King’s College London and UCU agree deal to end marking boycott

Staff secure increases in London weighting, childcare subsidies and more parental leave

September 20, 2023
King’s College London
Source: iStock

Staff at King’s College London will receive an extra £800 in London weighting as well as more generous parental leave and childcare subsidies as part of a local deal that has brought strikes and a marking boycott to an end.

An increase in the payment made to staff who work in the capital takes it from £4,200 currently to £5,000 and will come into effect in December after 96 per cent of members of the University and College Union (UCU) branch voted to accept the deal. It means staff at King’s have seen the allowance rise by £1,500 since 2021. 

Union members at King’s had continued to boycott marking and assessment work despite the action being called off nationally, but have now agreed to resume these duties. They will also no longer take part in the nationwide strikes due to take place between 25 and 29 September.

Paid maternity leave will increase from 18 to 20 weeks as part of the deal, while paid paternity leave will increase from two to six weeks and will apply from the start of a staff member’s contract. Currently staff are ineligible until they have completed 24 weeks’ employment.

This was particularly important for those in precarious positions, said Lucia Pradella, vice-president of the King’s UCU branch. Previously academics had struggled to claim maternity rights if their contracts were expiring, she claimed.

Childcare support offered by the university is also being extended to all staff members with children under the age of three, who will be able to claim up to 20 per cent of the costs.

The deal includes a new recognition agreement between King’s and UCU, covering the processes of negotiation, consultation, information and dispute resolution.

Joint union-management working groups are also being set up to address pay gaps, excessive workloads and career progression including casualisation, UCU said.

Dr Pradella said members had been “overwhelmingly” in favour of accepting the offer. She said she felt the decision to continue the marking boycott had added to the pressure on King’s and secured further concessions.

Although strikes have been called off, Dr Pradella said the branch would continue to support the national effort, including balloting members on whether to extend the industrial action mandate into 2024.

UCU regional official Barry Jones said the deal would make a big difference to those on the lowest incomes and those with caring responsibilities, and called on other universities to follow the lead of the institution.

A spokesperson for King’s College London said: “We have worked hard with our colleagues from UCU, Unison and Unite throughout 2023 to progress a wide range of benefits for all staff to build our thriving staff community at King’s, including increases to the London Weighting Allowance, childcare support and paid parental leave.

“In recognition of the significant progress around these issues, UCU branch members have agreed to end the marking and assessment boycott with immediate effect.”

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