The employment of staff on 'hourly-paid' contracts
The University of Bath, along with all other Universities, needs to be very flexible and innovative to deliver quality services to our students. And we need to employ a very varied range of people to deliver those services, ranging from:
- Professional working architects to teach on our Number 1 ranked courses in architecture and civil engineering
- Conference assistants to deliver major international events on campus
- Student ambassadors to support our work with local schools and colleges
The demand for these skills is also very seasonal. During the academic year we are able to offer students a wide range of work experience, from administrative roles to demonstrating laboratory experiments. Outside the academic year, we provide accommodation for conferences and visitors to the city, all of which needs to be managed.
Many of these roles are not well suited to the longer-term contracts which are typical for our employees. The term ‘zero hours contract’ is often used and refers to a type of contract where an individual is usually obliged to be available and to accept the work when it is offered. At the University of Bath we don’t use these. However, we do use the flexibility of short-term, hourly-paid contracts to deliver these services, and in 2015/16, this totalled, averaged across the year, the equivalent of 219 full-time employees. Our existing policies provide for this type of work, and we are constantly looking for ways to improve and update this as peoples’ expectations of work continue to change.
Education and Research roles
The Education and Research job family includes a range of roles including laboratory demonstrators, researchers and teaching staff employed on short-term flexible contracts. In total we employed the equivalent of 58 full-time employees last year, and these are generally very short term contracts, with 70% working for fewer than three months. There have been claims publicised such as “54.8% of academic staff work on insecure contracts”. We calculate that around 5% of our teaching and research workforce are employed on flexible, short-term contracts, which reflects the need for specialist skills, the variable demand, and our desire to offer opportunities to students to learn valuable work skills.
The support roles in the University are many and varied, including administration, catering, childcare, fundraising, outreach, retail, sports coaching, tour guides and ushers. With over 15,000 students and 3,000 staff, this is a large organisation run and it requires a varied and flexible workforce to maintain it. In total we employed the equivalent of 159 full-time employees in these roles last year, with 84% working for fewer than three months, reflecting the very seasonal nature of this work. Almost 60% were current students of the University taking the opportunity to get work experience and earn a little extra.