We demand better: UCU at the TUC march and rally, 18 June 2022 We demand better: UCU at the TUC march and rally, 18 June 2022 Boycott Goldsmiths HE dispute: ASOS - support the ongoing action

UCU equality banner


16 December 2020

UCU has put equality at the heart of its activities on behalf of its members.

Many UCU branches have equality officers who can assist you if you have any concerns on an equality-related issue. Otherwise your UCU departmental rep or other branch officer will be able to help. To find out if there is an equality officer at your branch and how to contact them ask your departmental rep or branch secretary/president. If you don't know how to contact any local UCU representative contact your regional office

Diary date Important dates in the equality calendar

The local contact finder will give you details of the relevant branch officer for your institution.

Congress Equality Fringe Meeting

  • Protecting staff and students after Child Q, 31 May 5pm - 6:30pm 

This fringe will take an intersectional look at the steps members can take to protect their
students and themselves in a discussion set around the experiences of Child Q. It will
specifically look at this topic in relation to race, gender, migrant status, LGBT+ identity and
disability. For further information and to register please use the link below.


Black Lives Matter in Ukraine - statement from the UCU black members' standing committee

Not long ago, the whole world was in uproar over the brutal murder of George Floyd in the USA. This murder exemplified the racist treatment of people of African descent in the diaspora. There are those who believed that this treatment only happened in the USA. However, developments since Russia's invasion of the Ukraine have given the lie to this contention. African and Caribbean students fleeing the war zone have reported experiencing alarming racist incidents whilst trying to leave. Many of these incidents have been captured on camera.

Such incidents include:

  • individuals and families being prevented from boarding trains due to depart the Ukraine
  • the use of physical force to push back black women and children in order to prioritise white Ukrainians
  • refusing black people's entry into Poland because of the colour of their skin.

UCU condemns the war being waged against the Ukrainian people by Russia and supports the safe passage of all peoples fleeing the war.

In addition, UCU strongly condemns the anti-black racism, violence and isolation significant numbers of African and Caribbean students have had to endure as a consequence of 'race selection'.

In war situations, the safety of all lives should be paramount. UCU's black members' standing committee stands with all students and workers experiencing the harrowing effects of a war that is not of their own making.

We send solidarity and support to everyone caught up in this conflict. It is important to remember that Every Single Black Life Matters in this time of war, and racism has no place in this world, especially in this time of conflict.

Please see a few links below that might be of interest to you if you would like to support African and Caribbean students:

Response to EHRC interventions on trans rights

'The recent interventions by the Equality and Human Rights Commission concerning the rights of trans and non-binary people are deeply concerning. In calling for delays to the reform of the Gender Recognition Act in Scotland and failing to back a wholescale ban on LGBT+ conversion therapy, the EHRC is actively undermining the interests of the trans and non-binary community.

'These developments are just the latest in a string of interventions which fly in the face of the EHRC's stated purpose to promote and uphold equality and human rights ideals. They are particularly concerning in light of the involvement of senior EHRC staff in legal cases seeking to limit access to trans healthcare, and wider reports of high-level meetings with groups seeking to restrict trans rights.

'UCU has clear policy, formed through our democratic structures, in support of GRA reform which will make it easier for trans people to gain legal recognition of their gender. As UCU's response to the Scottish Government's consultation makes clear, the current lengthy and medicalised process is not fit for purpose and needs to change. We reject attempts to position GRA reform as a threat to the legal protections which are in place for other groups, and urge the Scottish Government to move ahead with its proposals.

'UCU is also clear that we cannot settle for half measures in relation to the ban on LGBT+ conversion therapy. All parts of the LGBT+ community deserve protection from these harmful practices and we reject the EHRC's assertion that the scope of legislation should exclude trans people and be limited only to sexual orientation.'

Disability Employment Charter

The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic saw disabled people being hit hard by the crisis and continue to be so.  In the workplace, the sporadic way in which reasonable adjustments have been implemented has left many disabled workers unable to participate fully in work while being more likely to be made redundant, added to this is the growing disability pay gap that currently stands at 16.5% according to the TUC.   The Disability Employment Charter sets out concrete aims and objectives to redressing the current imbalance and is in response (in part) to the government's National Disability Strategy.

Endorsed by UCU's Disabled Members' Standing Committee, we are pleased to announced that UCU has added its name to the Disability Employment Charter (www.disabilityemploymentcharter.org), created to put pressure on the government to end discrimination in the workplace against disabled people.  

The time for action is now.  We encourage branches to speak with employers and ask them to sign up to the Charter.  Developed by Disabled people, Disabled People's Organisations (DPO's), charities and trades union, the Charter addresses nine key areas for improving the working lives of disabled people:

  1. Employment and pay gap reporting.The government should require all employers with 250+ employees to publish data annually on: the number of disabled people they employ as a proportion of their workforce; their disability pay gap; and the percentage of disabled employees within each pay quartile.
  2. Supporting disabled people into employment. The government should: increase disabled people's access to employment programmes and apprenticeships; increase the scale, quality and awareness of supported employment programmes and supported internships; and increase the provision of tailored careers advice to disabled people.
  3. Reform of Access to Work (AtW).The government should: remove the AtW support cap; ensure application / renewal processes are efficient, personalised and flexible; entitle disabled job-seekers to 'in principle' indicative awards; facilitate passporting of awards between organisations and from Disabled Student's Allowance to AtW; and increase awareness of AtW support.
  4. Reform of Disability Confident.The government should: require all employers at Disability Confident Levels 2 and 3 to meet minimum thresholds regarding the percentage of disabled people in their workforce; and remove accreditation from employers that do not move up within 3 years from Level 1 to Levels 2 or 3.
  5. Leveraging government procurement.The government should: ensure award decisions for all public sector contracts take into account the percentage of disabled people in the workforce of tendering organisations; require government contractors to work towards a minimum threshold regarding the percentage of disabled people in their workforce; and take failure to achieve this threshold into account in future contract award decisions.
  6. Workplace adjustments. The government should: require employers to notify employees on decisions regarding reasonable adjustment requests within two weeks; make the option to work flexibly from day one the legal default for all jobs; introduce stronger rights to paid disability leave for assessment, rehabilitation and training; and fund an increase Statutory Sick Pay to the European average.
  7. Working with disabled people and their representatives. The government should: require employers to consult and negotiate with disabled people and their representatives on disability equality matters; and provide trade union equality representatives and disability champions with statutory rights to time off to perform their role.
  8. Advice and support.The government should create a 'one stop shop' portal to provide information, advice and guidance to employers on recruiting and retaining disabled people, and to disabled people on their employment rights.
  9. National progress on disability employment. The government should take into account increasing disability prevalence in calculating the disability employment gap, and use the 'prevalence in calculating the disability employment gap measure in monitoring national progress on disability employment.

Annual Day of Action for Disability Equality in Education

Please remember to share any activity to mark this year's Day of Action for Disability Equality held Wednesday 24 November.  In addition, use our resources for continued local bargaining for disability equality which can be found here.  Please email eqadmin@ucu.og.uk to share how your branch will mark the day of action.

Statement from the Disabled Members' Standing Committee on the National Disability Strategy

The Government's long awaited National Disability Strategy https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-disability-strategy, sets out its plans on improving the lives of disabled people.  Unfortunately, the strategy is hugely disappointing and has been roundly criticised by various disability rights organisations.   The Disabled Members' Standing Committee issued the following statement:

National Disability Strategy

As an education Union, we are appalled that Post-16 education is barely mentioned in the 121 page document. On inclusive education, the strategy does not provide any clear direction for disabled students to access mainstream education and with the constant erosion of support for post 16 disabled students over a number of years, the strategy does nothing to redress this.

The onus of support is for the disabled individual, with no firm requirements for employers to increase employment for disabled people. This 'strategy' does nothing change society in a way that will meaningfully enhance the life chances for disabled people.  In addition, employers will be provided with further information on addressing disability discrimination in the workplace and reasonable adjustments - but employers have been required to eradicate disability discrimination and provide reasonable adjustments since 2010, so this will do little to advance the interests of disabled people. 

UCU, along with the TUC, called for the strategy to include several elements which are missing from the strategy - these include:

  • Mandatory disability pay gap reporting for all employers with more than 50 employees. This should be accompanied by a duty on bosses to produce targeted action plans identifying the steps they will take to address any gaps identified.
  • Enforcement of reasonable adjustments: The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should get specific funding to enforce disabled workers' rights to reasonable adjustments.
  • A stronger legal framework for adjustments: the EHRC must update their statutory code of practice to include more examples of reasonable adjustments, to help disabled workers get the adjustments they need quickly and effectively. It will assist courts and tribunals when interpreting the law - and it will also help lawyers, advisers, union reps and human resources departments apply the law and understand its technical detail.

We call on the government to engage meaningfully with education unions and disabled people's organisations to right this egregious wrong.

Statement in response to Al Jazeera podcast series on sexual harassment and abuse in UK universities

Elements of the 'Degrees of Abuse' podcast series published in recent days by the Al Jazeera Investigative Unit illustrates in heart-breaking detail both the worrying prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse in UK universities, and the inadequacy of current institutional responses to complaints of this nature.   

All students and staff in UK universities should be free to work and study safe from sexual harassment and abuse. We need to see significant, coordinated action from the sector to develop and enforce robust policies on sexual violence, so staff and students can have confidence that complaints will be treated seriously. This must include work to ensure that patterns of behaviour by perpetrators are identified, and to address the hierarchical power dynamics which often serve to embolden perpetrators.  

The stories explored in the podcast echo the thousands of reports from our members to UCU's member-led task group on sexual violence which was established in 2020 to inform the union's campaigning on this issue. The group will publish a detailed report and recommendations later this month and engage in other follow-up activities to ensure that UCU can provide the best possible reporting mechanisms, representation, legal support, and aftercare to survivors and put the struggle against sexual abuse at the heart of our workplace organising. 

The task group builds upon a range of existing resources to support branches and activists, including:  

  • The 'Challenging Sexual Harassment' training course for reps - search here to see if there's a session coming up in your region or ask your regional office to organise one if not.  

  • UCU's 'Challenging Sexual Harassment' CPD session, raising awareness of how to recognise and challenge sexual harassment. Suitable for all members, contact Rob Hancock (rhancock@ucu.org.uk) to organise a session for your branch.  

  • This short guide to Dealing with Sexual Harassment in the workplace, which includes details of how branches can implement good practice in handling cases.  

  • UCU's Bullying and Harassment toolkit, which includes a range of resources for dealing with all types of harassment.   

If you have concerns about, or are experiencing sexual harassment, you can also call UCU's dedicated support service on 0800 138 8724. Calls are confidential, free of charge and 24/7, and will allow you to talk about your experience, discuss options including counselling and access details of further sources of support, if necessary. For full details, please visit: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/9316/Sexual-Harassment-Support-Helpline.  

You can also find details of a range of support services across the UK here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/11365/Sexual-violence-support-services/pdf/sexual-violence-support.pdf  

Mind Matters

Mind Matters ribbon

Mind Matters is a space for UCU members to share their experiences and reflections on mental health and wellbeing, as well as being a catalyst for branches to use as conversation starters and for removing the stigma associated with mental health.

Solidarity statement with footballers experiencing racism

UCU condemns the racist abuse which has been directed towards Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and other members of the England national football squad in the days following Sunday's European Championship final.  

Racism has no place in our society or our workplaces, but this week's events are a stark reminder that Black people and communities across the UK continue to receive racist abuse on a regular basis.  

UCU sends our solidarity to all those experiencing racism and reaffirms our commitment to tackling racism in all its forms. 

Read UCU's guide to building anti-racist workplaces

Joint statement on the Sewell report

Responding to the final report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparity, the UCU has supported a joint statement with NUS and sister unions which describes the findings as an 'insult' to those facing racism in Britain every day. The statement, which was informed by UCU's Black Members' Standing Committee, refutes the report's assertion that Black communities do not face structural or institutional racism and points to a wide range of evidence of how systemic racism is manifested across the UK. You can read the full statement here.

Capturing migrant members' experience of the immigration system

UCU is currently supporting some research into migrants' experiences of the UK immigration system; if you'd be willing to be interviewed for this, or for similar research in the future, please email here. 

Pregnancy & maternity (redundancy protection) bill

UCU has joined with Maternity Action and 19 other organisations and trade unions to call on business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to act swiftly upon the Women & Equalities Committee recommendation to adopt Maria Miller's pregnancy & maternity (redundancy protection) bill and speed it into law.

Insecure labour: the realities of insecure work for pregnant women and new mothers

UCU has worked with Maternity Action and UNISON on a joint project that explores the impact of insecure work on the rights of pregnant women and new mothers at work. This has resulted in a report with a series of recommendations, launched on 25 November 2020. Based on interviews with ten women in precarious work, it examines the lived experience of pregnant women seeking to negotiate a safe working environment, a secure income and fair treatment. It also shines a light on how the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and made life significantly more difficult for pregnant women in insecure work. You can download the report here.

Building anti-racist workplaces: a short guide for UCU branches

In recent weeks, many institutions have declared support for George Floyd whilst reiterating their anti-racist credentials. While these statements are welcome, it is more important than ever for branches to consider how they can challenge racism at all levels and work to create anti-racist environments. UCU has produced a short guide for branches [288kb].

Oppose plans to shelve reform of the Gender Recognition Act

UCU has a proud history of enabling members to self-identify, including when it comes to their gender. As outlined in our statement on trans inclusion, UCU supports a social model of gender recognition which recognises that gender is not solely defined by the sex assigned at birth. We are champions of equality and welcome the increased visibility and empowerment of trans and non-binary people in our society.

We are therefore concerned by recent reports suggesting the government intends to shelve long-awaited reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. These reforms would make it easier for trans and non-binary people to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate that legally acknowledges their gender identity.

UCU's policy is clear: there should be no delay in reforming the Gender Recognition Act. We're not alone in this view - 70% of the 100,000 responses to the government's consultation supported progressive reform.

We are asking members to help us support trans rights and put pressure on the government by writing to your MP and asking them to push for these much-needed reforms to be taken forward.

UCU - standing proudly against racism

Yet another black person has been killed at the hands of the police in the USA. The events taking place there are the latest bloody chapter of centuries of racism and oppression of black people. The magnitude of his death can be felt across the world by black people who experience the violence of state and other racism every day.

Here in the UK, as in the USA, black communities face structural inequalities resulting in disproportionately high numbers dying as a result of Coronavirus, unprecedented levels of unemployment and ongoing race discrimination in the workplace.

UCU stands in solidarity with George Floyd and we send our sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones.

UCU stands in solidarity with protestors across the world seeking to address generations of injustice.

UCU stands against racism.

UCU stands on the side of justice.

UCU stands for #blacklivesmatter

From the Coronavirus pandemic to the economic crisis we are facing, it is evident that inequality and systemic racism is on the rise. You can find a range of tools to challenge all forms of discrimination on the UCU's equality webpage.

How you can help:

  • Sign: add your name to the Justice for George Floyd petition
  • Donate: in the US, a fundraiser has been set up in George Floyd's memory by his brother Philonise Floyd to cover funeral costs and counselling as well as expenses during court proceedings, and the Minnesota Freedom Fund helps to support those in custody who can't afford bail. In the UK, UCU is affiliated to the United Family and Friends Campaign, supporting the families of those who have died in custody, which also welcomes donations.
  • Inform: UCU is encouraging black members to complete this TUC survey on the treatment of BME workers during the Covid crisis.
  • Organise: information on UK based solidarity events can be found here. Please also let us know what is happening in your branch or community.

UCU urges the government to scrap the immigration health surcharge

Following the government's decision to exempt NHS and care workers from the Immigration Health Surcharge, the Migrant Members' Standing Committee has published a statement calling for the government to go further and scrap the charge entirely. The statement outlines how the £400 a year fee is a punitive double tax on migrant staff and calls for it to be abolished alongside other up-front costs for health care as part of a move towards a more humane immigration system.

You can read the full statement here:  MMSC statement on IHS May 2020 [262kb]

Read UCU's press statement, including details of a letter to the Home Secretary on this issue, here: Immigration health surcharge should be scrapped, urges UCU

UCU statement on anti-Semitism and academic freedom

UCU has been concerned to learn of a recent incident on social media where a link was made between a Jewish member, Rosa Freedman, and Holocaust denial. UCU condemns this incident and reaffirms its commitment to tackling anti-Semitism and all other forms of discrimination and prejudice. 

UCU is a staunch defender of academic freedom, and believes the ability to challenge received wisdom and discuss controversial topics is of crucial importance to our education system, our union and our democracy. 

At the same time, the union recognises that academic freedom is inextricably bound up with other human rights and civil liberties. Academic freedom offers important protections, but it also comes with the responsibility to respect the democratic rights and freedoms of others.

UCU is committed to championing equality, celebrating diversity and opposing all forms of prejudice, discrimination, harassment and oppression. As outlined in our statement on academic freedom, UCU's rules clearly require all members to refrain at all times from harassment, prejudice and unfair discrimination whether on the grounds of sex, race, ethnic or national origin, religion, colour, class, caring responsibilities, marital status, sexuality, disability, age or other status or personal characteristic. 

As a diverse and inclusive union, we are committed to encouraging respectful discussion on important and sometimes controversial issues, while simultaneously working to protect and advance the rights of those who are oppressed and marginalised in our society. UCU will continue to work towards a world where everyone, regardless of their personal characteristics, can live and work without fear of harassment, discrimination or marginalisation.

UCU update on sexual harassment

This year's Heart Unions week has reminded us that sexual harassment is a shamefully widespread problem faced by workers across the UK. Recent statistics show that half of women and two-thirds of LGBT+ people have reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment and violence are endemic across society; the trade union movement and the sectors we organise in are unfortunately not exempt.

UCU recognises that those who experience violence and harassment face huge challenges, often including pressure from perpetrators and employers to keep quiet about their experience. This is especially true for those who experience sexual harassment and violence directly, but can also be the case for those who witness harassment or support students and colleagues to speak out about their experiences.

All those who experience or are affected by sexual harassment and violence have a right to be listened to and supported. The union is fully committed to ensuring there are safe, fair and accessible systems in place to provide as much support as possible - both in the workplace and in the union.

That starts with making sure members can be confident about the support UCU will provide if they want to raise a complaint about sexual harassment. We acknowledge that, unfortunately, this hasn't always been the case in the past but we are committed to learning and improving where we can.

To that end, the union is currently undertaking a wide-ranging review of how we support members who have experienced or are impacted by sexual harassment. In the coming months we will be drawing on the expertise of organisations including Acas and the 1752 Group to take forward this work, so we can learn from best practice and ensure our approaches - including the union's own disciplinary procedures - are as accessible and supportive as possible.

We also need to redouble our efforts to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace. UCU has a range of resources and training to support members and branches, but we will also be further developing our work in this area through a new task group on sexual misconduct, harassment and violence. The task group is a new initiative that will draw on the wide experience of members to explore these issues in more depth and consider how we can tackle them effectively. We will be announcing more details about this in the coming weeks.

The union stands in solidarity with all organisations working to tackle sexual harassment, and is supporting the TUC's This Is Not Working campaign for a new duty on employers to take steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. If you haven't already done so, please take a moment to sign the petition calling on the government to act.

If you have been affected by sexual harassment or violence and would like advice or support you can contact your branch, email SHsupport@ucu.org.uk or call UCU's dedicated helpline on 0800 138 8724.

Supporting members to challenge discrimination and harassment

Being subject to discrimination can be incredibly upsetting and undermining. It can feel like a personal attack and those subject to it can feel isolated and vulnerable. It is important that UCU representatives and members work together to identify what treatment is discriminatory and challenge employers where that is the case.

Discrimination takes many forms and people respond differently to how they have been treated in a variety of circumstances.

This toolkit is designed to help you and your UCU representatives identify that what you have experienced amounts to discrimination, how to gather relevant evidence and the practical steps and procedures to be followed through internal processes and, if applicable, to the employment tribunal stage. Not all cases will result in an employment tribunal claim. Many claims of discrimination can be resolved through the internal procedures and this guide will ensure that you and your UCU representatives have put your best case forward.

Challenging discrimination - how to build an effective case: a toolkit for UCU members [705kb]

Trans inclusion

UCU's position on trans inclusion

This document presents UCU's position on trans inclusion. The position is based on policy made at UCU annual congresses and explores key concepts which inform the position such as intersectionality and academic freedom:

UCU's position on Trans inclusion [164kb]
UCU's position on Trans inclusion [69kb]

UCU supports trans workers' rights and, as champions of equality, we welcome the increased visibility and empowerment of transgendered and non-binary people in our society. It is our responsibility to promote equality and ensure the provisions of the Equality Act are implemented and adhered to by our members and in the sectors where we organise. This is also written into our rules. Our rules commit us to ending all forms of discrimination, bigotry and stereotyping.

UCU has a long history of enabling members to self-identify whether that is being black, disabled, LGBT+ or women. At UCU's annual congress and further and higher education conferences, policy on gender identity has been developed over many years.

UCU supports the right of all women (including trans women) to safe spaces and the continuation of monitoring that can help identify discrimination against women, men and those who identify as non-binary. UCU also supports a social, rather than a medical, model of gender recognition that will help challenge repressive gender stereotypes in the workplace and in society.

The fight for women's rights is far from won. For too many women, sexual harassment and domestic violence is a daily reality, alongside unequal pay and other forms of discrimination at work, including maternity pay and leave. UCU will continue to campaign hard to protect the rights of working women.

UCU is aware that the debate around gender identity has in some quarters become bitterly divisive. Our strength is to bring members together and to build bridges rooted in our values of equality. UCU opposes any violence, intimidation, bullying or disrespect towards any group that faces discrimination, and from whichever quarter. Trans people, including students and staff in tertiary education, face physical and verbal abuse, prejudice and discrimination, marginalisation and misrepresentation. UCU is fully committed to providing practical support and policy guidance for reps and trans members in challenging discrimination and harassment.

Dying to work logo : This link opens in a new window Dying to work

Many people get a serious illness at some time during their working lives, often returning back following a period off work for treatment and to recuperate. However, for many people, the situation is different if they have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Currently, a person diagnosed with a terminal illness is not classified as having a protected characteristic and therefore may have limited legal protection against employers dismissing them due to an illness.

The TUC's 'dying to work' campaign is calling for additional employment protection for terminally ill workers and to implement a terminal illness policy which would ensure that all employees would not risk losing their job along with the financial security of their families after receiving a terminal diagnosis. In addition, the campaign is calling for terminal illness to be made a 'protected characteristic'.  

Read our briefing paper on the campaign here [651kb]

You can order campaign packs by emailing contact@dyingtowork.co.uk

Challenging far right activity - Who are Generation Identity?

Written by UCU activists for Stand up to Racism, this insightful report is vital reading for everyone on the dangers of far right activity on university and college campuses.

Challenging the rise of the far right [694kb]
Challenging the rise of the far right [1mb]

Mental health

Members who may need mental health support or advice will face their own unique challenges and many may need little or no changes to their working environment.  However, understanding their needs and being able to advise and support members is paramount to ensuring that the stigma, stereotypes and discrimination associated with mental health are addressed.

Branches are encouraged to work with campus unions (where possible) to adopt the Mental Health Charter which has been endorsed by the Disabled Members' Standing Committee.  The charter is a visible demonstration of our continued commitment to provide mental health support to members and reps in the workplace.

Branches are also reminded of UCU resources and training courses on supporting members and reps including:

  • guidance, briefing and toolkits documents
  • One in Four - a briefing on mental health at work
  • supporting members with mental health conditions and issues
  • mental health awareness training - www.ucu.org.uk/training
  • advice for reps - members who have feelings of despair

Education Support provides free confidential 24/7 counselling and independent advice for UCU members. Telephone 08000 562 561 or visit their website at www.educationsupport.org.uk.

Mental Health Charter - providing for a healthy workplace [401kb]
Mental Health Charter final Oct 2018 [311kb]
World Mental Health Day 2018 [324kb]

Toolkit - a strategic approach to gender-based violence prevention in Scottish higher education institutions

The University of Strathclyde has produced a toolkit, 'Equally Safe in Higher Education', with support from the Scottish government. This valuable and practical collection of university specific materials provides a free resource for all universities to utilise and apply to their own institutions. It encourages and embeds a strategic approach for the prevention and eradication of all forms of violence against women and girls.

The toolkit (which has been developed by UCU members amongst others), plus other resources, is now available here.

Equality and policy unit

UCU has a national team of staff with expertise and involvement in the whole equality agenda. They implement the policies and priorities determined by members through the democratic lay structures'.

  • Jenny Sherrard - National Head of Equality and Policy and Equality Support Official for migrants
  • Seth Atkin - Equality Support Official with specialism for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans equality and age equality
  • Charlotte Nielsen - Equality Support Official with specialism for gender
  • Chris Nicholas - Equality Support Official with specialism for race and religion or belief
  • Sharon Russell - Equality Support Official with specialism for disability
  • Swati Patel - Administrator

If you have a general equality query, or to join one of our equality network mailing lists (black, disabled, LGBT+, migrant and women & members) contact eqadmin@ucu.org.uk

If you think you might be interested in becoming a UCU equality officer you can find out more about what is involved on the Equality reps page.

About UCU's equality work

There are advice leaflets for members on various types of discrimination, bullying and harassment in the getting support section of this website.

Resources and guidance for UCU equality officers and activists can be found at  
Equality advice and guidance
Equality research and policy
Getting involved in events
Equality Events

If you have a general equality query, contact eqadmin@ucu.org.uk

UCU has negotiated national equality agreements in both HE and FE (see pay and conditions section) which branches/LAs strive to get implemented locally. The National Equality and Policy Unit (see above) supports branches/LAs and regional offices on equality issues and work to influence government policy on equality.

The union provides many opportunities for members to become involved in our equality work. UCU organises events specifically for black, disabled, LGBT+, migrant and women members. We also have email lists for each of these groups which you can join by emailing eqadmin@ucu.org.uk.

Helping out at a local level is a great way to promote equality at your workplace - you don't necessarily need to become an equality officer, just an offer to circulate newsletters or put up posters for example will be appreciated. See How do I get involved? for more information. If you do think you might be interested in becoming a UCU equality officer you can find out more about what is involved on the Equality reps page.

UCU policy on equality is determined democratically by our members,

While our prime concern is to fight for greater equality at work, we also strive to campaign against injustices members face in other areas of their lives, whether on grounds of sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, being a migrant, religion or belief, age or any other aspect of identity which can lead to discrimination.


If you are experiencing discrimination or harassment at work see the Equality advice and guidance for advice on getting support.

If you have a problem and need your union's help, your first step should always be to contact your local branch.

Our dealing with problems page offers some basic advice on resolving problems at work. Please be aware that time limits can apply, so please don't delay if you need to raise an issue.

A woman's place is in the union Getting involved in equality

The UCU equality conference is held each year in November/December. The current format is for the conference to include four separate sessions for black members; disabled members, LGBT members and women members. During those sessions, the conference will elect members to the four national equality standing committees. These are:

  • Black Members Standing Committee (BMSC)
  • Disabled Members Standing Committee (DMSC)
  • LGBT+ Members Standing Committee (LGBT+MSC)
  • Migrant Members Standing Committee (MMSC)
  • Women Members Standing Committee (WMSC)

There are 12 members of the BMSC, DMSC, LGBT+MSC and MMSC and 15 members of the WMSC.

The main objectives of each committee is to advise and make recommendations to the National Executive Committee of the union on issues specific to the members whom they represent.

For example:

  • the BMSC is advising the NEC on actions and initiatives that will ensure Black members are visible in all aspects of the union's work including establishing regional networks
  • the DMSC has advised the NEC on reasonable adjustments at work for disabled workers
  • the LGBTMSC has advised the NEC on the issues for LGBT+ staff working abroad
  • the MMSC advises NEC on issues for migrant staff
  • the WMSC is advising the NEC on the impact of sexual harassment at work.

The committees also plan the agenda for their conference every year and also participate in the TUC national equality conferences. The committees can also put motions to UCU Congress and the sector conferences which ensures the issues facing equality groups are visible in our core campaigns and policies. Members of the committees are also encouraged to participate in their branches and regions so equality knowledge and expertise is shared across the union.

To be on the committees you must self-identify as belonging to that equality group. For example, to be on the DMSC, you must self-identify as a disabled worker. All levels of experience of being active in the union are welcome as the committees provide support and guidance to all members, working together collectively.

To find out more, please contact a member of the Equality and Policy team who would be happy to speak to you. Please email: eqadmin@ucu.org.uk

The annual young members' conference is open to any member aged 35 or under. The conference does not have decision making powers and is non-resolutionary but aims to bring younger members together and showcase campaign work and resources available. For further information contact campaigns@ucu.org.uk

Find further information on our work for young members here.

UCU via its regional structure has been establishing regional retired members' branches.

National Executive Committee

Women members

There are a minimum number of NEC seats that must be filled by women. The total number of seats a geographical constituency has on the NEC depends on its size, but of these at least one quarter to one third must be filled by women. This quota also applies to the UK-elected HE and FE seats. Of the eleven equality seats on the NEC elected directly by all members, three of these seats are for representatives of women in HE, and two for women in FE.

Black members

Of the eleven equality seats on the NEC, two are for representatives of black members, one of which must be a woman.

Disabled members

Of the eleven equality seats on the NEC, two of these are for representatives of disabled members. One must be from further education and one must be from higher education.

LGBT members

There are eleven equality seats on the NEC, two of which are for representatives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members, one from further education and one from higher education.

Migrant members

There are eleven equality seats on the NEC, two of which are for representatives of migrant staff. 

Last updated: 18 May 2022