Performance Review? Comply Under Duress

Invited to do your next Performance Review?

Defer until explicitly instructed

Then comply, but do it ‘under duress’

Stage One

In the event of an HoD/line manager or departmental administrator issuing a general instruction, to reviewers or to reviewees, to undertake the annual PR process, we advise any member to whom such an instruction is issued to respond as follows:

I shall engage with performance review, according to my individual contractual obligations, only when I receive a direct individual WRITTEN instruction from my manager. Until thus instructed, I am deferring my compliance in the process.  Please note that I do this in protest at the erosion of confidentiality entailed in the new version of performance review that has recently been imposed upon us all.

(We note that contracts are individual, not collective.)

Stage Two

When a direct individual WRITTEN instruction is received from the appropriate source, the reviewee is advised to respond with the following:

I wish to make clear that since I have received a direct instruction to complete my PR as a contractual obligation, with the implied threat of sanctions if I do not comply, this in spite of the fact that I have NOT refused to undertake PR, I am now following your instruction, but I am doing so under duress.

Stage Three

When completing the PR form, reviewees are advised to insert the phrase ‘solely with my explicit written consent’ at the appropriate point in the final paragraph of the PR form, the paragraph entitled Oversight.

York UCU has consistently argued that this Oversight, apparently benign and reassuring, actually means potential breach of confidentiality.  This erosion of confidentiality violates the spirit of a performance review process which is supposedly developmental, reflective and motivating.

UCU members who are reviewers are urged to inform their reviewees of the option to add ‘solely with my explicit written consent’ to the final paragraph of the PR form.  The UCU view is that amending the PR form is not a breach of contract, since by completing the form you are doing all that is contractually required of you.

Stage Four

We urge UCU members who are reviewers to draw attention on the PR form to the fact that a reviewee has stated that they are complying with the contractual requirement under duress.

The reviewer’s form of words might look like this:

I note with grave concern that as a result of a direct instruction, with its implied threat of sanctions for non-compliance, my colleague X has completed the PR process under duress.  I note with regret that this seriously compromises a process which is allegedly supportive and developmental.

27 July 2017
For and on behalf of York UCU Exec.

Performance Review – Further Advice for Members

12 July 2017 


On 30 June, York UCU asked all members to defer participating in the annual performance review process until the issue of confidentiality has been resolved.  Aware that some members may already be under pressure on this issue from their Head of Department or line manager, we now offer the following advice:

  1. In response to any initial approach from your appointed reviewer, emphasise that you are not refusing to participate, but deferring participation until an issue of principle has been resolved. This response does not constitute a breach of contract.
  1. Only agree to participate if and when you subsequently receive a formal written instruction from your HoD or your manager. If you receive such an instruction, then you should comply in order to avoid any allegation of breach of contract, but should also declare explicitly on your PR form that you are participating under duress.
  1. If compelled to participate under duress, you should also immediately let York UCU know that this is the case, so that we have an accurate picture of the disposition of our members.

York UCU will continue to demand that university management live up to its repeated assurances of a constructive and confidential PR process.

Performance Review – Breaking News


Defer participation until confidentiality is restored

This is an issue of principle

York UCU has long been concerned by the breach of confidentiality entailed in the newly centralised version of Performance Review [PR].  We know, from our two recent online surveys, that many of you share our concern.

Our surveys also show that many colleagues, both UCU members and non-members, see the current form of PR as undermining the very aims which our managers claim they wish to foster, notably the enhancement of staff achievements and the resulting benefits to the core activities of the university.

In a series of meetings with university management, going back to 2014, we have argued on your behalf that confidentiality and control of personal data are essential to any properly constructive and developmental process of Performance Review.

Management’s current approach to PR, however, indicates a refusal to appreciate or value the central role of scholarly and professional autonomy and integrity in achieving such aims. Our discussions with them have reached an impasse over the issue of confidentiality.  Having reneged on assurances given in 2015 that HoDs would respect individual confidentiality when reporting to faculty deans, our managers have refused to consider wording on this matter proposed by the UCU negotiators. HR have now issued the 2017 version of the PR form without the protections of confidentiality proposed by UCU.

In view of university management’s continuing refusal to negotiate constructively in response to the reasonable and legitimate concerns of staff, York UCU is now asking all members of UCU to hold back from participating in any way with the performance review process until the matter is resolved.

This is an issue of principle. We are not service providers, to be disciplined or punished for falling short of ‘expectations’.  Not yet, anyway. The current language of the PR form opens the door to such a scenario. That’s why we need strong collective action on the issue of confidentiality to persuade management to negotiate.

If pressed to participate by your Head of Department or your line manager, you should indicate that you are not refusing to participate in the process. You are deferring participation until outstanding problems with the process have been resolved to the satisfaction of your accredited union representatives.

Should managers/HoDs continue to press you to participate before York UCU is satisfied that management has addressed these concerns, then you should approach the branch executive for support and advice.