As an employer, EUR has taken effective steps regarding its policy regarding employee safety, undesirable behaviour, and dealing with violence in the workplace. However, during a visit to the campus on 19 September, the labour inspectorate concluded that work pressure continues to be a concern that the organisation needs to resolve.

The visit was part of a spot check to investigate whether educational institutions had taken steps in their policy to address the psychosocial workload of their employees, in compliance with statutory norms. The inspectors first held preliminary talks with HR, confidential counsellors, the occupational physician, and representatives of the EUROPA local trade union consultation. This was followed up with interviews with employees working at all levels of the university. “Meaning all the way from professor to records clerk”, says HR manager Jan de Reus.

The objective: to inspect whether policy related to work pressure, undesirable behaviour or violence has also been implemented and communicated to personnel. De Reus provides an example: “We might have a good system set up with confidential counsellors, but does everyone know how to contact them?”

The HR manager feels the inspectorate’s findings are ‘fairly positive’. “It was quite a relief that our policy was appropriately implemented”, said De Reus. The inspectorate, while observing that EUR had taken effective steps in many areas, also identified two areas of concern. One of them was work pressure. The inspectorate wrote: ‘following the Employee Survey conducted in 2016 where one of the issues identified was high work pressure, there is no Action Plan and no measures have been initiated for the purpose of easing work pressure.’

Bogged down in endless planning

Through the results of last year’s employee survey, De Reus was already aware that work pressure is a concern that needs to be dealt with. “A great deal of work is being carried out to come up with a concrete action plan by December. The EUROPA trade union consultations are also conducting a study. This will result in a EUR-wide action plan in accordance with the agreements in the Collective Labour Agreement.” The plan must clearly state which measures are being taken to control work pressure, and identify the party responsible for implementing the measures. Otherwise, emphasises De Reus, EUR will get bogged down in an endless round of planning and implementation will be delayed.

“All universities are struggling with work pressure” acknowledges EUROPA’s Roel Pieterman, leader of the working group. “The themes selected by the inspectorate this year are not chosen at random, these are problems that are currently being encountered”, explains Pieterman.

Hot meal

Other areas that need improvement include ensuring that employees know what to do if they experience aggression or violence. The inspector observed ‘there is no single clear-cut procedure for reporting, documenting and analysing incidents involving aggression or violence. Company rules could also be clearer. De Reus explains, “for example, you obviously wouldn’t bring a hot meal with you and eat it in the lecture hall, but what about a sandwich?” He feels the latter point especially is a quick win. EUR has nine months to address these points, before the inspectorate makes a return visit. A fine could be issued if no action has been taken on the issues identified by the inspectorate.