Less favourable treatment of staff on casual contracts

That there is less favourable treatment of Hourly Paid staff and staff on casual contracts is a fact that is difficult to dispute.

Less favourable treatment:

  • Pay differential: At a typical FE college, HPL pay is approx. £25 per hour including preparation, marking and administration. Therefore a full time equivalent HPL, teaching 23 hours a week would earn just under £21,000. This compares less favourably to Main Grade Staff who earn between £26,000 and £38,00 (approx. qualified). The differentials are similar for HE and ACE lecturers. HPLs in all sectors accrue a pay differential of tens of thousands of pounds. For example, Robert has been an Hourly Paid Media Lecturer at a college for 10 years on an average of 14 hours a week. His gross annual salary is approximately £13,000. His 0.6 fractional colleague, similarly experienced and qualified, earns £22,800 a year. Over his 10 years’ service, Robert has accrued a pay differential of £98,000.
  • No reward for experience: HPL pay is often fixed, whereas Main Grade Staff usually move up on a pay spine.
  • Pension contributions: Because of the significant difference in pay, HPLs accrue a much smaller pension.
  • Salary insecurity: HPLs can experience extreme variations in their pay as a result of timetable changes throughout and between academic years. These changes can be significant and are sometimes implemented with very little notice. As a result of this salary insecurity, it can be difficult to get a mortgage or bank loans.
  • Loss of work: Main Grade Lecturers are often prioritised for allocation of teaching hours. This means that HPLs are, by default, prioritised for redundancy.
  • Lack of access to redundancy procedures and pay: Zero hour contracts apparently allow for an HPL to be on zero hours, yet still a retained member of staff, thus ineligible for redundancy.
  • Timetable allocation: HPLs are often timetabled after their Main Grade colleagues. They are therefore prone to be allocated non-mainstream courses.
  • Marginalisation: HPLs may be less favourably treated in terms of access to desks, equipment, staff development etc. In addition, they may have less access to the infrastructure of the institution such as colleague support and the ability to access and implement policies and procedures.
  • Unpaid overtime: it is a particularly bitter fact for HPLs that the amount of work required bears little relation to the number of hours they are being paid for, and therefore their actual hourly pay is often even lower.

Our experiences at London Region are that there are a vast range of employment practices with respect to HPLs. Some institutions appear to employ the majority of their staff on a casual basis whilst others have a larger proportion of Main Grade Staff. There is also an imbalance in the use of HPLs within institutions with some departments heavily reliant on HPLs and others mainly fractional or full-time Main Grade Staff.

Over recent years, active UCU branches have challenged these practices to varying degrees of success. Some branches such as Tower Hamlets, UCL and CONEL (now CHENEL) have campaigned for and won block fractionalisations in the past. However, there is a recent trend for further casualisation, very often achieved through the replacement of ‘redundant’ Main Grade Lecturers with HPLs. In our experience, this has occurred in institutions who had previously won fractionalisation agreements, thus reversing the gains of previous campaigns.

It is obvious that we urgently need to step up our challenge of the ‘permanent’ use of Hourly Paids. If we do not, there is a danger that the current trend of casualisation will compromise the effectiveness of our union.


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