Tyne & Wear

Coronavirus: Newcastle University staff given Fridays off

Newcastle University Image copyright Google
Image caption Staff can clear their desk or clear their head on their three paid Fridays

Staff at Newcastle University have been told they can do what they want every Friday this month and still be paid.

The university is also pausing pay deductions due after last month's strike action and is extending fixed-term contracts which were due to end.

The university's executive director of people services, Adrienne McFarland, said it had told staff "we absolutely want to protect all of your jobs".

"We know these are really uncertain times for them," she said.

"It is all about the culture that you want to have and doing the right thing by your people and standing by them."

The University and College Union said the "goodwill and commitment of staff is essential for a successful shift to remote teaching, so that students can complete their courses and graduate".

Branch chair Andrew Fletcher said the union welcomed the "positive steps" taken to recognise this.

'Breakneck speed'

Reports that staff had been made redundant or had contracts ended because of coronavirus were not true, the university said.

Those on fixed term contracts for specific pieces of work will have received letters confirming end dates in January and February in the normal way, Ms McFarland said.

However, that process was stopped as soon as the virus situation became clear and the university was now looking at a range of options, including extending contracts or redeploying staff whose work was coming to an end.

The university is also pausing "for the foreseeable future" deductions due to come out of April's payroll after industrial action in March.

"We understood that this is generally an anxious time for people and we didn't want to add to that uncertainty," Ms McFarland said.

Union officials and staff had been "very helpful and supportive" while working was moved online "at breakneck speed", she added.

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