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Guidance on UCL Contracts of Employment

1. Purpose

2. Background

3. The recruitment process

4. Temporary agency staff

5. Contracts used at UCL

6. Payment for a one-off duty (Form 7 - non UCL employees)

7. Payment for an additional duty (Form 6 - UCL employees)

8. As and When contracts

9. Fixed-term contracts

10. Open-ended contracts with grant/project end dates

11. Open-ended contracts

12. Open-ended contracts (term-time or seasonal)

13. Monitoring open-ended contract and fixed-term contract end dates

14. Dismissal of staff on fixed-term and open-ended contracts

15. Dismissal of staff on fixed-term and open-ended contracts with over nine months' continuous service

16. Extending fixed term contracts (less than nine months' continuous employment)

17. Extending open-ended contracts with grant/project end dates

18. Further information and enquiries

1.     Purpose

This Guidance clarifies the types of contracts that UCL uses for different working arrangements, and the procedures governing the appointment of individuals and the termination of contracts which have a specified end date.

2.     Background

UCL has amended the types of contracts of employment that are (i) given to certain staff groups, and (ii) used in certain employment situations as a result of recently introduced employment legislation. These changes have been approved by the Senior Management team (SMT), fulfil objectives set out in UCL's HR strategy and implement policy agreed with UCL's recognised trade unions.

The Fixed-Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 came into force on 1 October 2002 to ensure that staff employed on fixed-term contracts are not treated less favourably than staff employed on similar permanent contracts. This legislation also places restrictions on the successive renewal of fixed term contracts beyond four years continuous employment. The legislation has implications for a number of UCL employees, especially those whose posts are funded on research grants and contracts.

The principle of prevention of less favourable treatment also applies to part-time employees who are entitled to equal treatment with regard to terms and conditions of employment such as annual leave, sickness pay and superannuation.

The Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2004 came in to force on 1st October 2004 and set out a statutory minimum dismissal procedure which must be applied to all staff. The non-renewal of a fixed-term contract or an open-ended contract is a dismissal in law. Termination of these contracts must therefore follow the Termination Procedure for UCL Employment Contracts (see http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/termination_procedure.php).

In introducing revised procedures for the appointment, extension and termination of staff the Human Resources Division has attempted to streamline administrative processes as far as practical. However, inevitably new legislation creates additional requirements for processes.

3.     The recruitment process

The recruitment process can be broken down into a series of inter-related processes, which vary depending on whether the appointment is a replacement for an existing post, or a new or modified post.

Existing Post

 

Secure managerial and financial approval to recruit

==>

Advertise Post and conduct interview

==>

Appoint employee; issue contract and set up on payroll

 

New or Modified Post
  Create Job Description and obtain Grading* (if applicable) ==> Secure managerial and financial approval to recruit ==> Advertise Post and conduct interview ==> Appoint employee; issue contract and set up on payroll

* Note: The Grading process does not apply to academic posts.

Procedures for obtaining financial approval can be found on the Finance Division website at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/finance/secure/fin_docs/recruit_approv.html

The recruitment, selection and appointment process must comply with UCL recruitment and selection policy found at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/recruitment.php

Details of appointment forms, and guidance for completion of these forms, can be found at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/appointment_forms.php and http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/hod/ respectively.The appointment forms are completed and submitted via the Service in Partnership (SiP) system. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/adminsys/index.php?sys=ADMIN. This web link also contains details of how to become an authorised user, and links to the user manuals. SiP briefing sessions for new users are held in conjunction with the staff development team http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/osd/timetable/programme/sdsip/index.php .

4.     Temporary agency staff

There may be occasions where short term tasks are best met by the recruitment of a temporary worker through an employment agency (usually for secretarial and administrative duties). Further guidance can be found at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/temporary_staff.php.

5.     Contracts used at UCL

Contracts of employment set out the terms and conditions under which an individual is employed, including the requirement to adhere to UCL policies and procedures. Employees are appointed to posts and the job description for the post specifies the duties and line management arrangements.

UCL will use five recognised appointment categories applied consistently across all staff groups.

It is permissible under certain circumstances to make payments to individuals for one-off duties or to contract with individuals for services on a self-employed basis. The Finance Division provides guidance on when it is permissible to engage the services of an individual on a self employed basis, including the eligibility of payments to visiting lecturers and examiners http://www.ucl.ac.uk/finance/purchasing/self-employment-pmts. The self employment questionnaire and application form can be found http://www.ucl.ac.uk/finance/purchasing/new-suppliers.  

6.     Payment for a one-off duty (Form 7 - non UCL employees)

The majority of individuals undertaking short-term work for UCL should be employed using an appropriate type of contract (e.g. Fixed-term). This is particularly the case where the work is controlled and supervised by another UCL employee.

Departments can invite individuals to undertake a short-term one-off duty (e.g. lecturing on a CPD course) without the requirement to issue a formal contract of employment. In these situations the individual is responsible for controlling how the work is undertaken and receives only minimum supervision.

The nature of the contractual relationship is similar to a self-employed situation, but either (i) the individual is not eligible to qualify for self-employed status (e.g. they are a full-time employee at another institution paid PAYE) or (ii) the duty they are undertaking would not normally qualify as a self-employed activity (e.g. teaching on mainstream university programmes).

The one-off duty will normally be linked to a single payment processed after the service has been satisfactorily provided. Payments will normally be taxable. Three payments in any one tax year will normally be permitted, after which the department should consider whether it would be more appropriate to use an As and When contract or some other form of contract. The frequency and patterns of payments will be monitored.

It would be inappropriate to pay individuals via one-off payments, or employ them on As and When contracts, when they have responsibility for the administration or coordination of on-going UCL activities.

The form to request payment of one-off duties should be completed through the SiP (Service in Partnership) system. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/adminsys/index.php?sys=ADMIN (see above, 3. The Recruitment Process, for further details).

7.     Payment for an additional duty (Form 6 - UCL employees)

HR guidance on payments to UCL employees for additional one-off duties can be found at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/one_off_payment.php.

Payments should be based on an hourly rate derived from UCL's salary scales: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/salary_scales/.

8.     As and When contracts

As and When contracts allow UCL to engage individuals as and when they are needed and to control their tasks when they are working with us. However, there is no mutuality of obligation between UCL and the individual; UCL is not obliged to offer the individual work, and the individual does not have to accept the work offered. Accordingly, this group are defined as "workers", not employees.

Workers are entitled to paid annual leave under the Working Time Regulations, but do not receive sickness pay. As there is no obligation to give work prospectively, the workers accrued annual leave entitlement has to be calculated retrospectively, either at the end of employment or on an annual cycle. The department is responsible for requesting payment of accrued annual leave and examples are provided in the Working Times Regulations guidance found at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/working_time_regs.php.

As and When contracts have no set restrictions on either the duration of the contract or the amount of hours an individual can work (subject to Working Times Regulations). However, the amount of hours being worked and the expected duration of the work will need to be reasonable. Workers are not expected to undertake a regular pattern of work (i.e. they should not be asked to work a set number of hours and days each week). Should such a regular pattern develop these individuals would need to be classed as employees and cannot remain on As and When contracts. Departments should seek advice from their contact in the HR Employment Contract Administration Team.

The hourly rate paid to such workers is derived from UCL's salary scales: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/salary_scales/final_grades.php or prescribed under an approved UCL scheme.

An as and when employee who is identified on the HR/payroll database as not having had a payment for two or more years will be closed down and archived.

9.     Fixed-term contracts

Fixed-term contracts can be used either (i) to provide cover (e.g. sabbaticals, leave of absence, sickness absence, maternity leave and vacancies), or (ii) for short term appointments which are project or task related (e.g. a two month appointment to complete a specific task such as clearing backlog).

Fixed-term contracts should be for one-off, non-recurring appointments for a period of less than nine months in duration. However, Fixed-term appointments covering staff who will be returning to their post may be for a longer duration (e.g. maternity leave, sickness absence, sabbatical and unpaid leave) coinciding with the expected period of absence. In these cases an academic appointment should only be made in exceptional circumstances where the replacement is required to carry out research and to teach. Typically cover for an academic employee will be a Teaching Fellow.

The majority of staff appointed on research grant and contracts are likely to be appointed on a grant, or series of grants and contracts, lasting longer than nine months. Accordingly, these individuals will be appointed on "Open-ended contracts with grant/project end dates" (see Section 10 below).

However, there will be a minority of research grants and contracts where the project involves the employment of persons for a limited duration of less than nine months. In these circumstances a fixed term contract should be used.

Teaching Fellows with recurring teaching commitments, year on year, should not be placed on a series of fixed term contracts.

10. Open-ended contracts with grant/project end dates

These contracts should be used for employees who are appointed with a known risk of redundancy. This is most commonly the case with staff employed on:

  1. research grants and contracts where either the project or funding has a finite duration; and
  2. projects (e.g. project managers for systems implementations or capital projects, etc) where there is a finite task or funding.

Open-ended contracts will include a paragraph making reference to the possibility of redundancy in certain circumstances. As far as possible this statement will be generic in order to avoid the need to issue new or amended contracts of employment when employees change grants, or when projects are extended.

The generic wording used for appointments on research grants and contracts is "your post is funded by research grant or contract, and in the event that this funding should cease your post will be at risk of redundancy. In the first instance the funding supporting your post is from [start_date] to [funding_end_date] and your head of department, or his/her nominee, will keep you informed of the funding situation"

The generic wording to be used for staff assigned to projects is "your post is to undertake a specific project which has a limited duration and / or source of funding. Upon completion of the tasks or cessation of the funding, whichever is the sooner, your post may be at risk of redundancy. In the first instance the project is estimated to be completed on [funding_end_date] and your head of department, or his/her nominee, will keep you informed of the situation".

A consultation meeting held a minimum of three months before the funding_end_date is used to discuss whether the funding supporting the employment, or the project itself, is likely to cease and whether alternative employment is available - see Termination Procedure for UCL Employment Contracts at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/termination_procedure.php.

Departments occasionally employ staff on an ongoing basis from a source of external income controlled via a departmental fund. These appointments will become open ended contracts referencing the reliance upon the continuation of the funding stream.

UCL Teaching Fellows with recurring teaching commitments, year on year, will be issued with an open-ended contract (see Section 12 below and the UCL Teaching Fellows Scheme Guidelines at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/teaching_fellows_scheme.php.

11. Open-ended contracts

These contracts are the most frequently used form of UCL contract and should be used where there is an expectation at the outset that employment will continue indefinitely.

12. Open-ended contracts (term-time or seasonal)

Certain employees will have continuous employment on term-time or seasonal contracts (e.g. UCL Teaching Fellows). From 1st January 2006 appointment forms will be modified to enable staff to be appointed on open-ended seasonal contracts.

Those working for the majority of the academic year (i.e. nine months or more) will be paid continuously over 12 months. Those working for less than nine months in every 12 month period, may be paid in installments over the months that that they work, or continuously over 12 months.

13.     Monitoring open-ended contract and fixed-term contract end dates

The Finance Division will issue timely reminders of approaching fixed-term contract and open-ended contract end dates, along with relevant instructions.

The end of contract notification system was introduced in September 2006, and has been developed to automate the production and dispatch of reports containing details of employees with approaching end dates. This system produces dynamically created web pages for departments. These are distributed via an email with a relevant hypertext link to the web page, which will reference relevant instructions. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/services/ is a link to the system and guidance notes.

The report will contain an "Action Date" by which time departments need to take action if notice is to be served in sufficient time to terminate the employment on the end date.

Departments must make a timely decision about whether the fixed-term or open ended contract should be terminated or extended following the Termination Procedure for UCL Employment Contracts (see Section 14 below).

Where HR have not received either a Leavers Notification Form, or Changes to Appointment Form, within 10 working days of the Action Date, the Finance Division will send a final reminder to the Head of Department (being the responsible budget holder) warning of the likely financial implications of delaying a decision.

If no response is forthcoming after 14 working dates from dispatch of the final reminder Finance will refer the matter to HR Employment Contract Administration Team who will initiate the Termination Procedure for UCL Employment Contracts http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/termination_procedure.php. Overspends which can not be allocated to research grant and contracts will be charged to either departmental discretionary funds (authorised on the appointment) or budget cash allocations in the event that the department is deemed responsible for the delay.

In circumstances where requests to extend fixed term or open ended end dates are declined by the Finance Division on grounds of insufficient funds, the department will be expected to take appropriate action.

14. Dismissal of staff on fixed-term and open-ended contracts

The Termination Procedure for UCL Employment Contracts is at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/termination_procedure.php

Whether or not the Procedure should be used depends on the length of continuous employment with UCL:

  1. Staff appointed on a fixed term contract for a single, or cumulative, period up to a maximum of nine months: these employees will be deemed to have been served notice upon the commencement of their appointment and their contract will terminate at the specified end date without the Termination Procedure for UCL Employment Contracts being instigated.
  2. Staff appointed on a fixed term or open ended contracts for a single, or cumulative, period exceeding nine months: The Termination Procedure for UCL Employment Contracts must be followed.

15.     Dismissal of staff on fixed-term and open-ended contracts with over nine months' continuous service

The main requirements of the Termination Procedure for UCL Employment Contracts are for:

  1. the employer to write to the employee to explain why their contract may be terminated;
  2. the employer to invite the employee to a meeting to discuss this possibility and to investigate any issues arising before confirming the decision;
  3. the employee to be given the right of appeal against a decision to end their contract
  4. the employee to be served with their full contractual notice period where applicable

Failure to follow steps (i) to (iii) above will result, automatically, in an unfair dismissal and failure to follow (iv) will constitute a breach of contract.

It will be essential for departments to make a formal decision on whether the contract should cease in sufficient time for their contractual notice period to be served. In cases where employees are not provided with adequate notice they will gain the right to a corresponding extension of their paid employment beyond the fixed-term end date or open-ended contract end date. The additional cost will need to be met by departmental funds where the delay has been the department's responsibility.

Where the Termination Procedure for UCL Employment Contracts has to be followed a Leavers Notification Form must be submitted in all cases to (a) confirm the Termination Procedure has been followed and (b) terminate the employee on the payroll.

16.     Extending fixed term contracts (less than nine months' continuous employment).

Fixed term contracts can be extended at any time prior to the end date, but will not normally be expected to exceed nine months unless this is continuation of cover for specific staff leave such as maternity leave or sickness absence.

Departments can request extensions to fixed term contract using the Changes to Appointment form.

Any extension to a fixed term contract which exceeds nine months' continuous employment will bring about the requirement to follow all stages of the Termination Procedure prior to the end date of the contract (see http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/termination_procedure.php).

Note: If the fixed-term contract is not extended beyond nine months, it will be automatically terminated at the original end date specified in the contract.

17. Extending open-ended contracts with grant/project end dates

Departments can request an extension to the original end date of up to three months as part of the Termination Procedure for UCL Employment Contracts. This will be deemed to be an extension of the notice period, as distinct from an extension to the contract. This may be decided at the consultation meeting or at a later stage before the original end date is reached.

Example: The department has an underspend on a research grant. The underspend can be vired to fund a one month extension to the employee's contract. This is discussed either during, or after, the consultation meeting and can therefore be treated as an extension of the employee's notice period. There is no requirement to repeat the Termination Procedure for UCL Employment Contracts.

Requests to extend the end date as part of the notice period can be made using the Leavers Notification Form.

Formal extensions of open-ended contracts must be for a minimum period of three months or more. The extension will establish a new end date and a requirement to repeat the Termination Procedure for UCL Employment Contracts prior to the contract ending. Requests can be submitted at any time but will usually arise as a result of a consultation meeting with the employee.

Requests to change open-ended contract end dates must be made using the Changes to Appointment form.

18. Further information and enquiries should be addressed to your contact in the HR Employment Contract AdministrationTeam - refer to http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/staff/hr_staff_contacts_ops.php.

HR Policy and Planning
July 2010