University and College Union

Contract Research Staff

Recent Improvements to Conditions of Service

The following summarises recent improvements to the conditions of service for contract 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 below). Future improvements currently under negotiation are summarised at the foot of this page.

Bridging Fund: Research staff are eligible to apply for a bridging loan from this fund to cover gaps in funding. This normally covers half their salaries for 3-6 months with departments expected to cover the other half.
Career Development: An extensive career development scheme for CRS 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. Contract research staff are included in staff review and development programmes.
College Representation: Research staff on grades 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 contract 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 proposing to move all contract research staff onto open-ended contracts (see below).
Fees for Higher Degrees: Externally funded research staff registered for higher degrees are entitled to a remission of half the part-time fee. The other half is often paid by the department or research project.
Grant Applications: UCL supports the principle that research staff may apply for research grants in their own right, subject to the funder's guidelines. However, currently rules vary widely between funding bodies. The UCU continues to press all research councils to follow the lead of the ESRC and accept that contract research staff can be named as principal investigators.
Leave Entitlement: All research staff are entitled to 27 days annual leave (used to be 25 days before the Pay Framework process) in addition to bank holidays and other periods of College closure.
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). Staff are now entitled to this leave from Day 1. Paternity leave of 10 days is available irrespective of grant fund availability.
Probation Procedure and Length of Contract: All research staff are subject to a probationary period of nine months on their first appointment. Probation is not applicable to subsequent appointments. The contract of employment should be for the duration of the funding period for the project on which they are employed. All new research staff should receive a letter of employment from the College outlining this procedure. See Career Management Scheme.
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. Research staff that have been at the top of the Grade 7 (RA 1A) scale for more than one year, will automatically be considered for promotion to scale Grade 8 (RA II). Consideration of applications for promotion is independent of availability of funding. See Promotion Procedure.
Redundancy Pay: This has recently been increased for research staff with 5 or more years of service. Redundancy pay is calculated as follows:
Statutory redundancy pay will be paid if an employee has been continuously employed for at least 2 years. This is calculated according to: length of service up to a maximum of 20 years, age, and weekly pay, on which there is an upper limit (currently £260). Employees are eligible for 1 week's pay (up to £260) for each complete year of service up to the age of 40, and 1.5 week's pay for each year of employment thereafter.
For those with over 5 years of service, the cap is removed and the calculation is based on the full weekly pay. For 10 years of service or more, the total number of week's pay due is doubled.
Renewal of Contract: Staff expecting a renewal of contract should receive a new contract at least one month before the expiry of the existing contract. UCL have agreed with UCU that notice of termination letters should be sent 3 months before the end of contract. If further funding is not available you have the right to consultation and redeployment.
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) to £2,300. It 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 include higher starting salaries.
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.

Future Improvements

Open-ended Contracts:

We have been in negotiation with UCL regarding transferring all research staff onto open-ended contracts. Continuation of employment will still be subject to the availability of funding, but the default will be that the contract continues, rather than terminates (as at present).

We hope that the implications of such a change in employment practice will lead to a cultural change in the employment of research staff, including positive implications for career development, management training and redeployment.

More information about the union campaign for best practice is available here.

Any problems?

In order to defend these agreements we need to know when they are not being adhered to. Please notify r.m.jones@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. Click here to apply.


See also

New Starters
Career Management Scheme
Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching
Staff Development and Training Unit / Research Page

Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002

Return to UCL UCU Home Page. Enquiries to Rob Jones. Last updated 24 October, 2006