GMB union at University of the Arts London takes parental leave policy from sector-worst to sector-leading

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UAL’s joint trade unions have declared a victory in their long-term campaign to improve parental leave at the University

GMB, the union for university staff, can announce that staff at the University of the Arts London now enjoy a sector-leading parental leave policy as part of their terms and conditions of employment.

From 1 October 2022, UAL will offer 26 weeks maternity and paternity leave at full pay.

The policy is open to biological birth parents, persons with responsibility for care at time of birth/adoption, partners (female, male, trans, non-binary) and same sex couples and those with surrogacy arrangements.

The policy­ is open to directly employed staff and hourly paid lecturers.

The announcement marks a significant improvement to UAL’s parental leave policy. Previously UAL offered four weeks at full pay for maternity leave and one week at full pay for paternity/partner leave.

UAL’s previous maternity policy was a considerably lower provision than competitor Royal College of Art (RCA), with 26 weeks at full pay, and London South Bank University, with 20 weeks at full pay. RCA also offered more paternity/paternal leave with four weeks at full pay.

The change in policy is the result of years of campaigning from the joint trade unions.

The joint unions highlighted the issue in March 2020, and again raised a petition among UAL staff for International Women’s Day 2022, which attracted over 300 signatures.

Improved parental leave was also a core local demand of UCU’s strike action between December 2021 and April 2022, as well as the recent Marking and Assessment Boycott, undertaken with threat of 100% pay docking.

Despite this positive development, the new policy will not apply to staff outsourced to private suppliers (i.e. cleaning, catering, security, and maintenance), nor UAL Short Courses staff or staff working for other UAL subsidiaries.

Clive Smith, GMB Regional Organiser said:

“Members at the UAL will see a significant gain in their work-life balance at an important life stage, as they welcome a new child into the family.

“This is a great victory by the GMB and sister Trade Unions who have campaigned on this issue with tenacity and determination.

“I’m sure that the University have recognised the positive impact on retention of skilled, experienced staff that this change will promote.”

Alex Brent, GMB Branch Secretary said:

“This victory is the result of hard-fought and long-term campaigning from trade unions at UAL.

“It would not be possible without the support from members and activists in calling for improvements for what was an atrocious and unfair deal for all staff.

“This shows the power of solidarity shown between the GMB, UCU and UNISON and is a tribute to them and my predecessor Matt Phull who did so much of the early groundwork.  

“However, I am disappointed that the policy does not extend to our outsourced members.

“It bears saying that the majority of our cleaning staff are women, who may well have benefitted from such a policy – and for whom fair treatment by the employer remains a long, long way off.

“We will continue to fight to end outsourcing at the University, so that the parental leave policy, as with other terms and conditions of employment, can be enjoyed by all UAL workers equally.”


Contact: Clive Smith on 07802 958 554