Fairer future for all – progress towards reducing fixed-term contracts
We’re committed to reducing our use of fixed-term contracts, helping to build a fairer future for all our staff. We’re pleased to share another update about this critical work.
Our staff are at the heart of everything that we do. Their expertise in research and education – and the essential work that supports this – will help shape a better future for humanity, working through collaboration to tackle inequalities, benefit society and drive change. This is articulated in our strategy, ‘Universal Values, Global Change’
As a values-led institution, we recognise the need to create greater employment security and stability and, with that, career progression, for our staff community.
When we last updated you at the end of May, we shared the three principles agreed by the University Executive Group to guide this work:
- “First, the standard maximum length for fixed-term contracts will normally be set at two years. We are in the process of developing our policy to underpin this and understand its application, along with any necessary exceptions.
- “Second, to begin to convert the contracts of existing eligible staff to ongoing contracts from 31 July, with a view to completing this by the end of December 2022.
- “Third, the work will be phased, beginning with staff who have been on fixed-term contracts the longest – more than 10 years. This seems the fairest approach and will encompass all staff groups from the outset. New staff will also be considered early on in the process.”
Guided by these principles, we have made considerable progress toward implementation since the May update. We are particularly mindful that we need to avoid causing unintended consequences; for example, creating less employment security for our early career staff, or limiting their opportunities to build their careers. We will also create improved processes for staff to engage with development opportunities and redeployment.
This work applies to all groups of staff at the University.
We want to be upfront that not everyone who is on a fixed-term contract will move across to an ongoing contract. Some of the funding mechanisms for posts, especially in early career research roles, do not yet support this approach. We will continue to work with external funders to drive this wider transition.
Formal collective consultation with our three campus trades unions – UCU, UNISON and Unite – began on 30 May and four meetings have been held to date. Conversations have been constructive, two-way, and collegiate.
As well as that formal process, we have also formed a University Working Group, including representatives from across the University and each of the campus trades unions. They are working with executive deans and heads of professional services to shape the detail that underpins this commitment. The working group will also meet with heads of school and other managers at faculty/service level to work through the implementation plan at a local level.
Working together, this work will:
- clearly define when it is appropriate to use fixed term contracts;
- define circumstances where it would not be possible to transfer people to an ongoing contract after two years, and;
- gather reliable data to include accurate continued service and career history information about colleagues currently employed on fixed term contracts.
Transfer of contracts for existing staff
We are committed to increasing the employment security of our staff and intend to transfer as many existing staff as possible who have more than two years’ service and are currently employed on fixed-term and open ended fixed funded contracts to ongoing contracts. This will happen in parallel with the work to develop our ongoing approach.
In line with the outlined principles, this activity is being phased in the fairest way possible by starting with colleagues who have been employed on fixed-term contracts the longest.
Phase one will include colleagues from all staff groups who are employed on fixed-term contracts with more than 10 years’ service as of 31 July 2022.
Individual consultation meetings will take place with colleagues in this group over the summer period, coordinated by heads of school and service. Where exceptions do not apply, resulting contract changes will be effective from 1 August 2022.
Phase two will cover colleagues who have accrued between two and 10 years’ service.
We will ensure that any colleagues who reach two years’ service after 31 July 2022 are also considered in line with our new approach.
This is the start of our journey to becoming a more compassionate, fairer, and empathetic organisation. In doing this, we also hope to bring about positive impacts across the sector.
We are delighted that this work is continuing at pace and give our heartfelt thanks to the many people whose collaboration and integrity are making this happen.
We will continue to keep you updated.
Professor Nick Plant, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation
Paul Boustead, Chief People and Culture Officer