Message for members on fixed term, hourly paid employment contracts

As the academic year draws to a close, here is a message for all members and colleagues who are currently employed on a fixed-term, hourly paid contract i.e. a contract that has a fixed end date or will end on completion of a specific project or the occurrence of some other specific event. The message is in two parts: One is to impart information and advice to members; the other is a request for further information from members.

The imparting of information point relates to the terms and conditions of those who are engaged on fixed-term hourly paid contracts and, in particular, how these compare with the terms and conditions of colleagues on permanent contracts. UCU’s view is that the terms in associate lecturer and similar hourly paid contracts that relate to pay, cancelled classes, holiday pay, sickness absence, maternity provisions, and termination are all less favourable than the equivalent provisions within the contract of employment of a comparable permanent employee.

Under the Fixed-Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002, employees who consider that their fixed-term contract terms treat them less favourably than comparable permanent employees are entitled to request from their employer a written explanation of the reasons for this treatment. The advice to colleagues in this position is to write (the request must be made in writing) to the University requesting a written statement of the reasons for this less favourable treatment as regards the terms of their contract. You are entitled to receive a written statement of these reasons within 21 days of your request.

For colleagues who have been working for ARU, or one of its associated companies, on a series of fixed-term contracts for a continuous period of more than four years (normal vacation periods do not break continuity), the same Regulations mentioned above provide that, on the next renewal of a fixed-term contract after 4 years, the contract should have the time limiting date or event removed and the employee should be regarded as a permanent employee, unless there is an objective justification for retaining the fixed-term contract. Employees who are in this position are entitled to seek from their employer a written statement either confirming that they are now a permanent employee or the reasons why the contract remains fixed-term. The advice to colleagues in this position, therefore, is to write to the University requesting such a written statement. You are entitled to receive a written statement within 21 days of your request.

We should sound a note of caution on this point. We know from recent interactions with the University that it takes the view that all the Regulations require is the removal of the time limiting date or event – all the other terms and conditions of the contract remain precisely the same, including all those terms considered ‘less favourable’ than a comparable permanent employee as mentioned above. This view is correct on a literal interpretation of the Regulations. This means that becoming ‘permanent’ may not be suitable or advantageous for some colleagues – in effect, they will be on a permanent ‘zero-hours contract’ – so you are encouraged to weigh up the pros and cons for your individual situation before making a written request. UCU takes the view that, whilst technically correct, the University’s position is not within the spirit or objectives of the underlying legislation, or its own policies, and may put the University in breach of other employment legislation. We are currently seeking to persuade the University to take a more purposive approach in interpreting the Regulations and to assimilate the position of former fixed-term employees with that of full and part-time permanent staff. Your requests under the Regulations will be of great assistance in this campaign.     

Requests for written statements about either the contractual terms and conditions, or the transformation of fixed-term contracts to permanent ones, or both, should be sent to the newly appointed Director of Human Resources, Janis Westley (janis.westley@aru.ac.uk).

The request for information part of this message is in relation to holiday pay. There appears to be quite a confused picture, both locally at ARU and nationally, about how Universities deal with the issue of holiday pay for employees on fixed-term contracts, especially associate lecturer and other ‘hourly-paid’ contracts. It would be of great assistance as part of our ‘anti-casualisation’ campaign if you could let us know how your holiday pay is dealt with.

ARU’s current associate lecturer contracts provide for payment of holiday pay as a ‘rolled-up’ payment at a rate of 15% of the standard hourly rate within each payment made to hourly paid employees. Is this how your holiday pay is dealt with in practice? Do you book holiday periods through Business World and/or your line manager? Do you receive a separate payment for holiday pay during those booked periods of leave? Do you receive a separate payment for holiday pay, regardless of whether you have booked this? If you do receive separate payment, how is this calculated?

Any information that you are able and willing to share with us should be sent to your local branch Casework Co-ordinator, Andy Noble (andrew.noble@aru.ac.uk), or Anti-Casualisation Officer, Meena Singh (meena.singh@aru.ac.uk).

If you require any further advice in relation to your terms and conditions of employment, or your position if/when you receive a reply to any requests for written statements made to the University, please contact Andy Noble as above.

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