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Ground-breaking joint report on hourly paid and casual staff

Ground-breaking joint report on hourly paid and casual staff in HE is published

HE employers and trade unions* have welcomed the publication of the New JNCHES Hourly Paid and Casual Staff Working Group Report and its accompanying case studies today. This report follows concerns relating to the extent and nature of the employment of staff on variable hours contracts and the commitment made in the New JNCHES agreement for 2014-15 “to establish a joint working group with a view to arriving at a better understanding of the nature and extent of contractual flexible arrangements in use in HE and any trends in their use and examples of practice”.

The working group approached the examination of this area knowing that it would not be simple but remained committed to shedding light on the arrangements for the employment of the casual and temporary element of the sector’s workforce. The publication of this report more than a year of joint working following the commitment made in last year’s pay agreement.

Richard Bullock, Chair of the New JNCHES Hourly Paid and Casual Staff working group, said:

“The New JNCHES working group* approached this headline-making area of work seeking common ground, knowing that it would be far from simple to achieve this. Yet the group worked together across the year, looking at both data and examples of practice in HEIs, determined to shed much-needed light on the actual arrangements in place for the employment of the casual and temporary element of the sector’s workforce.

“There was clear agreement in a number of areas and a helpful shared endorsement of a set of principles for the employment of such staff first established by the sector in 2002. The group had a shared view on the desirability of having improved data on hourly-paid and casual staff, better to inform on the trends in such employment. Another shared concern, despite differences of principle related to the use of  ‘zero hours’ contracts, was the need to examine arrangements so that the uncertainty and insecurity that arises through casual employment is minimised. The publication of this joint report is a considerable achievement and I encourage all in the sector to take the time to read it.”

Helen Fairfoul, member of the joint working group and Chief Executive of UCEA, said:

“UCEA shares with the HE trade unions an interest in understanding the types of flexible employment used in HE institutions to meet changing and unexpected demands and the trends in the use of variable or casual contracts. We know that HE employers are proud of their reputations as good employers and aim to achieve appropriate flexibility in their workforces while adopting fair and equitable employment practices. There will always be an element of casual and temporary work within HE institutions, as there is in any area of the economy. The report has identified that policies to offer employment to students are a common feature and can account for the majority of the casual employment in HEIs. There are always things to learn, however, and the dialogue with the trade unions has been helpful in identifying their concerns and in exploring, against these, the kinds of practices and arrangements that can provide appropriate and fair employment conditions alongside a flexibility desired by the employer and, at times, the employee. This joint working has, we believe, contributed to a better understanding on all sides.”

Paul Bridge, Head of Higher Education, UCU and Secretary for the trade union side of the joint working group commented,

“The extent of insecure and casual employment in UK higher education and particularly the use of zero hours contracts, is a significant issue for the HE trade unions; simply put we see no role for this type of employment contract in the sector. The report, its case studies and conclusions goes some way towards shining a light on the casual employment landscape in HE and as such is welcomed by the trade unions.

From the trade unions perspective this timely report has highlighted important key issues. We regard the final report is a first joint step in considering the issue of wide spread casual and precarious employment in HE and that further focused work needs to be done.”

With this joint work successfully concluded, the final pay offer for 2015-16, includes further joint work in this area, responding to the trade unions’ pay equality claim. This would involve exploring with HESA the collection of data on hourly-paid and casual staff, with a view to improving the evidence and analysis on this section of the HE workforce.

* The New JNCHES (Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff) 2014-15 Hourly Paid and Casual Staff working group conducted joint work with UCEA, representative HE employers and the higher education trade unions - GMB, EIS, UCU, UNISON and Unite.


For further information: Please contact Andy Fryer, Head of Communications and Membership ( or Marc Whittaker, Communications and Events Officer ( Call 020 7383 2444.

The report can be downloaded from the UCEA website.