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New report identifies how HEIs are focusing on support for employees

UCEA’s new report identifies how HE institutions are focusing on support for employees on fixed-term appointments and better workforce planning.
 
A new UCEA report published today provides the sector with valuable insights into how HE institutions can improve the engagement and employment of staff on variable hours arrangements and target support to those on fixed-term teaching contracts. ‘Flexible and Fair: Improving employment approaches for staff on variable hours and fixed-term contracts’* follows a year-long project working with employer representatives drawn from a range of HE institutions. The examination of practices undertaken shows in particular how HE institutions are providing support and focusing on better workforce planning. This is both in supporting fixed-term lecturers, attending to both the employee and the student experience, and in using alternatives to ‘zero hour contracts’ to improve certainty for casual employees.   
 
A key component of the report is the eight HE institution case studies examining the institutions’ approaches to using variable or fixed-term employment contracts. The case studies highlight the significant improvements that HE institutions are making in workforce planning, including better engagement with managers and more scrutiny of different contracts such as fixed-term and casual contracts. This is aimed at better anticipation of HE workforce needs and improving the experience for employees. The report’s range of examples of good practice findings emphasise the important role that academic and professional service managers play in this process, noting that new policies and practices involve resource and commitment. 
 
Incomes Data Research, an independent pay and labour market research consultancy, conducted in-depth interviews with staff to compile the case studies.
 
The report explains how those individuals engaged on fixed-term arrangements, such as associate lecturers bringing valuable industry perspectives and specialist skills to students’ learning, can benefit from accessing appropriate developmental opportunities and being better integrated into academic department life. A ‘framework of considerations’ is offered to guide managers through the employee lifecycle.
 
The case studies also look in detail at examples of HE institutions that have moved casual staff onto contracts with a guaranteed minimum number of hours to provide more stability while maintaining some flexibility to respond to peaks in demand and a more uncertain funding environment. 
 
Chair of the Steering Group and UCEA Board Member Dr Frances Dow said:
“While casual and fixed-term contractual arrangements will always be a feature in any workforce, employment practices related to non-standard contracts have come under considerable scrutiny in higher education. Many HE institutions, including those we looked at, have responded by reviewing and evolving their approaches to employing staff on casual and hourly-paid arrangements, often in discussion with their local trade union representatives. This report provides the sector with a valuable resource that we believe will assist with improving the employment deal for casual staff and help managers in particular consider the ways they are supporting the valued individuals who deliver teaching on a fixed-term basis.”
 
 
*The report and all the case studies can be found in the publication pages.
 
ENDS
 
For further information: Please contact Andy Fryer, Head of Communications and Membership (a.fryer@ucea.ac.uk) or Marc Whittaker, Communications and Events Manager (m.whittaker@ucea.ac.uk). Call 020 7383 2444.
 
Previous work in this area has been done jointly with sector trade unions, having been agreed through JNCHES settlements. This has included examining sector-level data limitations and reaching a shared view on the case for improving sector data on hourly-paid and casual staff. The recommendations were all accepted and will mean that richer data will be available in the HESA staff collection for 2017-18 onwards. A further piece of work was the 2015 New JNCHES Hourly Paid and Casual Staff Working Group Report which reinforced some important principles for employers and provided accompanying case studies.