Staff Studcnt Partnership Agreement – 8 May 2013 AGM (1213P19)
This Union Notes
1. The existing Staff Student Protocol Agreement which was approved by Union Council in May 2006 and ratified in June 2010.
2. The current policy is obsolete in some areas by referring to principles which have since been superseded by changes to employment and other policies.
3. That in the Union Plan to 2015, we pledge to “promote our values and deliver an internal culture characterised by a can-do attitude and a strong sense of pride” for both our staff and student members.
This Union Believes
1. That our best results happen when a strong partnership exists between our students and staff.
2. That in order to cultivate our values of being “student-led”, “engaging”, “dynamic” and “transparent” (from our Union Plan to 2015), it is important that members and staff have clear routes to communicate and work with each other.
3. There is little awareness of the current policy amongst the staff and student populations.
4. That our current Staff-Student Protocol fails to promote our values, missing an opportunity to encourage a positive culture.
5. That SUSU should be clear and transparent in setting out how we expect our staff and students to work together.
6. That our replacement policy should define the culture we will support and develop, and set out how students and staff can resolve issues they may encounter in working together.
7. That renaming this policy our “Staff-Student Partnership Agreement” sends a clear and positive message about staff and students working together.
This Union Resolves
1. To adopt the revised Staff Student Partnership Agreement.
2. To lapse the policy “Staff Student Protocol Agreement Ref: 0506P22.
This Union Mandates
1. The President to present the approved policy to the next meeting of Trustee Board in June 2013 for their approval.
2. The President is to implement the Agreement and ensure that all staff and student groups understand it.
3. The Trustees to review the Agreement on every two year anniversary.
Staff Student Partnership Agreement
Introduction – why do we have a Staff Student Partnership Agreement?
Every one of our students and staff has the potential to make a fantastic contribution to SUSU. We want to ensure that students and staff work together in partnership, to share praise, and celebrate successes. We also recognise that there needs to be a clear route to fix problems if things are not working. This Agreement seeks to define the culture we will support and develop, and set out how students and staff can resolve issues they may encounter in working together. We also aim to give greater clarity on some of the ways we work together which can be confusing, given the different roles of students and staff within SUSU.
SUSU is run by students for students. Throughout our governance and decision making students take the lead, indeed many of our activities are entirely planned and delivered by our members. Much of the work is supported by staff. We employ some 100 core staff as well as hundreds of support staff. We believe that as a student-led organisation our best results happen when staff and students work in close partnership, are comfortable working together and clear on their different roles and contributions. Our staff are chosen for their experience, expertise and knowledge and trained to make the best use of their potential which students use to support, develop and deliver their ideas. However, it is important for both groups to be clear about where the boundaries lie between their contributions. The “Frequently asked questions about potentially difficult topics” section goes into these areas in more detail. These questions mainly focus on sensitive and legally restricted information such as personal data, financial and commercially sensitive information and also include the difficulties of staff expressing political views.
The different roles and statuses within SUSU
Staff – core and support
SUSU is a democratic membership organisation which works under the direction of its Trustees and Student Leaders. Sabbatical Officers are elected to work as full time student leaders and trustees. The General Meeting and Union Council are the ultimate democratic and student-led decision making bodies within SUSU. As a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity, SUSU also has a Board of Trustees that ensures we meet our charitable aims and employs staff to help make this happen.
The formal connection between students and staff is between the President and Chief Executive. On a day-to-day basis, there are other pathways which both staff and students can use to work with each other.
We employ our core (permanent) staff to empower and enable our students to fulfil our mission of unlocking the potential and enriching the life of every student. A lot of staff time is invested in running our services and activities. Staff often support our mission by providing professional advice and sharing their expertise. It is an important and often challenging line for core staff to balance between advising students in making policy and making decisions which affect the Union on their own behalf. If a core member of staff is in doubt whether they are overstepping that line, they should discuss it with their line manager. Members of staff are given direction by their line managers to determine their work.
All staff are automatically associate members of SUSU, and as such we encourage our staff to join in with the activities that interest them, although they are not eligible to hold any positions of authority or leadership within any student group as this would interfere with a truly student-led experience.
In order to use our members’ skills and provide them with employment opportunities, SUSU employs many of our own members in support staff roles. To avoid conflicts of interest, members who are elected trustees cannot be employed by SUSU. However, we encourage our student support staff to take up positions as elected officers in areas that interest them, being careful to separate out their different roles.
As an employer, we have a duty of care to ensure that all our core and support staff work in an environment that is safe and free from harassment, and we expect our staff to be treated with respect and courtesy at all times. In exactly the same way, we expect staff to treat members with respect and courtesy.
One of the important steps we take to ensure students can play their part and staff are protected in theirs is to not allow staff to make public comments or have their performance or behaviour discussed publicly, without the express permission of the President and Chief Executive.
Since staff cannot make public comments, they also do not have a right of reply publicly. In terms of social and other media, this means we expect that issues regarding individual staff or members are raised in the channels mentioned in section 5 below rather than publicly. If a member is unsure whether a comment is appropriate to raise in our media channels, they should refer to the Media Guidelines.
Members with more than one status
4. Students who are staff
As the majority of our support staff are also students and members, we recognise that this may occasionally cause confusion and sometimes tension between what they expect of SUSU as a student and as an employer. We have tried to cover some of the common areas in the frequently asked questions section below. We expect support staff to behave in line with their contracts of employment when they are employed by SUSU. This means not acting in any way which may bring SUSU into disrepute, and remembering that other members may also be customers. From time to time, such as during elections, we may send out specific guidance about the behaviour we expect so that everyone is clear.
5. Staff who are students
Very occasionally, we employ a member of core staff who is also a student at the University of Southampton or a member of core staff may become a student. Those staff registered on a credit bearing course at the university are automatically full members of the Union. Similarly to the advice above about core staff involvement in member activities, we expect our core staff to use their common sense and not take positions of leadership or authority in volunteering, or other arenas which may cause conflict between their employment and student status. When this situation arises, the staff member will need to advise Personnel, so we can talk to each other and come to an agreement about the implications of any clashes.
6. Sabbatical Officers
Sabbatical Officers are the lead student representatives, “volunteers” and elected officers of the Union. They are defined as full members within the Union’s constitutional documents. In order to protect their employment status, they are required to have an employment contract, which will guide their relationship with SUSU in relationship to the terms and conditions of their employment. In every other respect, they will be treated and should behave as full members rather than staff. However, in the instances where Sabbatical Officers should use employment policies (such as our Staff Grievance Policy), this is made clear. If in any doubt, they should ask the Chief Executive or President.
7. Sharing praise and celebrating success
We know that many staff and students want to congratulate each other but are not always sure of the best way of celebrating or sharing praise. For students, the best route to congratulate staff on a job well done is either directly to the member of staff concerned or via their Senior Leader who will pass the feedback on. For staff, the best route to congratulate a student on a great piece of work is through the relevant Student Leader or Sabbatical Officer. Details of both contacts can be found on our website. The President remains the key spokesperson for the Union and will generally be the person through whom the Union should make public comments. We all like to hear and share good news of successes, so we hope that giving clarity on these routes will encourage more contributions.
8. Raising concerns and issues
We hope that there are very few occasions when our members or staff have concerns or issues and are unsure where to go for help. If things aren’t going right, the first route should always be to talk to each other. If the concern cannot be resolved directly, and it is about a member of staff, members should raise their concerns with the relevant Student Leader or Sabbatical, who will investigate the concern and discuss it with the President and Chief Executive or relevant Senior Leader if appropriate. If the concern is about a member’s behaviour, staff should discuss with their line manager or Senior Leader, who will likewise investigate and discuss it with the Chief Executive and President or relevant Sabbatical Officer.
Core and support staff can also raise issues in confidence via their Staff Forum representative. Both staff and members can raise serious concerns confidentially through our Whistle-Blowing Policy. Either way, our intention will always be to try to resolve any issue as quickly and fairly as possible.
We will always aim for the issue to be resolved informally, but if needed, we will use SUSU’s disciplinary or other relevant policies.
Status of this document
For staff, this Agreement should be read in conjunction with your Contract of Employment (although it is not a contractual document), SUSU’s Behaviours and Whistle-Blowing Policy.
For students, this Agreement should be read in conjunction with our Constitution, Policy, Media Guidelines and our Code of Conduct for Volunteers.
Frequently Asked Questions about potentially difficult topics
The intention of this section is provide guidance on specific questions raised by students and staff which will be expanded over time.
- As a student staff member, what information can I share about planned acts and events which I learn about through my work?
If you are in any doubt about whether you can share information, it is safest to check with your line manager. You may encounter commercially sensitive information which would cause SUSU serious problems if it entered the public domain at the wrong time, we are often bound by contractual restrictions for example.
- I am really unhappy about the service I received in one of SUSU’s outlets
We aim to give all our customers great service in each of our outlets and if we don’t achieve that, please let our outlet manager know. You can do this by asking for them direct or leaving a comment. The sooner you tell us the sooner we can address the issue.
- As a student, I am really unhappy about the way a member of staff treated me. How can I complain?
We suggest the best way forward is to try to resolve the issue directly. However, if you feel uncomfortable in doing so, you should let the member of staff’s line manager or Senior Leader know your complaint so that they can resolve it.
- As a member of staff, students sometimes approach me to ask my personal opinion on political issues such as candidates running for election. What should I say?
As we’ve explained above, it can be difficult for staff to balance advising students and influencing decision making. The fine line becomes finer when having a lively and personal political debate and discussing a live political decision in a formal setting. Although it’s become a bit of a cliché, we suggest telling students “we’re happy to work with everyone” is a straightforward answer to the election question. Simply explaining that as staff our personal opinion is not required in this decision may also work. If you are unsure whether you will be overstepping the mark in expressing an opinion, you could politely decline to answer the question and check with your manager or Senior Leader.
- As a member of staff, I have a strong personal view on a political matter and am concerned that students are going to make the wrong decision. What should I do?
As a student-led organisation, we think it is right that decisions are made by our members. If you think a student is using inaccurate information or has not considered some of the consequences of their decision, it is fine to point this out but you must allow them to make their own decisions on the facts presented.
- I’ve come across a piece of information which I’m really concerned about, but I’m worried what the consequences may be if I raise it.
If you are a member of staff, your first route should always be to report concerns to your manager. For students, you may wish to raise concerns with a Student Leader or Sabbatical Officer. However, our Whistle-Blowing Policy has been created for just these sorts of situations when you may be worried that someone is stealing money, breaching Health and Safety rules or anything else that appears serious and may damage the organisation.
- As a member of student staff, I’ve realised I can access some files containing interesting information about my colleagues and other students.
If you’ve been given access to files that you don’t think you should see, your first responsibility is to tell your line manager. Some student staff may access confidential information as part of their work – if this is the case, your manager will brief you about the responsibilities in seeing this data. If in any doubt, assume that the data you can access is confidential and must not be shared.
- I want to raise an anonymous complaint about something that has happened to me at SUSU.
In general, we prefer not to receive anonymous complaints as it can be very difficult to ensure that we have solved the problem if we can’t discuss the issue with you. However, there are a few ways that complaints can be raised anonymously. Staff members can bring concerns to their Staff Forum representative – this is more appropriate for something that might affect several staff rather than individual concerns. Students could try our Advice Centre for suggestions on the best way to raise issues. Lastly, serious matters can be raised under the Whistle-Blowing Policy.
- I am a member of support staff and one of my friends is running for election. Can I promote their campaign whilst I’m at work?
In general, when you are at work you may not campaign for yourself or anyone else. When elections are happening, we will offer specific advice to core and support staff and answer any questions you have.
- As a member of support staff, I have a question about my employment that I want to raise. How can I do this?
If it’s a question relating to your personal employment contract or terms and conditions, you should ask your manager in the first instance or the Personnel team. If it’s a question which may affect several support staff members, you could raise it with your Staff Forum representative.
- As a member of staff I have read a comment on the internet about me (or my colleague) and my work, what can I do?
You should let your manager, Senior Leader or the Chief Executive know immediately. They will ensure the President gets the comment moderated in line with this agreement.
- As a writer/editor of one of our media, I want to be able to approach a staff member for a comment, can I do that?
All such requests should go to the President, who, with the Chief Executive will decide if that is appropriate or will provide an alternative comment for you.