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Four in five members of university staff mentally struggling because of pandemic, survey shows

University and College Union (UCU) poll shows four in five university and college staff are mentally struggling as a result of the pandemic.

The survey consisted of over 12,000 lecturers and professional services staff in universities and further education colleges and was conducted in December, after the November lockdown.

According to the survey, more than half of the staff questioned said their workload had significantly increased and more than a fifth were working a bit harder.

26% of university staff and 46% of staff at further education colleges claimed they did not feel safe at work due to the risks of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, approximately two-thirds of staff were dissatisfied with the level of support from their employers, and more than a fifth did not have access to mental health advice.

Results showed that Black, Asian and minority ethnic women, along with LGBTQ+ and disabled staff, were more likely to have greater workloads and resulting poor mental health.

Staff were already stressed and overworked before Covid, and over the past year they have had to deliver ‘blended learning’, while being forced to endlessly readjust their teaching plans

– Jo Grady

Jo Grady, the UCU general secretary, said: “Staff were already stressed and overworked before Covid, and over the past year they have had to deliver ‘blended learning’, while being forced to endlessly readjust their teaching plans. With spiralling stress levels and unmanageable workloads, the current situation is simply not sustainable.”

“The pressure on education staff is being compounded by having to take on lots of unpaid pastoral work as university counselling services struggle to cope,” she added.

The UCU are advocating for the government to invest more in mental health support, and for employers to prioritise staff’s wellbeing and reduce their workloads, or risk industrial action from staff.

Since the start of the pandemic, the UCU has also been fighting for most teaching to be remote to guard the health of staff and students and provide them with better stability.

Raj Jethwa, the chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, said: “UCEA has worked collaboratively with trade unions, including UCU, to agree a risk assessment-led approach to the safe reopening of campuses and a safe return to work for staff, taking account of equalities considerations. UCEA has also made concrete proposals to manage workload and support the mental health and wellbeing of staff.”

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