An official draft agreement to bring terms and conditions of service for thousands of contract researchers into line with those for established staff has been issued for consultation.
The concordat has been drawn up by the research councils, the Royal Society and the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals together with the Office of Science and Technology and applies only to researchers funded by the councils and the society.
The document is based on key principles including the need for much better career management of contract researchers and the need for research councils and universities to understand their respective roles in meeting costs.
While the detailed arrangements for personnel and career management should be the responsibility of universities and colleges as employers, the document says, research councils and the Royal Society will wish to be satisfied, as "a key condition of providing grants and fellowships to institutions," that those institutions have effective policies.
The concordat also proposes that research councils pay for maternity leave claimed by contract researchers. Universities could then fund a substitute for the duration of the leave or extend the grant period.
The councils, the CVCP and the Royal Society will monitor compliance with the concordat, if adopted, and take compliance into account when awarding grants. Any concerns about non-compliance by councils must first be directed to the council concerned and if need be to Sir John Cadogan, the director general of research councils. Concerns about employer non-compliance should be directed at the university in the first instance and if need be to the appropriate council.
It is proposed that the councils, Royal Society and CVCP review the concordat after 18 months.
The Association of University Teachers welcomed it as a step in the right direction, but was concerned at the omission of advice and guidance on waiver clauses.