University staff on strike: legal comment
Tens of thousands of staff at 150 universities across the UK went on strike this week over pay, working conditions and pension cuts.
Industrial action short of a strike is also underway, including not covering for absent colleagues, refusing to make up for work lost to strike action and working to rule.
Susan Matthews, principal associate at national law firm Weightmans, comments on the long-term impact this action will have on student complaints. She said:
“On top of addressing issues underlying strike action, universities will also need to be prepared to manage the risk of a wave of complaints from students who have seen courses, exams or support services disrupted.
“Here, universities can face a perfect storm. As part of their standard procedures, some will rely on the goodwill of staff volunteers to help manage complaints – staff who may not now be inclined to offer any support. This increases the risk of complaints building up, and what can ultimately be significant reputational damage for the institutions involved.
“This year has already seen student complaints reach record high levels, and university leadership teams need to be alive to the risk of another surge in complaints now. It’s imperative they’re reviewing all options to help manage complaints rapidly and effectively. This includes engaging legal partners to help identify where they can improve their processes, and using the latest legal technology to help manage what may be sizeable volumes efficiently.”