UCL Human Resources


Guidance on UCL Contracts of Employment

The type of contracts that UCL uses for different working arrangements, and the procedures governing the appointment of individuals and the termination of contracts

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. The recruitment process

Information about the recruitment process can be found in the People Managers Hub ‘How to recruit new staff’.

3. 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. Unitemps is UCL’s internal recruitment agency).

For information about using alternative Recruitment Agencies, visit Agency Workers.

4. 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.

  • Standard open-ended contracts
  • Open-ended contracts with grant / project end dates
  • Open-ended term-time or seasonal contracts
  • Fixed-term contracts
  • 'As and when' contracts to be used where there is no duty to either offer or accept work.

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 . The self employment questionnaire and application form can be found here.

5. 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. These types of engagements should be arranged through Unitemps. 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 payment can be made using an Additional Payment Form in MyHR Department Transactions. 

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

Payments should be based on an hourly rate derived from UCL's salary scales through MyHR Department Transactions. 

7. As and When workers

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 based on pro-rata 27 days plus pro-rata closure days and bank holidays that fall during the period of work.

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 HR Services

The hourly rate paid to such workers is derived from UCL's salary scales or prescribed under an approved UCL scheme.

An as and when worker 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.

8. 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 funded 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.

9. Apprenticeships

Apprenticeship Agreements are a type of employment contract that should only be given to apprentices employed on a recognised Apprenticeship Scheme at UCL. Apprenticeship Agreements are issued in conjunction with a Commitment Statement that details information about the apprentice’s off-the-job training. 

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

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). 

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 are employed on open-ended term-time or seasonal contracts (e.g. UCL Teaching Fellows).

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 instalments 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.

Departmental Administrators should review the relevant report on My Reporting and Dashboards that identifies those with funding end dates and take appropriate action.  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 Assignment Form, within ten 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. 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: www.ucl.ac.uk/human-resources/termination-procedure-all-ucl-employment-contracts

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 Assignment 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 www.ucl.ac.uk/human-resources/termination-procedure-all-ucl-employment-contracts).

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 MyHR Department Transactions.

18. Further information and enquiries

If you have any queried contact HR Services.