The Labor Inspectorate sees that the source of the problems is not addressed in the workload plans of universities.
The Labor Inspectorate sees that the source of the problems is not addressed in the workload plans of universities.

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Work pressure plans for universities are of little use, says Labor Inspectorate

According to the Labor Inspectorate, the universities are devising all kinds of plans to combat work pressure, but they will probably not help enough. Moreover, little attention is paid to undesirable behavior and discrimination.

The protest group WOinActie had collected more than seven hundred complaints about the workload. With the support of the trade unions, those complaints ended up in January 2020 at the office of the Inspectorate SZW, which has started an investigation.

That's now rounded. The result: things are not going well. The plans against the workload are not effective enough. They are too focused on the individual, while the source of the problems is not addressed. The Inspectorate speaks of a risk of 'symptom control'.


For example, workload training is offered, while the effect of this is not measured. The universities also state that underfunding is one of the causes of the workload, while they keep their own policy out of harm's way.

The Inspectorate speaks of a risk of 'symptom control'

For example, WOinActie sees an imbalance in the valuation of education and research. The universities can do something about this, but according to the Inspectorate they reflect too little on this in their plans.

Universities also pay too little attention to the consequences of discrimination and undesirable behavior in the workplace. They mainly respond to incidents. At some universities it is not even clear who is actually responsible for handling reports and signals. Moreover, the aftercare for the victims is not well enough organized.


And the overtime? That's where the complaints started. The universities are looting their staff, was the complaint from WOinActie. But the inspectorate can't do much about the overtime.

Universities also pay too little attention to discrimination and undesirable behavior in the workplace

That was clear from the start. An exception has been made for scientists in the Working Hours Act (just like, for example, for firefighters). As soon as the salary exceeds a certain limit (three times the minimum wage or more than 64 thousand euros full-time), the Working Hours Act no longer applies.

But that does not mean that the problem of work pressure can be brushed aside. The ministry and the universities will enter into discussions. The Labor Inspectorate keeps its finger on the pulse and talks to WOinActie every six months.

“The universities are busy every day with the workload that is far too high,” says a spokesperson for the VSNU university association. “In the new collective labor agreement, reducing the workload is one of the spearheads for universities and trade unions.” For example, it is agreed that private time must be monitored and that the activities of employees must match the size of the appointment.


The universities also point out that the KNAW science society is issuing advice on undesirable behavior in science. They also expect a lot from the independent ombudspersons, whom they will all have appointed shortly.

Universities expect a lot from the ombudspersons

The increase in the number of reports of discrimination? The VSNU attributes this in part to the increased attention of the universities for the structural problems in this area.

And indeed the universities want to receive an additional 1,1 billion euros a year, partly to reduce the workload.


Professor Remco Breuker of WOinActie tweeted in response to this inspection investigation that the universities have been held up one mirror after another in recent years. In him are a do-gooder and a pessimistic cynic, he says. "My two halves disagree about what works and what doesn't, just that something needs to be done."

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