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Response to Open Letter

Published: 5th August, 2020

On 23 July we sent an Open Letter to the University of Leicester’s Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor. Their response, received on 29 July, is below.

The University recognises the valuable contributions all our staff are making during this very difficult time. We take the sector-wide issue of casualisation and precarity seriously and understand the issues this has for our students, staff and the wider university. We continue to work closely with Leicester UCU (LUCU) on this matter and hope to build on the positive work we have already undertaken in partnership. The actions and progress to date are provided below. 

The Vice-Chancellor and members of the Executive Board attended an insightful listening event arranged by the Vice-Chair of LUCU in early March 2020. This was a valuable exercise as it added further detail on the issues created by precarious employment contracts. Following this helpful session we have committed to holding specific College listening events (LUCU have agreed to write a brief for these meetings) to help inform future actions. 

A further meeting with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Chief Operating Officer and the Interim Director of Human Resources, was held in April 2020 with LUCU representatives and members to discuss precarious contracts. From this meeting, a number of actions were taken forward which included changes to processes for staff who are placed on fixed term contracts and improved advertising of job share arrangements. This work is supported by regular meetings with HR colleagues and the Chair and Vice-Chair of LUCU to ensure we work collaboratively on this agenda. 

HR colleagues review UNITEMPS usage in detail with the Chair and Vice-Chair of LUCU. This forms part of an ongoing joint review with LUCU of all UNITEMPS contracts, grading and the movement of staff on to contracts. This work has helped to ensure that UNITEMPS contracts are used appropriately for infrequent and irregular workers. As a result of the review, just over 100 workers have been placed on to university employment contracts and annualised hours contracts of employment are now being piloted in Life Sciences. 

All University fixed term contracts are appropriately reviewed through our University procedures with support provided to colleagues. Where there is the need for the work to continue, the contracts will be appropriately extended, although this will not always be a requirement and cannot be the guaranteed position. We will ensure the University has the right number and balance of the workforce to deliver the University strategy. 

The Interim Director of Human Resources has also been working with LUCU to develop a joint statement on Temporary Workforce Principles which is being reviewed by LUCU. The nature of the University’s activities predicates a need for flexibility in the deployment of, and contractual arrangements for, its workforce. In order to support this, the Temporary Workforce Principles will set out the University’s approach to engaging its extended workforce and the principles that underpin our employment practices. 

The Executive Board will continue to engage, listen, respond and take actions forward to improve the position of our precarious workers. We would like to reiterate our commitment to work together with our University community including all the Trade Unions to support this important agenda and continue to make positive changes for the University of Leicester. 

Chancellor, Lord Willetts 

Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Nishan Canagarajah 

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Edmund Burke