HPL Action Toolkit



The aim of this document is to provide practical strategies and arguments for UCU reps who want to take action against casualisation and campaign for the fractionalisation of Hourly Paid members and in Higher Education, to negotiate for HPL assimilation to the national pay spine under the Framework Agreement.

This document is an initiative of London Region UCU.

Almost every FE, HE and ACE institution employs staff who are paid by the hour to do much the same work as their permanent, salaried counterparts. Very often these employees are paid less, have little or no job security and are treated less favourably in terms of most other conditions.

According to UCU’s Survival Guide for Hourly Paid staff, there are almost 17,000 HPLs in FE nationally and in 2009-10 there were up to 77,000 academic / lecturing staff working in HE on ‘atypical’ contracts. The numbers for ACE are unknown.


  1. Less favourable treatment of staff on casual contracts
  2. Challenging casualisation – possible outcomes
  3. Contracts – different types
  4. The legal status of different contracts
  5. Challenging ‘worker’ contracts
  6. Collecting information about your institution’s use of HPLs
  7. Building solidarity at branch level – persuading members
  8. Campaigning for fractionalisation – a possible cross sector process
  9. Agency Staff
  10. Putting the case for fractionalisation to management – the arguments


  1. Case studies
  2. Samples of anti-casualisation campaign materials
  3. Example branch motions
  4. Reports presented to SMT
  5. HE single pay spine
  6. Calculating holiday pay
  7. The Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002
  8. The Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations
  9. Template letters 
  10. Further Reading

Glossary: What is an HPL?

In this toolkit the term ‘HPL’ means hourly paid lecturer. The term should be considered to apply to any teaching staff member without a regular hours fractional or full time employment contract.

Other terms used in the sector include

  • Visiting lecturer (or VL)
  • Post graduate teaching assistant (PGTA)
  • Temporary lecturer
  • Teaching fellow
  • Teaching associate

Since employers are often looking to get around the law, and contracts vary, the term might cover teaching contracts that the employer states are employment but then does not respect basic employment rights in practice (e.g. they individually renegotiate or assign work to the employee annually), through to worker contracts or self-employment payment for services contracts. In this toolkit we discuss all of these.

Almost all of these arrangements are in some way unlawful or unfair, and they may lead to discrimination. The only possibly legitimate use of such an arrangement is where someone literally comes to work to perform a task (such as deliver one lecture or work at one conference) and then leaves. If they have an ongoing relationship with the employer over a period of time then such contracts can be challenged.


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