Our people priorities: message from Professor Anne Trefethen

People are the University’s greatest asset and the foundation of our success. The quality of our academic, research, professional and support staff is critical to our future.

In recognition of this the University Strategic Plan includes three commitments and related priorities which focus on the environment we want to provide for members of the collegiate University. They articulate the need for equality of opportunity, engendering inclusivity and supporting staff wellbeing.

Anne Trefethen, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for People and Gardens, Libraries and Museums, explains how we are working to ensure that we provide a diverse, inclusive, fair and open environment for all members of the University.

Firstly, as we start the New Year, may I wish you all well for 2020.

It is widely recognised that Oxford's reputation is reliant on the ability and dedication of our faculty and staff to maintain and strengthen its world-class status.

Our strategic commitments and priorities should help us focus on the actions needed to ensure that the University remains a great place to work, allowing people to thrive and flourish as we strive to strengthen our world-class status.

This is the first of a series of updates I’ll be sending over the coming months, providing details of progress against our Strategic Plan commitments and highlighting opportunities for you to engage and provide feedback.

Update on ongoing activities:

Supporting work-life balance

One of the Strategic Plan priorities is to put in place creative and consistent measures to help our staff to balance competing demands on their time, both within their roles and between their working and home lives.

For the last year we have been piloting Work + Family Space, a family support service provided by My Family Care. This is a University benefit for all employees which offers access to emergency back-up childcare and adult care, a 'speak to an expert' phone line, and a wide range of guides and webinars. If you have used this service we would very much welcome your feedback to help us assess how well it is meeting your needs. Please send your comments to benefits@admin.ox.ac.uk

Childcare Services provides high quality, accessible and affordable early years care for the children of collegiate university staff and students.  This term we will be running a University-wide survey to get feedback on nursery provision. Please do help by completing it when it becomes available.

We’re starting 2020 with an improvement in our policies to help support the work-life balance of our staff – by extending our family leave offer to become a day-one benefit. Anyone joining the University will no longer have to work for a qualifying period before being eligible for the paid leave available via our generous maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave schemes. 

Equality and Diversity

We are pleased that we are making steady progress on equality and diversity – illustrated by entering the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index (WEI) top 100 employers for the first time in 2019. However, we recognise that we still have work to do and comprehensive action plans are in place – informed by our participation in a number of national equality charters, including Athena SWAN and the Race Equality Charter.

To help in promoting good practice, the University supports a number of innovative projects through the Oxford Diversity Fund. Annually, £70,000 funds initiatives which will deliver lasting change to help foster an inclusive culture. This fund is in its third year and we were glad to see 20 projects put forward in 2019.

We also celebrate good practice through our biennial Vice-Chancellor’s Diversity Awards which recognise and celebrate efforts made to promote equality and diversity across the collegiate University. Nominations for this year’s awards in May 2020 open week starting 13 January 2020 and will close on 28 February: please do take the time to make a nomination. Details of your initiatives inspire others and there are many individuals in the University that deserve visibility and recognition for the work they are doing in this area

We are currently conducting our 2019/20 equal pay audits, which will be published later in the year. Last year the University published its second report on the gender pay gap that showed we are making progress as the mean gender pay gap, mean bonus pay gap and median bonus pay gap have all reduced. The median gender pay gap, however, remains at 13.7%, an imbalance we are committed to addressing.

Our 2019 gender pay report will be published by the end of March 2020 which we hope will show a continuing improvement. We are working hard to find ways to accelerate our progress in this area.

Staff experience survey

The staff experience survey provides critical insight about what is working and where things can be improved. It is an important feedback mechanism as we strive to provide a work environment that allows staff to develop. A new biennial survey, launched in 2016, was sent to all members of staff in the four academic divisions, University Administration and Services and Gardens, Libraries and Museums.

Following the second survey in 2018, many of you will be aware of departmental plans to help take forward the actions identified from the responses received from your area. The full Staff Experience Survey 2018 Report includes your feedback about a number of areas including job satisfaction, professional and personal development, management and decision making. The report includes details of how we’re working to enhance where we are performing well and address any weaker areas.

Please do take a few minutes to complete the 2020 survey later this year. Your personal insight provides us with an invaluable overview across the organisation of what you value about working here – and where you would like to see improvements.

Other University benefits for staff

The University offers benefits to staff that range from family-friendly initiatives to personal and professional development; the full range of these can be found at our benefits web pages. Please do ensure you let us know how we can improve, either in the Staff Experience survey later this year or by sending your suggestions to benefits@admin.ox.ac.uk.

A wide range of discounts from other organisations are also on offer to members of the University.

Looking to the Future:

Alongside the activities mentioned above, in Michaelmas term Personnel Committee considered the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers – an agreement between stakeholders to improve the employment and support for researchers and researcher careers in higher education in the UK.

The Personnel Committee is considering our approach to ensuring wellbeing for our staff and the outputs from a review of our benefits. The committee will be discussing approaches to workload balance along with continuing the work with colleagues on USS pensions and completing the 2019 valuation of the Oxford Staff Pension Scheme (OSPS). We will regularly update staff on all of these matters and will be holding a webinar on 5 February as part of the USS consultations.

Open Forum – People Priorities: save the date, 12 March

In March, I will be joined by Julian Duxfield, Director of Human Resources, at an Open Forum event for staff at the Oxford Martin School on 12 March from 12.30 to 1.45pm. We will be inviting you to join us to discuss how we’re implementing improvements for all staff at the University.  An invitation to attend will be emailed to all staff as soon as registration opens.  

I look forward to working with you all over the coming months. I hope you will all make the most of the opportunities to have your say about how to make the University an even better place to work. Your insight is always welcomed; should you wish to send me any comments or suggestions in the meantime please do so at internal.communications@admin.ox.ac.uk.

With best wishes

Professor Anne Trefethen

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for People and Gardens, Libraries and Museums