Research staff on fixed contracts at Leeds University will be entitled to redundancy money when their contracts cease, in a "breakthrough" which the Association of University Teachers hopes will prompt other universities into action, writes Alison Utley.
Leeds has decided to remove so-called waiver clauses, which require contract staff to sign away their right to redundancy money and to legal redress in cases of unfair dismissal. The waivers are used by most universities although the AUT has been campaigning to banish them for the 36,000 contract staff in higher education.
Some contract staff at Leeds had been refusing to sign waivers as a protest which, said Brian Everett, assistant general secretary of the AUT, had put pressure on the university. Other institutions were now being confronted with the Leeds decision he added.
"This is a very important step for a leading UK research university," he said. "It turns the tide against unacceptable and inefficient employment practices and puts fixed-term contract researchers on a par with other university employees at last."
Harry Lewis of the philosophy department said around 900 staff would benefit from the shift. It entitles contract staff to redundancy of Pounds 210 per year of employment after two years or more.
"This shows how important research staff are to the future of Leeds University," he said. "To ensure you have good researchers in place for the next research assessment exercise you need to motivate them to stay in place."
Leeds University said it regretted that funding demanded a certain proportion of fixed-term contracts: "We are converting as many rolling contracts into permanent positions as financial constraints permit."