any duties which are grade appropriate, and for which you are suitably skilled and/or trained. There may be situations where your manager seeks a level of flexibility in terms of covering duties which fall outside of your normal role.  If you or your manager are unsure what may be deemed reasonable, you are advised to seek HR support.

Can my Head of Department ask me to carry out work that is covered by Action Short of a Strike?

Yes, it is still a reasonable management request for your Head of Department (or line manager) to ask you to do work that is covered by action short of strike. However, if you are refusing to do this work because you are taking action short of strike, you must tell your Head of Department (or line manager) when asked, and complete the Action Short of Strike notification form.

Can I work from home or take annual leave during industrial action?

We are aware that many staff are utilising a hybrid working approach, so may already be doing some work from home. However, we wish to ensure that there is adequate cover during periods of industrial action so that we can maintain services as much as possible, provide adequate support for students and reduce any possible impacts on learning and education. Therefore, requests to work from home or to take annual leave might not be agreed during periods of industrial action unless it follows your normal working pattern or in exceptional circumstances.

We acknowledge that there will be circumstances where such requests can, and should, be agreed, and this is not intended to be a blanket ban on people taking time off or working flexibly. Please speak to your manager to determine what will be possible.

Note: If agreements were made before the University received the notification of strike action from the trade unions we expect these agreements to be honoured.

What happens if there is still outstanding marking and assessment work at the end of the pay deduction period when staff return to work?

If work is still outstanding at the end of the pay deduction period then this will be allocated to staff in the usual manner, with a clear expectation that it is completed by a stated deadline. If staff continue to participate in the boycott of marking and assessment processes, the University reserves the right to make further deductions from pay in response to this partial performance.

Impacts on pay, pensions and deductions

What will be the impact on my pay if I take part in the strike action?

Participation in strike action will result in a breach of your contract of employment. Consequently, if you choose to take strike action you will have a day’s pay deducted for each day that you are striking. If you choose to take strike action you are required to complete the strike notification form on your first day back at work after taking strike action. The daily rate of pay for calculating pay deductions will be deemed to be 1/365th of annual salary for a full-time employee, pro-rata for part-time staff. Graduate Teaching Assistants who take action will not be paid for any of the hours of work they were scheduled to undertake.
The University’s principles and approach to pay deductions are available here. The withholding of pay is without prejudice to any other right or remedy which the University has in relation to staff who participate in industrial action, including any claim for damages for breach of contract.

What will be the impact on pay if I take Action Short of a Strike?

The University’s principles and approach to pay deductions will govern how the University manages situations of dispute resolution including those involving industrial action.

If UCU members take the following forms of ASOS, there should be no breach of contract, as they will still be undertaking their full contractual duties - where this is the case, there will be no deduction from pay:

  • Working to contract
  • Not undertaking voluntary activities
  • Not covering for absent colleagues
  • Removing uploaded materials relating to and/or not sharing materials related to lectures or classes that will or have been cancelled as a result of strike action
  • Not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
When will pay deductions for industrial action be made?

Withheld pay for participating in industrial action will be taken in the next available payroll.

How will strike pay deductions appear on my payslip?

Your payslip will show a deduction for the total days of industrial action that will be processed in that month. The deduction will appear coded as either:

  • ‘Strike pay adj’ - Strike pay deductions where you have requested that pension contributions are maintained.
  • ‘Strike pay TNP’ - Strike pay deductions where you have requested that pension contributions are not maintained.
What happens to pay withheld from staff participating in industrial action?

Pay deducted from those taking industrial action will remain in departmental budgets. It may be used to mitigate or remedy the impacts of the strike action, in particular any impact on student learning opportunities and objectives.

I am a GTA/casual worker and I want to take part in the industrial action. What will be the impact on my pay?

Casual workers and GTAs who plan on withdrawing their labour in support of the industrial action will not be paid for any work missed on those days. 

GTAs and casual workers who participate in the industrial action should complete the strike notification form and should not claim hours that they had planned/been scheduled to work.

What will be the impact on my USS pension where pay deductions are applied?

The default position will be that the University will pay the employer’s contribution as though you have worked on each strike day and will deduct any employee’s contributions you would normally pay (including any additional contributions), based on the full notional pensionable pay you would have earned had you not taken industrial action. This will mean USS membership will not be affected during the strike period.

If you do not want your normal USS pension contributions to be deducted, you must indicate this on your strike notification form. Please note that in this situation you will not accrue pension benefits for that period. 

We can confirm however that for the period of the currently stated strike days, USS has put in place arrangements for death in service and ill health cover to remain in place where full contributions are not maintained.

I am a GTA/casual worker and I can’t do my work as someone I was supporting has not turned up due to strike action, what happens to my pay?

You will be paid for the hours you were due to work on that day. You will need to inform your departmental contact who will process the hours for payroll as per the normal process. 

You may be asked instead to undertake alternative, grade appropriate tasks for which you are suitably skilled and/or trained to undertake at the time you were previously scheduled to work. 


I’m an international member of staff. Will taking part in strike action have an impact on my Tier 2/Skilled Worker sponsorship?

Tier 2 and Skilled Worker visa holders will not be penalised for some absences from paid work in the UK, which includes engaging in legal strike action.  This means that a Tier 2 / Skilled Worker visa holder's leave to remain will not be affected if such absences cause their salary to fall below the required threshold.

I’m an international staff member with a family visa. Will taking part in strike action have an impact on my visa?

There is no specific impact for someone on a family visa under Appendix FM in taking part in strike action. However, if you are extending your family visa or applying for indefinite leave to remain please be aware that the UKVI has an eligibility criteria around proof of income. This can be met in various ways, including combined employment income of you and your partner over a period of time specified by the Home Office. The immigration rules and guidance do not permit  any reduction in this figure on the grounds of taking part in strike action.

Further information about the required proof of income can be found on UK Visa & Immigration web pages.

Health, safety and wellbeing

How are you supporting staff during the industrial action?

Your Head of Department, or their nominated deputy, should be in touch with information on the strike action, and support for you. Please speak to them, or your immediate line manager, if you have any questions or concerns. You can also email

The staff wellbeing webpages offer a number of routes for general support.

Do we require a departmental health and safety representative and a trained first aider during strike action?

There is no legal requirement for a departmental health and safety representative. If your trained first aider is on strike or absent and your department requires first aid response, please call security control (ext 4444)  who will provide first aid response as needed.

Learning and teaching

I plan to flip all my teaching online during strike days - is this okay?

Please speak to your Head of Department in the first instance. Moving teaching online will depend upon the nature of the session, and for laboratory and practical sessions this may not be appropriate. With classroom based teaching we encourage Heads of Department to take pragmatic decisions based on local circumstances.  We would however strongly encourage engagement with the student body in determining these, to ensure that their views and preferences are taken into account.

Contact us

If you have any further queries please email