Students Staff
University of Essex

March 2, 2021

No Smoking Policy

Filed under: Advice & Support — Victoria Beckwith @ 1:03 pm

In February 2020, our revised No Smoking Policy was approved by USG. Below are some headline changes:

  • Individual requirements are clearer
  • There is a stronger focus on personal judgement and responsibility within the law.
  • There is helpful signposting to internal and external sources of support and information

We are committed to creating an enabling environment at the University and our revised Policy aims to strengthen our commitment to providing a healthy and safe working environment for all. As an employee you are expected to take personal responsibility for observing this Policy.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working life – with many employees experiencing significant changes to their lives and work routines (e.g. home-working and furlough) – has heightened many of the wellbeing risk factors, such as increased emotional pressures and social isolation. The University wish to provide as much support as possible for those who wish to give up smoking. Please contact your Employee Relations Advisor or Occupational Health if you have further questions about the support available.

November 24, 2020

Alcohol, Drug and Substance Misuse Policy

Filed under: Advice & Support,People Management — Tags: — Victoria Beckwith @ 11:05 am

In November 2020, our revised Alcohol, Drug and Substance Misuse Policy (formally the Alcohol and Drug Policy) and Manager Guidance were approved by USG. You can find them both on our Staff Directory.

Below are some headline changes:

  • Change of policy name from Alcohol and Drugs Policy to Alcohol, Drugs and Substance Misuse Policy.
  • Support for staff with an alcohol/drug problem to seek help/advice at the earliest opportunity.
  • A strong focus on wellbeing recognising that resilience and mental health are not intrinsic to the individual but are influenced by the surrounding environment.
  • A recognition that there may be moments of transition in people’s lives when difficulties may be experienced.
  • A greater clarity on roles and responsibilities for staff, line managers, colleagues and the wider People & Culture team, and weblinks to both internal and external support services.
  • Manager Guidance to accompany the Policy focusing on supporting line managers to use personal judgement where appropriate to ensure support is compassionate and adaptive to individual situations.

Whilst many people enjoy drinking alcohol socially and in moderation, there is a recognition that alcohol, psychoactive drug and substance misuse contributes to health problems accidents at work, absenteeism, to inefficient working and, in extreme cases, social breakdown.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working life –with many employees experiencing significant changes to their lives and work routines (e.g. home-working and furlough) – has heightened many of the wellbeing risk factors, such as increased emotional pressures and social isolation. It is vital that we create an environment where people feel able to ask for help and confident that they will be supported to get the help they need.

We are committed to creating an enabling environment at the University, in which all our members can thrive, and it is important that you take care of yourselves and look after your physical and emotional wellbeing. Our revised Policy aims to strengthen our commitment to providing a healthy and safe working environment for all.

Please contact your Employee Relations Adviser or Occupational Health if you have further questions about the support available.

You can also download the free Dry January app, which will help you to meet your goals, whether you want to take on Dry January, cut down your drinking, or go totally alcohol-free. You can use this app at any time to understand your drinking patterns.

November 9, 2020

Changes to Essential Training

Filed under: Advice & Support — Tags: — Mohammed Alam @ 3:39 pm

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce the launch of ‘How we work at Essex’ that will replace the existing suite of Essential Training for all employees. This has been developed to better reflect our values, reduce the workload required to complete Essential Training and to respond to feedback from colleagues. A new programme to replace the current suite of Essential Training for managers ‘Do you manage the Essex way?’ is also being developed for launch in March 21.

The termly Essential Training reports and Essential Training policy have been updated to reflect this new approach to Essential Training for all employees. The termly reports will be updated to reflect the new training and the new policy outlines a need for all employees to engage with annual refresher training. More information about these developments can be found below:

  1. How we work at Essex aims to extend the focus of Essential Training to include values-based decisions and behaviours in addition to ensuring that colleagues are aware of their statutory obligations, professional standards and legal requirements. It is anticipated that the course will take approximately 2-3 hours to complete with a short refresher for all staff expected every academic year. How we work at Essex will be launched on week commencing 23rd November with termly reports being sent in late January.
  2. Do you manage the Essex way? Is being designed to provide managers at Essex with a greater understanding of how we manage at Essex. Resources and guidance will be available to support managers in their role. It will include insights from managers, practical activities and an opportunity to plan your future development as a manager. We intend to launch this in late March and will keep you updated with developments.
  3. Annual refresher training. To ensure that colleagues continue to be fully supported in their roles, Essential Training refreshers will need to be completed after the start of academic year 2021-22. It will introduce important legislative changes that people will need to be aware of, raise relevant issues or themes that have emerged during the last year and test essential aspects of How We Work at Essex.

If you have any questions or feedback regarding our Moodle resources or approach please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at

August 5, 2020

Diversifying Leadership

Filed under: Advice & Support,Developing Excellence — Mohammed Alam @ 2:16 pm

As part of the University’s commitment to support Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff transition into leadership roles, 2 places have been funded to attend the Advance HE programme Diversifying Leadership. The programme is designed to support early-career academics and professional services staff from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds who are about to take their first steps into a leadership role. It explores themes of power and influence, demystifying leadership, cultural identity and cultural capital, increasing your visibility and authentic leadership and features leadership stories from high-profile HE leaders.

“The diversifying leadership programme is excellent because it helped me to understand the structures and systems that I needed to navigate to achieve my goals as a Black academic. I had extensive experience in Higher Education and although I was very aware of the barriers that existed, I didn’t fully understand what I had to do to overcome them and achieve the goals that I knew I was capable of. The programme provided valuable insight into the role of ‘sponsors’ and how they facilitate a supportive environment for Black academics to flourish. On completion of this  programme I was able to successfully apply for ‘permanency’ and promotion to senior lecturer. Structural racism does impact Black academics, but this programme helps participants to understand the barriers and hurdles that they need to overcome to achieve their objectives and goals.”

Feedback from a previous participant on the programme 

Further information and the application form can be found on Leadership courses. Please submit questions and completed application forms to by 5pm on 21 August

August 3, 2020

Managing Staff Return to Campus Webinar for Managers

Filed under: COVID-19 — Mohammed Alam @ 11:22 am

Our guidance documents are available on the staff directory to explain how we will determine what work/activity should be carried out safely on campuses and how we are following the current guidance from the UK Government, PHE, and HSE.

Before we return to our campuses, managers will need to ensure that the risk of COVID-19 transmission from a work activity is reduced or eliminated (where possible) for all members of staff, including those that may be at increased risk due to their individual medical vulnerability.

If you are responsible for managing risk assessments within you team,  you should complete a COVID-19 Departmental Risk Assessment to update your current Departmental Risk Assessment based upon the risk of COVID-19 transmission and share this with managers in your department.

All managers with line management responsibility will be asked to identify any members of their team who may be at increased risk due to their individual medical vulnerability.   This will then help us to assess whether they can return to campus or whether they need additional support to do so. To do this you will need to complete the Individual Work Activity and Staff Health Risk Assessments for each member of staff.

The workshops below will support you in completing these risk assessments and you can register for a workshop by selecting from the Zoom links below:


Managing Staff Return to Campus Webinar for Managers – Completing a COVID-19 Departmental Risk Assessment

This webinar led by Andy Fraser from Workplace Health, Safety & Wellbeing will help you learn how to complete this risk assessment, highlighting the activities, hazards and control measures you should consider. 

You will also have the opportunity to field any questions specific to your work area.

You only need to complete this training if you have responsibility for completing your department or section’s risk assessment or have been specifically asked to do this.

Wednesday 5th August – 2pm – 3.30pm

Monday 10th August – 11.30am – 1pm


Managing Staff Return to Campus Webinar for Managers- Completing Individual Work Activity and Staff Health Risk Assessments

The webinar led by Lara Carmel and Nicola King from Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing team will provide guidance for Line Managers in identifying staff that may be at increased risk due to their individual medical vulnerability during the COVID-19 outbreak and considering the risk levels of the individual work environment. 

How to identify the vulnerable staff and what may support them to return to campus-based work will be explained and you will also have the opportunity to field any questions specific to your work area.

Tuesday 11th August – 2pm – 3.30pm

Thursday 20th August –  11.30am – 1pm

July 2, 2020

Armed Forces Week

Filed under: Developing Excellence — Tags: — Mohammed Alam @ 12:56 pm

My job as the Financial Reporting Accountant in Financial Planning and Data Insight involves compiling annual financial statements, generating financial reports, and providing advice on the finance system.

In the Army Reserve, my role is Communications Systems Operator with 36 (Essex Yeomanry) Signal Squadron Royal Signals. Since joining in February 2019, I have been developing the skills to fulfill this role, these include setting up radio detachments and using the Bowman radios, as well as basic soldiering skills.

I have really enjoyed my time building up these skills, with every course being different and allowing me to meet plenty of fantastic people from a wide variety of backgrounds, all of who have the same drive and determination to succeed in common.

The skills that I have learned in both of my careers have been able to complement each other, including time management, teamwork, and communication. Also, specific skills such as using IT systems and coding have been transferable.

One of my highlights with the Reserves so far has been completing my Phase 1 course, which was spread out over four weekends and two weeks and involved learning all the basic soldiering skills, such as fieldcraft, using a rifle and navigation. Another highlight was being able to march through London in January as part of the Privilege Parade. This celebrated my Regiment earning privileged status, allowing them to march into the city “with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed”.

Last month, I took part in part in the 100 for 100 challenge to raise money for the Royal Signals Charity. This involves running 100kms in the month of June to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the Royal Signals. I took this on as a personal challenge and managed to run 476kms, coming first in terms of distance in the regiment, although definitely not first nationally. This is also assisting in my training for the London Marathon, which has now been delayed to October, which I am running to raise money for Help for Heroes), so far, I have raised just over £400 of my £1,000 target.

The University has been brilliant in supporting me in taking part in the Reserves, by allowing me to have additional paid leave to attend my courses and being flexible with fitting my work around any of my obligations.

If you are a Reservist, veteran or part of a military family, we’d love to hear from you.

 Ian Haw, Financial Reporting Accountant in Financial Planning and Data Insight

Recording COVID19 related absences

Filed under: Advice & Support — Tags: , — Mohammed Alam @ 12:54 pm

As you are aware, the University is preparing for a number of different scenarios in relation to the current COVID19 situation. This means that we are changing the way any absences related to COVID19 are recorded through iTrent sickness recording.  We are also reminding staff of the need to ensure that their preferred contact number and emergency contact details information is updated on HR Organiser.  Holding this information is a reasonable request and the data will only be visible to line managers and People and Culture (HR) members of staff.  We would be grateful if you could also encourage your team member(s) to do the same.

Preferred contact number and emergency contact details

HR Organiser has the provision for members of staff to record their preferred contact information as well as adding a named individual and contact information as an emergency contact.  This information is only visible to staff within People and Culture and the individual’s Line Manager.  The information is held securely on the University HR system, please can we take this opportunity to remind you to complete the form on HR Organiser and ensure your record is up to date.

To access the page please choose the personal tab at the top of the home page on HR Organiser.

Recording instances of COVID19 related absence

The University is clear in its policy of how staff will be paid when absent from work in a COVID19 related absence.  However, in addition to paying staff we do need to understand how many of our staff may be affected and what we can further do to support affected staff or areas. We have therefore created a separate absence reporting options within iTrent and via People Manager.  COVID19 related absences will be treated as sickness absence but will not impact an individual’s entitlement to sick pay, the entitlement will not be impacted by length of service or any other current term and conditions around entitlement to pay.  Further support for staff is now available on our webpages which we will be working on keeping updated as more news is available.

The categories for recording are:

  • Dependant in self-isolation or school closure
  • Self-isolation on medical advice – contact with confirmed case – no symptoms
  • Self-isolation- return from Category 1 Country
  • Self-isolation- return from Category 2 Country – with symptoms
  • Self-isolation on medical advice with symptoms
  • Covid-19 diagnosed

These can be accessed via People   and recording of ‘Other absence’, attached is a guide to help you when processing this information.

If you currently do not record your sickness through People Manager (UECS or WHH) or are unable to access People Manager please can you email with the details and we will record this on your behalf.

Should you need any further help on how this is done please contact

June 30, 2020

Working practices

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Victoria Beckwith @ 11:28 am

Susie Morgan, our Director of People & Culture, tells us about the responses to our ‘Working During COVID-19’ survey.

Many of us have experienced enormous changes to our working lives during the pandemic whether we are working from home, working on our campuses, or on furlough leave. I do not underestimate the scale of this change and very much appreciate how difficult it has been for colleagues as we try to create new work spaces, find new routines, stay connected, stay well, and of course balance our home and work lives.

We wanted to understand how colleagues were adjusting in recent weeks and if there was more we could put in place to help. Our ‘Working During COVID-19’ survey ran in May and I would like to thank colleagues who contributed their views and gave us ideas for future support, this was very much appreciated. In total we had 757 responses to the survey from colleagues across the University, and through  those responses we have been able to capture both the individual and shared experiences during this time. Personal and professional circumstances vary enormously; specific challenges for groups and individuals were explained and while for many there have been solutions found, it was clear for others this remains a very difficult moment of transition and the impact considerable.

Overwhelmingly colleagues appreciated the efforts and consideration by others and offered constructive feedback for how we can continue to improve the current working environment as well as prepare for future cycles of remote working. Our communications through university emails and web pages seem to have been informative and timely but we are keeping our approach under review to ensure length, format and content remain accessible and informative without duplication. It was reassuring to learn that the majority of respondents also felt that the University had managed the transition to different working environments well, although of course there is always more we can do.

The Survey has raised a number of priority areas where we can continue to build on the progress made. For example, many colleagues asked questions about their return to on-campus working. We have been working as a cross-university team to develop our guidance here including our approach to risk assessment and will shortly be publishing it.

Workspace was an important factor. The majority of respondents felt they have a workspace at home which, whilst it may not be ideal, is functioning well enough for them at the moment. This might be as a result of personal investment such as buying new equipment, finding strategies to balance shared spaces, and compromising on preferred approaches to work. A second screen is missed by many of us (myself included) and the need to continue to build digital confidence will be important for future working practices.  Providing access to equipment and technologies is an area where our Health and Safety, and ITS teams are working hard to provide the guidance and support needed and the survey captured how much this was appreciated by colleagues. We are currently trialling an approach for colleagues to be able to access their office equipment from Campus, once complete, we will publish the details of this new process to Heads of Department and Section on 02 July.

Health and wellbeing was understandably another priority area. We know that we have many resources and support available online to help colleagues in developing strategies to stay mentally and physically well at work, as well as access to specialist services when needed but we can do more to share these and help managers to share them with their teams.

As a result of the survey findings we will put in place more guidance and support for managers on areas of wellbeing, communication, delegation, online meetings, recognition, and return to role. We will also curate and share development opportunities available to everyone on topics such as how to strengthen digital skills and confidence, and working as a member of a remote team.

The responses to the survey questions can be found here: Working Practices Survey Responses

Thank you to colleagues for completing the survey. If you would like to get in touch please do email me on

January 17, 2020

Gender pay gap blog, January 2020

Filed under: Advice & Support,Gender equality — Tags: — Mohammed Alam @ 3:30 pm

The publication of our third annual gender pay gap report is a key moment to review our progress in relation to equal pay and to apply best practice in shaping our commitment to rewarding staff fairly, based on their contribution regardless of their personal characteristics.

There are a range of dimensions to the gender pay gap: ensuring equal pay for work of equal value, so that women and men get paid the same for similar work; and closing the overall pay gap (defined as the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across the organisation).

On the first dimension, our regular equal pay audits have confirmed that by grade and across all grades, we have no significant gender pay gaps between women and men and there is equal pay for work of equal value. On the second dimension, between 2013 and 2019, our institutional mean gender pay gap (which is a measure of the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across the University), has reduced by 8.3% (from 24.8% to 16.5%). Our institutional median gender pay gap is currently 16.2%. This represents good progress, but it is not acceptable to have any gaps at all.

Over the last three years, we have been working hard to delve deeper into the data. We know that the gap arises from the uneven distribution of men and women across grades and that we have a much higher percentage of female staff working at lower grades and a higher percentage of male staff at higher grades. We also know there are many other reasons that lead to a gender pay gap – and that we need to tackle these.

In order to identify where further progress can be made, we have therefore looked at pay gaps within sections and departments and by job families i.e. academic staff and professional services staff.

This analysis has revealed that the main driver of the gender pay gap (men’s and women’s average earnings) is large numbers of male staff in highly paid academic roles. If the five academic departments with the largest gender pay gap were removed from the calculation, the mean gender pay gap would reduce to 13.2% and the median to 11.1%. In these departments, the percentage of female staff decreases sharply at higher grades. We also know that sections/departments with more equally balanced numbers of men and women across all grades have lower pay gaps.

Future Actions

One option provided for in the Equality Act 2010 is for positive action to be taken at the point of offering employment. This means that when a panel considers that two (or more) candidates are of equal merit, the panel can select a candidate from a particular group that is under-represented. This approach might provide an opportunity for departments with large imbalances in the gender distribution of academic staff, to address this – and to this end HR will be providing guidance on how this might be taken forward.

Another option is to have a better balance between males and females.  If a department currently has 80% male academic staff and 20% female academic staff, we think our aspiration should be to have 60% males and 40% females. Our HR teams will provide each department with the necessary information to support their decision-making. We think a 60/40 distribution – whilst not ideal – will be an improvement and something to aspire to. Our ultimate long-term target is a 50/50 distribution, but this does not currently reflect trends in the sector or the UK overall.

Whilst the focus of this work requires us to consider gender as binary, we know that many members of our community identify outside the gender binary and/or as trans. We are committed to continuing to work to create an environment that is truly inclusive for everyone regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, age or disability status. I would really like to encourage you to engage in Athena SWAN work going on in your department and, if you work in a professional services section, to look out for our new Athena SWAN-inspired Essex Diversity Impact Award Scheme.

Like many, I was shocked by recent incidents involving the removal and defacing of posters in support of LGBT+ people. Their removal or defacement is utterly unacceptable and I want to encourage you to play whatever part you can, in making clear that we are community where everyone is accepted without exception.

December 18, 2019

Alcohol Awareness

Filed under: Advice & Support — Tags: — Victoria Beckwith @ 4:25 pm

Alcohol is a big part of UK culture, and features in many of our lives. For some of us, we use it for celebration, for comfort, to socialise, to wind down, or to cope.

We must be mindful that alcohol, whilst a part of many of our lives, can cause harm if misused, including mental health problems, liver disease, one of seven forms of cancer and economic difficulties.

We are committed to creating an enabling environment at the University, in which all our members can thrive, and it is important that you take care of yourselves and look after your physical and emotional wellbeing.

We are encouraging you to raise awareness of your own use of alcohol, and have provided Drinkaware scratch cards in main staff areas and receptions.

Please take and complete these cards, and if you have any worries or concerns about your use of alcohol, then there are services and support you can access, including:

Please contact Occupational Health if you have further questions about the support available.

You can also download the free Dry January app, which will help you to meet your goals, whether you want to take on Dry January, cut down your drinking, or go totally alcohol-free. You can use this app at any time to understand your drinking patterns.






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