Hundreds of the lowest-paid university workers face an income-less Christmas because of confusion over a law governing term-time-only contracts.
Public services union Unison has petitioned the House of Lords to clarify regulations that left some higher education staff with neither salaries nor benefits this summer. It is also considering whether to appeal against the regulations on sex discrimination grounds because women form the majority affected.
Interpretation of social security rules governing term-time workers has been a problem for many years. In March, the Central Adjudication Services advised that education workers with a recognisable cycle of work were in remunerative employment during the holidays, even if they were unpaid.
This meant many were refused benefits in summer and face a second vacation without income. A Unison spokesman said: "The moral arguments are overwhelming."