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UCU: UNIVERSITY AND COLLEGE UNION

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Research Staff Rights

Below we summarise recent improvements to the conditions of service for research staff that have been agreed between UCLUCU and University College London. Research staff are encouraged to take advantage of these points, which should have been implemented by all departments.

See also the companion page Fixed Term Staff - know your rights especially for questions of your rights in redundancy situations.

Career Development: An extensive career development scheme for researchers providing a path to permanent status over time has been negotiated by the UCU and is kept under review by continuing negotiations and through the CRS working group. Research staff are included in staff review and development programmes.

College Representation: Research staff on grade 7 (was "RA 1A") and above are eligible for election to Academic and Faculty boards. This right is now established by law under the Fixed-Term Employees Regulations 2002 (achieved after intense lobbying by UCU) denying the right of employers to discriminate against fixed-term staff.
Discretionary Pay: Sometimes called Performance Related Pay. Externally funded staff are eligible for discretionary pay awards and College have now agreed that these will be decided for externally funded staff at the same time as for HEFCE funded staff. The panel recommending awards is common to both groups of staff. Nonetheless UCU believes that such payments are divisive and that if additional funds are available in a pay award, then these should benefit all staff.
Discrimination: Under the recent Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002, employers are not permitted to treat temporary staff differently to permanent staff. In addition, the onus is on the employer to justify the employment of staff on temporary contracts, and to limit the use of successive fixed term contracts. Recognising this, UCL is moving all research staff onto open-ended contracts unless the contract is shorter than 9 months.
Grant Applications: UCL supports the principle that research staff may apply for research grants in their own right, subject to the funder's guidelines. Some funding bodies, such as the ESRC, permitted contract research staff to be named as principal investigators in the past. Now, with research staff placed on open-ended contracts, applications for funding should not be refused on the grounds of the applicant's contractual status. 
Leave Entitlement: All research staff are entitled to 27 days annual leave (was 25 days before the Pay Framework process) in addition to bank holidays and other periods of College closure. 
Length of Contract: The contract of employment should at least be for the duration of the funding period for the project. Projects which exceed 9 months require staff to be placed on open-ended contracts. All new research staff should receive a letter of employment from the College outlining this procedure. 
Maternity Leave:

Paid maternity leave has been increased from 16 to 26 weeks (18 weeks on full pay from UCL, 8 weeks on statutory pay). All staff are now entitled to this leave from Day 1. Paternity leave of 10 days is available irrespective of grant fund availability.

Research Councils will currently pay (as an Exceptional Item claimed at the end of the project) to either 

  • extend the duration of the research project to span a maternity leave period or
  • pay for a replacement staff member to cover a maternity leave period.

Although the project date may be extended, the Research Councils will not cover the Occupational Maternity Pay beyond the original end date of the project. Instead, UCL will pay this money provided you/your PI notify HR as soon as possible and state that you 'want to put the grant in abeyance for the maternity period'. The project period would then be extended by the maternity leave period.

Redeployment is accessible to all regardless of maternity status. It is illegal to discriminate against an employee because of her maternity status and this would include accessing all measures to avoid redundancy.

Probation Procedure: All research staff are subject to a probationary period of nine months on their first appointment. Probation is not applicable to subsequent appointments.
Promotions: Promotion from Grade 6 (RA 1B) to Grade 7 (RA 1A) will be automatic (except in cases of a negative review) for all staff either gaining a Ph.D. or completing four years service. The use of Grade 6 for research staff is being phased out following the Pay Framework agreement.

Research staff who have been at the top of the Grade 7 (RA 1A) scale for more than one year will automatically be considered for promotion to Grade 8 (RA II). Consideration of applications for promotion is independent of availability of funding. See Promotion Procedure.
Redundancy Pay: All research staff with 2 or more years of service are entitled to redundancy pay if they are made redundant. See the Redundancy Pay page.
Renewal or continuation of Contract: Most staff are now on open-ended (permanent) contracts and new contract letters are no longer regularly sent out to staff. 

Notice of contract termination letters should be sent at least 3 months before the end of contract. If further funding is not available you have the right to consultation and redeployment.

You can dispute your redundancy if you believe that you have been unfairly treated. See Fixed Term Staff - know your rights.
Salary Agreements:

All pay settlements agreed nationally between UCU and Universities UK are paid to externally funded contract research staff at the same time as other staff. As a result of successive pay campaigns, a number of improvements have benefited research staff. Three bottom points on the salary scale were removed, raising the minimum starting level of pay for all staff, including research staff.The London Weighting Allowance was unfrozen from £2,134 (where it had stayed for 11 years) and now attracts annual increases in line with national pay awards.Further gains have been made as a result of 'vigorous' local negotiations over the National Pay Framework. These gains include higher starting salaries as well as other improvements to conditions of service.

  • Three bottom points on the salary scale were removed, raising the minimum starting level of pay for all staff, including research staff.
  • The London Weighting Allowance was unfrozen from £2,134 (where it had stayed for 11 years) and now attracts annual increases in line with national pay awards.
  • Further gains have been made as a result of 'vigorous' local negotiations over the National Pay Framework. These gains include higher starting salaries as well as other improvements to conditions of service.
Salary Advances and Season Ticket Loan: New research staff are offered a salary advance of one month, to be repaid over a period of six months. Season ticket loans and removal expense support are also available with similar repayment procedures.
Training: All new research staff are now given a short induction course. Additionally, all research staff are eligible to attend any of the courses advertised in the College Staff Training Bulletin published by Staff Development and Training.

Any problems?

In order to defend these agreements we need to know when they are not being adhered to. Please notify ucu@ucl.ac.uk if you believe this to be the case. You should note that in order to receive advice and support on your personal case from UCLUCU you need to be a member of the union (ideally for several months unless you are new to UCL). All college staff, including researchers, are eligible to join their relevant union, which in this case is UCU.