UCL Research Staff Employment

4 fights: some facts, fictions and warnings

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Pay and the Cost of Living Crisis

  • Who can afford to live/work in London?

  • Who can afford to have a research career? (especially lower grades; worse paid)

  • “Open-ended subject to funding” contracts are named misleadingly. Although UCL uses this terminology, and HESA do not count them as fixed-term, people on them experience them as such, and mortgage providers seldom treat such contracts as permanent.

  • What are the hidden costs of insecure employment? (damage to mental and physical health, relocation costs, mortgage difficulties, whether or not to have a family, and many more)

Pay / Promotion / Contracts

FACT: Research staff on G6 should be immediately promoted to G7 when they have been awarded a PhD in a relevant area.

FACT: Once you reach the top point of G6, you should be considered for promotion to G7.

FACT: After four years on G6, you should be promoted unless there is an exceptional reason not to, which must be justified in writing.

WARNING: HR processes which should ensure automatic promotion from G6 to G7 often fail.

WARNING: Increments are often lost (e.g., when new contract starts shortly before next increment on existing contract would have been reached).

COMMON FICTION: You cannot be on Grade 7 if you don’t have a PhD... YOU CAN! See paragraphs 33-39 of the Academic Promotions Guidance: https://tinyurl.com/UCLacprom

FACT: Promotion criteria for G7 to G8 are not difficult to meet.

FACT: PIs should provide G7 staff with opportunities to meet those criteria.

WARNING: It’s currently very difficult to change track from ‘research’ to ‘academic’.

WARNING: Downgrading on redeployment often happens, if only lower grade positions are available.


Pay Discrepancies

academic staff: 2:1 Male:Female; research staff 1:1
These discrepancies partly result from differential research promotion, and retention and recruitment


Undermined by research funding model:

  • 80% FEC
  • “Glass ceilings”
  • Cost envelopes (salaries may make grants “too expensive”)


FACT: Research staff also have the right to strike.
FACT: Staff who take strike action should incur no detriment greater than losing pay for that time.
FACT: It is additional detriment to work additional hours when not on strike to complete tasks due by the grant deadline.
FACT: No money can be taken from grants for days when grant-funded staff take strike action, so UCL and funders should:

  • Enact no-cost extensions on grants
  • Extend staff contracts
  • Move project deadlines

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Insecurity - Casualisation - Precarity

What might HE employers do to address the problems arising from insecure employment and casualisation?

Addressing the ever-increasing casualisation of research staff by increasing secure employment and ceasing or at least reducing the use of precarious contracts would benefit not only staff, but also employers and funders:

  • Institutional support for redeployment builds a pro-science environment
  • Forward-thinking: reduces or avoids redundancy and recruitment needs, and their associated costs^
  • Increases retention and development of research careers
  • Fair consultations reduce distress, and the frequency of complaints or grievances

Changing tracks should be simple (e.g., where researchers are also teaching, and performing related administrative tasks, they should be able to obtain permanent “academic” contracts)

NB: Accounting: Funding and budgets for different aspects of research grants are accounted for separately, so some costs, e.g., of recruitment, can be detached from others, e.g., grant-funded salary costs, although both are costs of employing research staff.