Challenging casualisation – possible outcomes

Raising awareness and building solidarity:

It is common to find a significant divide between permanent and casual staff. Main Grade Staff will know that HPLs are the first to go when there are cuts or course closures and so, naturally, will feel a level of protection from the existence of casual staff. Main Grade Staff sometimes justify this by claiming that HPLs are less entitled to the same level of security, pay and conditions – they might argue that HPLs are less qualified, committed and experienced, and therefore should have fewer rights. These Main Grade Lecturers may also have suffered several years of hourly paid work before securing their permanent positions, and therefore argue that the Hourly Paid ‘stage’ is a rite of passage towards full-time work. We know that this is rarely the case. It is crucial, therefore, to challenge these beliefs, persuade Main Grade Staff to relate to and identify with HPLs and build a culture of solidarity with a common cause. See suggestions for arguments to use.

Collective agreements:

  • An agreement that in departments with HPLs, all permanent vacancies should be internally advertised for a period of time before advertising externally.
  • In institutions with zero hour contracts, an agreement that HPLs are not automatically varied down to zero hours (and therefore redundant) when there are cuts. It could be argued that this would be unfair selection for redundancy and that a fairer method would be to pool HPLs with Main Grade Staff. (See arguments.)
  • An agreement that there will be regular reviews of individuals on Hourly Paid contracts and transparent and negotiated protocols in relation to their employment status. For example, an agreement about the appropriate use of HPLs with respect to type of and longevity of service, and those with over a certain length of service (eg three years) will be automatically fractionalised.


Assimilation of HPLs in HE to the national pay spine under the Framework Agreement to achieve: 

  • matching to national academic role profiles or agreed local varients
  • assimilation to at least Grade Ac2 on academic career path
  • access to incremental progression and progression between grades consistent with comparable staff


Better conditions for HPLs

Reps may achieve the following improvements in contractual terms:

  1. A variable hours contract: an express term which provides a minimum guarantee of work, for example 60% of a given fraction. (See UCU guidance in circular UCU192).
  2. Changes in how the HPL is paid –
  • for the pay to be averaged out over 52 weeks
  • the application of an HPL pay spine so that experience and loyalty is rewarded
  • an end of year ‘retainer’ payment to indicate an offer of future work
  • for holiday pay to be averaged over 52 weeks



  • Individual representation resulting in fractionalisation
  • Block fractionalisation of a number of long-term HPLs
  • A collective agreement for a protocol in relation to the employment of HPLs. For example, every HPL will be converted to a permanent Main Grade Staff contract after a given number of years’ work or at the end of their fixed-term contract.


A change of culture:

The two (or more) – tiered system is a deeply ingrained employment practice in post-compulsory education. To challenge and change this culture must be our overarching aim. Some more tangible outcomes might include:

  • Training for Human Resources staff on the employment of HPLs
  • A dialogue and agreement about the appropriate use (not misuse, as is currently the case) of casual contracts.


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