January 16, 2007

Equal opportunities and diversity for staff in higher education

Statistics for equal opportunities in higher education, May 2005

Project 1 - Report to HEFCE, SHEFC, HEFCW by Pamela Abbott, Roger Sapsford, Laura Molloy

Grievance, discipline and working conditions

In a number of circumstances it has been found that an indicator of poor working relationships, and particularly of harassment and bullying, is rapid staff turnover. In principle the HESA record includes date of entry to current institution, date of leaving/changing employment (for leavers) and destination on leaving (divided into early/‘normal’ retirements, those moving to another HEI post and those leaving the sector).

It would be possible to look at speed of turnover, perhaps comparing it with level or salary achieved, separately by gender or ethnic group – controlling for age by discarding people retiring at the normal time, though extent of early retirement and retirement on health grounds might be of interest here). In commerce or industry it is admitted that departments with high turnover may have poor working practices or working conditions.

However, in practice the use of identification numbers may not be sufficiently reliable, between institutions, for such an analysis to be carried out – though it is hoped this problem will soon be solved - nor will existing data permit this kind of analysis for non-academic staff. Further, the ‘destination’ information itself tends to be of poor quality, with a high proportion of reasons for leaving coded as ‘unknown’.

Straightforward records of grievance procedures and disciplinary procedures brought during a given year are kept by institutions. [Good to know.] Some of them monitor these to see if any demographic category of staff is over-represented, and this might be commended to all institutions as an interesting and perhaps enlightening indicator. [Indeed.] It would be possible to aggregate the figures centrally, to look for trends over time or between types of institution, but numbers are always likely to be too small for valid judgments to be made about individual institutions. [Really? How convenient!]

The problem with formal grievance/discipline procedures, from the point of view of statistical monitoring, is that they come at the end of a long chain of actions and decisions and are therefore rare...
How rare is rare?

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