Fair Employment

Fair employment for all

With around 5,500 staff from 180 different countries we offer a diverse and engaging environment in which to work. We aim to provide employment opportunities which meet our business needs and match our employment standards along with our shared University values.

As we aim to make employment more fair for all our colleagues, we are working on solutions for three key priorities:

  • Reducing the University’s use of casual employment, including ensuring all of our regularly timetabled teaching is delivered by colleagues employed on standard contracts of employment.
  • Significantly increasing our use of open-ended contracts of employment, recognising that fixed term contracts will be appropriate in a limited range of circumstances, such as cover for study leave and family leave.
  • Working towards standard paid time allowances for preparation, marking and associated activities for Postgraduate Research Students employed as PTAs by the 2020-21 academic year:HR are working with Directors of College Operations to achieve this. We will also undertake a review of the 2019/20 PTA contracting arrangements to inform the next year’s contracts and ensure they are what PTAs want.

 Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Fair Employment for All project has been paused in terms of meetings and governance but the priorities remain institutional aims. The Covid Operational Business groups looking at People, Research and Education will incorporate the Fair Employment principles in their work within an 18 month timescale.

Consultation with trade union and student representatives and the Senior Management Group will continue, and the Fair Employment for All Working Group may be reconvened to seek comments and support for proposals as they emerge. Progress will continue to be formally reported to the Joint Committee for Consultation and Negotiation.

The working group included colleagues as below. See Terms of Reference

 

Membership of the Working Group
Chair and Sponsor:  Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor 
Deputy Chair:  Professor Janice Kay, Provost
Student Representatives  
Student’s Guild:  Ginny Thomas, Pro-Vice-President Postgrad Research
Students’ Union: Joe Rigby, President Exeter, Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union
Trade Union Representatives  
University and College Union: Sharon Strawbridge, President University of Exeter branch of UCU
Unite:  Chris Forrest, Branch Secretary, Unite/ Exeter IT 
Unison: Jim Milnes, Branch Secretary, Unison 

PVC Rep:  

Professor Jo Gill
DCO Reps: Amie Fulton and Clare Wydell/Tom Begbie
Other members: Imelda Rogers, Director of HR
  Dr Michael Wykes, Director of PPBI
  James Hutchinson, Director of the SDU 
  Chris Merritt (Finance Services)

Reference Group Leads

Research reference group
Professor Neil Gow, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact 
Professor Andy Jones, Assistant Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact

 

Education reference group

Professor Tim Quine, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) 

Professor Rob Freathy, Academic Dean of Students 

 

Professional Services reference group
Mike Shore-Nye, Registrar and Secretary 
Drs Astrid Wissenburg 

Notes from the Fair Employment for All Working Group meetings:

  1. First meeting: Friday 28 February summary notes:  FEFA Summary 28 February 2020 

Working with our local unions, the University has already taken the following steps to improve contractual arrangements for colleagues.

  • introduced business rules to ensure that a temporary contract is issued for longer assignments and that casual employment arrangements are only used for work which is ad hoc and short term.
  • agreed with trade unions the circumstances in which fixed term contracts should be used. Each time a fixed term contract is renewed, it is assessed against these standards and considered whether it should be converted to an open-ended appointment.
  • introduced the Living Wage for our contracted staff and for workers engaged on a casual basis.
  • following the Vice-Chancellor's message to staff in September 2018, moved Postgraduate Students who are employed to teach from casual work arrangements to contracts. Over 470 Postgraduate Teaching Assistant contracts were issued in 2018/19. Following positive engagement with the PGR community last year, further improvements have been made for 2019/20 - www.exeter.ac.uk/working/prospective/ptas/ (and VC email of 18/09/2018).
  • committed to reviewing the use of occasional teachers in the 2019/20 University year with the aim of introducing new contractual arrangements from the beginning of the 2020/21 academic year.
  • issued a University response to UCU claim to the UCU Claim of September 2019 and, with the agreement of UCU, committed to addressing UCU's concerns through the Fair Employment For All working group.

How fixed term contracts and casual employment are used at the University of Exeter.

As at 1 September 2019, 42% of the University’s academic staff are employed on fixed term contracts. Fixed term contracts are used only where this is appropriate and in accordance with the University’s agreement with trade unions on the use of fixed term contracts.

In addition to our core staff, other individuals contribute to the University’s education activity through occasional teaching and marking. These individuals are paid on a claims basis because they are engaged for short, specific pieces of work. They include PhD students engaged to enhance the student experience by supporting small group teaching, supporting practicals and demonstrating, and providing support sessions etc. They also include experts in professional fields outside of higher education who contribute to professional development programmes, such as the MBA and degree apprenticeships, by delivering masterclasses or supporting practical assessments. The short-term nature of these assignments mean that contracts are not appropriate.

Each year universities report information to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) on the use of individuals engaged on casual working arrangements to support education. In 2016/17 and 2017/18, the total FTE (full-time equivalent) reported by the University of Exeter was 85.0 FTE and 90.8 FTE respectively, comprising just over 4% of our total academic FTE. In 2018/19, the FTE has reduced to 75.9 and 3.4% of our academic FTE as a consequence of the steps the University is taking to reduce the use of casual working arrangements. In 2018/19, the University moved Postgraduate Teaching Assistants on a contracted basis and over 470 of our postgraduate students benefited from this change. Departments are also reviewing their use of occasional teachers with a view to offering consolidated contracts. In addition, the University has introduced business rules to ensure that a temporary contract is issued for longer assignments and that casual employment arrangements are only used for work which is ad hoc and short term.

The national picture

The University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has published information from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) on employment contracts in the higher education sector. The graph below shows that the area where we see the higher percentages of fixed term contracts are in research appointments/fellowships and that this broadly mirrors the extent of funding from external sources, which are in general limited term research grants. Many research posts and research fellowships are funded by external sources on a time-limted basis. Researchers are often therefore employed on a time-limited research project or awarded a fixed duration research fellowship. In the main academic population, only a small proportion of staff are employed on fixed-term contracts, again mirroring the extent of external funding sources.

Does the source of the funding influence the prevalence of fixed term or open ended contracts? (graphic)

We’d like to thank the 126 colleagues who submitted views on the key priorities in an online poll in January 2020.  Colleagues were overwhelmingly in support of action being taken in this area, particularly wanting to see improvements for Postgraduate Teaching Assistants. See more on feedback received: Fair Employment poll feedback

February's meeting of the Senior Management Group included a focus on the fair employment themes. Academic leaders in colleges and departments and professional services managers discussed feedback from their areas on the actions which should be considered as we develop solutions to these challenges. 

Thank you to 80 colleagues who volunteered to be part of focus groups to discuss this further, unfortunately these weren’t able to take place due to the demands of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consultation with trade union and student representatives and the Senior Management Group will continue, and the Fair Employment for All Working Group may be reconvened to seek comments and support for proposals as they emerge. Progress will continue to be formally reported to the Joint Committee for Consultation and Negotiation.