Ask the panel

August 3, 2007

Worried about your employment, maternity, pension rights? Send your questions to The Times Higher advice panel.

'I have an offer of a lecturer's post at a university outside the UK, but I have to start in September and my university will not release me before November because of the length of my notice period. I fear that I may lose this opportunity as a result. What are my options?'

* A spokesperson for the University and College Union says: "There is nothing to stop you negotiating a shorter notice period with your employer, and it would be worth seeking to do so - pointing out any benefits to them from an earlier release date, such as continuity of teaching provision if they are able to get a replacement for the start of the new term.

"It is also worth trying to find out whether other staff have been able to leave before the end of their notice. Ask colleagues and your trade union to find out if there are any examples you can cite.

"If other staff have been allowed to work a shorter notice period but this is being denied to you then you may have a legitimate grievance against your current employer and you should contact your trade union for advice. Also ask your trade union if there is any possibility that differences in treatment may amount to discrimination.

"If all staff are obliged to work their full notice and the employer will not negotiate a shorter period, you are bound by your contract, and to leave before your notice period expires would result in you breaching your contract."

* Gill Evans, project leader of the Higher Education Funding Council for England-funded Dispute Resolution Project , (www., says: "You are going to an employer who is not in direct competition with your present employer, and even if you were not it is very unlikely that an employer would try to recover damages against you from the courts if you simply left and began your new job on time. The sensible and also the decent thing to do would be to try to negotiate with your present employer so that you can leave by mutual agreement before you have worked out your notice."

* A spokesperson for the Universities and Colleges Employers Association says: "Your institution is entitled to insist that you serve the agreed notice if this is under the terms and conditions of your employment.

"You can, of course, try to negotiate a different resignation date or notice period. Communicating with your head of department is the first step, but remember that he or she will need to take the best interests of the students and staff at the institution into account."

This advice panel includes the University and College Union, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, Research Councils UK and Rachel Flecker, an academic who sits on Bristol University's contract research working party. Send questions to


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