ASOS Frequently Asked Questions

Kingston UCU members are taking ongoing Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) from 30th November 2022. Here are responses to ASOS FAQs:

What is action short of a strike? (ASOS)

ASOS means actions that are not a complete work stoppage. Alongside strike days in November, February and March, from 23rd November 2022 Kingston UCU members are taking ongoing ASOS starting by working to contract, as part of our UCU Rising dispute over unsafe workloads, pay inequality, job insecurity and shrinking pay.

Our ASOS includes

    • Working to contract
    • Not covering for absent colleagues (unless such cover is contractually required).
    • Removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action.
    • Not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
    • Not undertaking any voluntary activities (like Open Days, Athena Swan committees), or extracurricular activities, unless contractually obliged.

From 20th April 2023 our ASOS also includes a marking & assessment boycott Find key information about the marking and assessment boycott (MAB) here.

If you are put under pressure from your manager to reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, please contact us.

What does working to contract mean?

We are only working our contracted hours and prioritising the duties central to our roles. This means:

    • Not working more than the weekly hours stipulated in your contract.
    • Not undertaking additional voluntary duties (see further UCU guidance on this)
    • Not attending meetings where your presence is voluntary.
    • Not setting or marking work beyond that you are contractually obliged to set and/or mark
    • Not checking or answering emails out of hours

Any request from managers to do additional work, must be reasonable and put in writing with expected hours clearly quantified. Find further guidance and template responses here: Working to Contract

It is not reasonable for any staff to consistently have to work above contracted hours. We are at breaking point and need to reclaim our time.

How should UCU members work to contract?

    • Check the weekly hours in your contract. Only work your stipulated hours.     Remember to take your lunch break and regular screen breaks.
    • Use the UCU spreadsheets (full or simplified) to record the hours and work you have done.
    • At the end of each week, use the UCU template letter to send your timesheet to your line manager listing what has not been completed. Ask if they want you to reprioritise for the following week.
    • If you are asked to do a specific task, seek clarification on why, what it involves, and what you should deprioritise instead.
    • If you are requested to do additional hours, ask for these to be quantified in writing.
    • As per Kingston’s overtime policy, any additional hours should be reclaimed as time off in lieu.

Does ASOS count as a breach of my contract?

ASOS that is simply working to contract is not normally considered breach of contract. Our ASOS also includes not rescheduling lectures and teaching, not covering for colleagues, and other actions which could be construed as breach of contract, just as strike action is breach of contract. However, it should be noted that the rescheduling of lectures and teaching is done by timetabling staff. If this is not within your contracted role, this should not be considered breach of contract. Once scheduled, if you are asked to teach during timetabled hours, you should negotiate with your line manager when this will happen within your contracted hours and prioritised activities. Likewise, covering for colleagues is not generally in our contracts.

Because UCU has carried out a statutory ballot and the action has been formally called, the law protects workers from dismissal while taking part in lawful industrial action.

What is Kingston’s position regarding pay deductions for ASOS?

Your employer cannot impose pay deductions when you are fulfilling your contract.

Where the union calls ASOS that goes beyond ‘working to contract’ and involves refusal to undertake particular contractual duties, such action involves members breaching their contracts of employment.

While an employer cannot lawfully dismiss an employee for participating in ASOS where that action is covered by a legal industrial action ballot, an employer can refuse to accept ‘partial performance’ of the contract, and to deduct pay in response to that breach of contract.

Deductions can be up to 100% of pay while you are participating in ASOS (with any work done being deemed to be undertaken on a voluntary basis), although to impose such deductions would be highly punitive and the union would consult members over escalating industrial action in response.

UCU has produced guidance for branches in response to threats of ASOS deductions (100% deduction or partial deduction). You can read this guidance here (membership number needed to log in).

Kingston University has reserved its right to make up to 100% pay deductions for partial performance but has said nothing further – we will keep members updated.

Where the employer does deduct a full day’s pay for partial performance, UCU members will be able to claim from the national Fighting Fund.

What if my contract doesn’t specify a set number of hours?

‘Working to contract’ is tricky for people whose contracts are unclear in the hours and duties they demand, let alone for people who don’t have contracts at all. Many contracts include a clause which requires you to work ‘any reasonable hours’ to perform your duties, or something along those lines. UCU’s legal advice is that university employees are covered by the Working Time Regulations / Working Time Directive, which states that you can’t work more than 48 hours a week on average – normally averaged over 17 weeks. Unless you have specifically opted out of the 48-hour week, you can reasonably stop working once you have completed 48 hours of work in any week.

Do I have to notify my employers I’m taking ASOS?

If you are asked directly, you should respond that you are taking action short of strike; but you do not have to say how long you are taking it for and you should respond only in terms of what action you have taken/are currently taking, not any future intentions regarding ASOS.

How can I let people know I am taking ASOS?

You could include the whole or any portion of the following in your email signature, or as an out of the office auto-reply:

As a member of UCU  I am currently working to contract as part of industrial action in the UCU Rising dispute. I will not be answering emails outside of working hours. This may cause some delay in correspondence.  If working conditions, casualisation, equality pay gaps, and pay cuts matter to you, join UCU today. Find out more about the dispute at:

Regardless of the time or day when you receive this email, I do not expect you to respond outside of your normal working hours.

In an effort to enhance my mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing, I am working to my weekly contracted hours with Kingston University and would encourage other academic and academic-related staff both here and elsewhere to do the same.

You can also:

    • Talk to colleagues why you are undertaking ASOS, refer them to the Kingston UCU website, and explain that ASOS (and strike action) is our last resort. Encourage non-members to Join UCU and join this action.
    • Consider setting up an ASOS group in your department / school for mutual support.
    • Put up a Kingston UCU ASOS poster in your office / department.

How will ASOS impact students?

We will be prioritising the duties central to our roles. For teaching staff, this will be teaching and supporting students. But some things might take longer than when regularly working extra hours above our contracts.

We are doing this to expose the unhealthy, unmanageable and unsustainable workloads we face which negatively impact our ability to give students the best education we can.

How can students support us?

Students can:

Where can I get further information?