An academic who was denied permission to move jobs until after the research excellence framework deadline has claimed that a six-month notice period constitutes an unfair restriction of labour.
But he was shocked to learn that Kent intended to enforce contractual terms that would prevent him leaving until January.
It later shortened the notice period to allow him to move to Roehampton on 1 November – the day after the REF census date.
Dr Kesson, whose research was graded as 4* in a recent internal review, said that the lengthy notice period was at odds with current practice at Kent and higher education in general, where two months’ notice was standard.
“A few months’ notice seems normal practice, but the REF is making [Kent] behave strangely,” Dr Kesson said.
“It’s frustrating when your former employer is saying they still employ you and are forbidding you from going elsewhere.
“It has meant five months of legal wrangling, which has not been good for my health,” he added.
A Kent spokesman said that notice periods were set out clearly in academics’ contracts, with those submitting their notice by 31 March being able to leave at the end of July.
Those who submitted their notice between April and August had to remain until 31 December, although this had been shortened in Dr Kesson’s case, he added.
The academic said he understood Kent’s position, but April to June was a period when many academics moved jobs.
He added that the lengthy notice period had put “a brake on staff mobility”.
“In effect, [the university] was asking me to turn down a promotion and a pay rise to remain at Kent,” Dr Kesson said.