May 30, 2024

Taylor Daily Press

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What do universities do and do not do according to the all-important Labor Inspectorate?

What do universities do and do not do according to the all-important Labor Inspectorate?

Translation in progress

Stress, exhaustion, and misbehavior are still normal in science. Universities are not doing enough about it, says the Labor Inspectorate in the “Arbo in Pedrejev Research Report on Psychosocial Work Tax at Universities”, published on Tuesday 14 May.

The inspectorate did not name the universities, but it appears that three of them did not recognize “psychosocial workload” as a risk. This means they are not abiding by the law, says the inspectorate. Nine of the fourteen universities have not yet completed in-depth research. Also, most universities do not measure the success of their approach. They usually address incidents, not causes.

Voluntarily, of your own free will

In 2020, the Labor Inspectorate asked universities to develop plans to combat excessive workload and undesirable behaviour. The inspectorate has now checked whether the universities have already started work. This appears to have happened “marginally”.

The report states that universities are taking measures, “but staff have limited awareness of them and limited use of them.” It is also striking that “participation in anti-unwanted behavior projects remains almost always on a voluntary basis.”

“Dialogue tables” Work teams, Expert groups “Think groups don’t make any difference.”

As the Inspectorate noted, there are all kinds of “dialogue agendas, working groups, learning agendas, Work teamsworking groups, Expert groupsSteering groups, committees and think tanks, but these do not make any difference. Some respondents to the Labor Inspectorate’s survey, which has been completed more than 9,100 times, speak of “false security”: it feels as if universities are doing something, when in reality it represents little. Operations are “buttery smooth”.

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The Inspectorate noted that many more measures were taken against work pressure (113) than against undesirable behavior (31). Work pressure gauges include, for example, “pressure checks and work pressure indicators”, Work-life balance coaches And programs to digitize, automate or standardize activities and processes. The Inspectorate also suggests reducing (teaching) tasks, reusing course materials, or deploying administrative support.

Regarding measures to combat unwanted behaviour, the Inspectorate notes that many universities have used the Mindlab theatrical show “to raise unwanted behavior and make it open for discussion” and training courses to teach staff how to combat unwanted behaviour. The Inspectorate also considers that all universities have one or more confidential advisors, although this is not yet legally required. In only five of the fourteen universities heard by the Inspectorate, do secret advisors have sufficient time and resources?


The inspectorate also looked at the number of reports of undesirable behavior and the high workload made at universities. She then asked her survey participants whether they would report these types of things if they encountered them. 57% did not do so. The reasons for this are varied: many simply do not want it, others think it feels insecure or think it is meaningless.

There has been “demonstrable improvement” in only one area

According to the inspection body, the number of official complaints submitted by university employees “contradicts” the numbers contained in the survey it conducted. The Inspectorate concludes that although complaints procedures are in place, they are not working properly. This may be partly due to the high procedural content of the procedures, the fact that there are no solutions to them and the lack of aftercare.

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Business perspective

After the inspection in 2020 concluded that universities were making many mistakes in terms of workload and social safety, they had to draw up action plans. A year later, the Inspectorate sent the institutions a list of seventeen points worthy of attention. The Inspectorate has now re-examined sixteen of them and found that “significant improvement has occurred” in only one point. This relates to the presence of confidential advisors and ombudsmen and knowledge of both among staff.

The Inspectorate believes that this should be better possible. Through an “action perspective,” it instructed the executive boards to take the lead in improving all the problems identified by the inspection body. It recommends that CVB employees systematically identify the underlying causes of workload and undesirable behavior. It also gives councils six possible tasks:

  1. Ensure the implementation and evaluation of the central HR policy at the decentralized level, and establish coordination and ownership on the formulation and implementation of the PSA policy. (PSA stands for psychosocial workload)
  2. Check whether, in anticipation of any adjustments in funding, there are possibilities to accommodate fluctuating student numbers within your own institution.
  3. Ensure that the position/pay and task load conform to the job profiles stipulated in the collective labor agreement. Also check whether the requirements for selection procedures and/or internal promotions are in line with the UFO profiles.
  4. Effectively promote this and work towards an appropriate approach to dealing with unwanted behavior that is transparent, clear and structural in nature.
  5. Investigate how informal reporting procedures can better meet the needs of employees who have complaints about work stress and undesirable behavior. Consider whether other accessible, yet independent and secure, ways would be more effective to make the reporting system work better.
  6. Continue to develop high-quality leadership and ensure that this is not optional.
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The Labor Inspectorate has given universities until 2025 to improve in order to comply with their legal obligations as employers. There will be a follow-up study that year. If this does not show any improvements, “a compliance requirement and possibly a fine will follow.”


The FNV trade union described the results of the labor inspectorate’s investigation as shocking. “It can’t go on like this,” says director Bernard Quickwick. “Academic education is crying out for solutions.”

The Inspectorate sent reports to the executive boards about its university. FNV believes that they should publish these local reports, so that the problems can be discussed at each university. TU Delft has already promised this.

Delta, Saskia Bünger/Hope, Bass Bellman