Ask the panel

November 11, 2005

I am employed as a research associate on a grant. But as well as doing research, I also carry out demonstrating and teaching for my department, for which I get no extra payment. I have recently discovered that researchers in other departments who teach are paid in addition to their research salaries. Is this legal?

* Our Association of University Teachers panellist answers:

"Whether or not you should receive additional income will largely depend on your contract and job description (if you have one). If you are required to teach as part of your job and time is provided by the university to do it, then it is unlikely that you would be entitled to additional income. If, however, you undertake teaching on a voluntary basis and it is in addition to the hours you are paid to do your research, then you are entitled to be paid for the work."

She adds: "You could also refer to the national academic role profiles for researchers to see whether you are expected to undertake teaching duties at your grade. If not, you should be receiving additional income. You may also have an equal-pay case if you have colleagues who are paid and you are not. Speak to your manager or human resources department and seek advice from your union."

* Natfhe agrees that you should check your job description and contract.

Our panellist says: "You would be entitled to additional pay if the work were in addition to what your contract and job description require you to do. If your job description or contract are not clear, then you are entitled to consider what colleagues in a similar position are doing and being paid for. If some are paid and you are not, there may be issues of equal pay or discrimination. Either way you should ask your departmental representative to find out whether any staff on similar contracts are being paid for such work. If they are not, you may not be able to make a case to be paid unless your contract or job description make it clear you should be paid - or that these duties are not part of your contract. If you find out there are other colleagues in the same position, there is no reason why you should not collectively ask to be paid, and if necessary involve the union's departmental representative."

* Our resident academic says: "It is certainly good practice to pay researchers for the demonstrating and teaching they do in addition to the research their contracts require. You could put this case to your head of department indicating the practice of other departments that do pay.

"However, if you find the head unreceptive and research staff carry out a significant quantity of departmental teaching, you may find that organising, or even just threatening, a boycott is more successful. I have known this tactic to work elsewhere."

* The Research Councils UK panellist provides some context: "The 1996 concordat on contract research staff says that demonstrating and teaching duties should be encouraged as part of career management. If you are working towards a lecturer post, it may well prove to be valuable experience.

"Research Council grant conditions say research staff may undertake teaching and demonstrating work for up to six hours a week (during normal working hours) if this work is related to their research project."

* The Universities and Colleges Employers' Association says: "Your experience, contract details and grading as a research associate may differ significantly from those of researchers in other departments. These research colleagues may well be qualified to teach and therefore it is perfectly acceptable for them to be employed as both teachers and researchers and paid accordingly.JPerhaps the teaching you undertake is beneficial to your career because you are gaining valuable experience.

However, if this teaching appears to be outside set working hours and is not career developmental, it is your responsibility to address payment and contract issues with your employer and department to clarify the arrangement."

This advice panel includes the Association of University Teachers, Natfhe, the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association, Research Councils UK, the Equality Challenge Unit and Rachel Flecker, an academic who sits on Bristol University's contract research working party.

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