Terms of adjustment

January 24, 1997

Alan Thomson reports (THES, January 10) that Steve Rouse estimates that a ban on waiver clauses could cost the sector around Pounds 15 million a year. This is certainly a massive exaggeration.

There are now some 28,000 research staff on fixed-term contracts. The House of Lords select committee on science and technology estimated that an average period of time spent as a contract researcher without change of employer is about four years. For those under 41 the Statutory Redundancy Payment (SRP) is limited to Pounds 210 for each year of service. Thus, in an average year, we can expect roughly 7,000 research staff to have an average entitlement to Pounds 840 (4 x Pounds 210) giving a grand total of Pounds 5.88 million.

Of course, some adjustments are necessary for a more accurate estimate. Those aged 41 and over have a slightly higher SRP entitlement, but we know that the vast majority of research staff are under 41.

We also have to bear in mind that all those leaving with less than two years' service would have no entitlement as there is a two-year qualifying period for SRP.

Most important, Rouse takes no account of the fact that many leading universities already pay SRP on a voluntary basis. For example, most of the Scottish universities have ceased to use the waiver. It is only those universities which wait until legislation compels them which will bear new costs arising from redundancy payments.

The true cost is therefore of the order of Pounds 5 million not the Pounds 15 million claimed. Unless, that is, he has allowed Pounds 10 million per annum to compensation for unfair dismissals? Surely the UCEA does not think its members to be such bad employers.

David Bleiman Assistant general secretary, Association of University Teachers, Edinburgh

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