'Ombudsman contributes to security'
In a year's time, every university should have an ombudsman to handle complaints from staff. This is stated in the new collective labor agreement for universities.
“Fantastic news”, says Lies Poesiat, who has been an ombudsman for fifteen years. She started at the University of Amsterdam in 2005 and switched to the Free University in 2007. The Association of Ombudsmen in Higher Education, of which she has been chair since 2014, has been arguing for years for the appointment of an ombuds officer at all universities and university colleges.
Three years ago, the collective labor agreement stipulated that universities would investigate the desirability of an ombudsman for staff. A year ago it was agreed that a pilot would first be carried out at three universities. “Nice, isn't it? A pilot while there have been ombudsmen in higher education for twenty years,” laughs Poesiat.
But the new collective labor agreement states that universities will have set up an 'ombudsman function' by 1 July 2021 at the latest. The research by FNV and Vawo that last year showed that four in ten university employees suffer from bullying, gossip, exclusion and abuse of power has probably given the final push. “An ombudsman contributes to a safer working environment,” says Poesiat.
'We can prevent legal escalation'
Every year, the VU ombudsman handles XNUMX to XNUMX cases of employees who believe they have been treated improperly or improperly. The complaints are mainly about poor communication, problems with the functioning and assessment of employees or about difficult cooperation. They can often be traced back to the management style, says Poesiat.
In most cases the complainant has already been helped with information about rights and obligations or an informal advice and the case is resolved within one or two weeks. But if it comes to a formal complaint, an ombudsman can handle it himself. Ombudsmen can conduct their own inquiries, request documents and make recommendations to the organization.
The ombudsman therefore has a different role to counselors. “These are advocates who are on the side of the complainant. An ombudsman is independent and impartial and analyzes the complaints, so that you can identify patterns in the reports. ”
Why did universities not see the benefit of an ombudsman much earlier? “Because almost no cases are received by the existing complaints committee, universities believe that there are no problems with them,” Poesiat replies. "But if you go to such a committee, the manager knows about the complaint and employees often do not dare to do that."
A consultation with an ombudsman remains confidential “We have a duty of confidentiality. As a result, complaints also reach us at an earlier stage ”, Poesiat explains. That is the added value of the ombudsman. "We can prevent legal escalation and ensure that complaints do not unnecessarily develop into a long-term labor dispute resulting in sick leave." It took a long time, but Poesiat is happy that the ombudsman is now finally in the collective labor agreement. "Now for higher professional education."
Want to know more about the collective labor agreement? Go to the CAO page.