The University has made a commitment to avoid holding key internal meetings at the start and end of the day as part of a broader commitment to good employment practice, ensuring we offer equal opportunity and access to meetings to staff with diverse working patterns and out-of-work responsibilities as far as reasonably practicable.
When should meetings be held?
The University’s Athena SWAN Board has agreed that internal meetings should occur, where possible, between 9.30 am - 4.00 pm, and on days of the week when the majority of affected/invited staff are due to be working at the University. Individual Schools and Departments may have local arrangements in place which further define these times to suit their needs.
What constitutes a key internal ‘meeting’?
The guidance should be applied to key University, Faculty, School or Departmental meetings eg Management Committees, Teaching Committees, staff meetings, open meetings. It is also intended to be applied to staff-centred seminars, training events and workshops.
It is not essential to hold meetings between small groups or individuals between 9.30 am - 4.00 pm or on days of the week when the majority of staff are due to be working, as long as there is agreement between the parties and all parties are empowered to influence the agreed meeting time. When such meetings are held outside of these times, there must be sensitivity as to how individuals can openly raise objections to a suggested meeting time or suggest an alternative or additional time (for example, if the meeting is a developmental activity which could run more than once). Such requests could be on the basis of caring responsibility, religious observance, health grounds or other factors which may be sensitive, so it may not be appropriate for meeting time discussions to be held during a meeting, in which case there should be opportunity for these to be raised privately instead. Decisions/changes to previously proposed meeting times should then be circulated without reference to identifiable individuals or their circumstances.
What are the challenges in implementing this guidance?
We recognise that it may not always be possible to hold meetings between 9.30 am - 4.00 pm, due to the required length of meetings, the need for international engagement, or other factors. Some staff, such as those in Operation & Facilities or Technical Services roles, may have different work patterns requiring some alternative consideration. In recognition of potential challenges, a checklist has been developed which can be used when considering holding meetings outside these times. Chairs of meetings and event organisers are asked to apply the checklist of questions.
Where after applying the checklist it is still considered necessary to hold meetings, workshops, seminars and training events outside 9.30 am - 4.00 pm, the following actions should be taken:
- This decision should be recorded in the minutes of the meeting at which the discussion took place including any objections raised to date and any mitigating actions taken (eg Skype access or repeated training events), and recorded in any committee terms of reference. Members should also be given the opportunity to raise objections privately (see below).
- Where objections or requests are raised separately, these should also be considered and recorded confidentially, and the outcome communicated to other members without including identifying or sensitive information.
- The membership/attendance at the meeting should be monitored and reviewed regularly.
- If possible, the meeting dates and times should be set, with attendees notified, at least 1 month in advance and details posted online if relevant so that staff who wish to attend, and are able to make arrangements to do so, can consider their out-of-work commitments to attend. However, staff should not be expected to make such arrangements.
- Particular attention should be paid to meeting dates and times remaining unchanged once set so that staff who have made arrangements to attend are not disadvantaged.
- Agenda items should be ordered in such a way to ensure items that require discussion and debate happen in the part of the meeting held between 9.30 am - 4.00pm where possible.
- Where staff make alternative arrangements to attend meetings held outside of their usual contracted working pattern, this should not create significant expense or overtime.
- The checklist and rationale for the meeting time must be made transparent and will be monitored by the relevant Athena Swan self-assessment team. Notification is not necessary for meetings held between small groups and individuals. Future Athena Swan applications will need to include commentary on the timing of meetings.
What else might be helpful to consider?
Principles of good meeting management should mean that most meetings will not run past the agreed end time; however, where a meeting due to finish at 4.00 pm does overrun it should be recognised that staff members may need to leave at the scheduled end time. Meeting attendees will also often benefit from having short breaks incorporated into meetings lasting longer than an hour.