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New report highlights extensive use of insecure contracts in colleges

15 April 2016 | last updated: 26 April 2016

English colleges' reliance on insecure contracts, including zero-hours contracts, is laid bare in a new report from UCU published today

The report found that 34% of the total teaching staff in 220 English further education colleges are employed on a range of insecure contracts*. Amongst non-lecturing staff who are delivering the curriculum, the proportion is even higher at 37%.

The table (below) shows the top 50 worst offenders, with Abingdon and Witney College (74.9%) and East Surrey College (72.6%) emerging as the general further education colleges with the highest numbers of staff employed on insecure contracts.

Anecdotal evidence backed up by research suggests that insecure contracts undermine teachers' ability to do a good job as they often have poor access to facilities and training, can only get their job done by putting in unpaid hours, and are constantly stressed about future availability of work. 

In January, the union wrote to 246 English colleges asking them to stop using zero-hours contracts and to work with UCU to review the use of all forms of non-permanent contracts. Overall just 14% (36) of those colleges said they were open to working with UCU to address the issue of precarious work. Three fifths of the colleges (146) failed to respond to UCU's letter. Thirty-five of the top 50 worst offenders ignored or responded negatively to UCU's request.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'The report shows there is a damaging, 'hire and fire' culture of insecurity flourishing in our colleges. The worst offending colleges employ more than seven in every ten staff on precarious contracts, and many more institutions are relying heavily on them.

'We know that a teacher's ability to do a good job is compromised if they are on an insecure contract. We need better workforce planning that gives staff stable jobs. Such a high proportion of insecure contracts could seriously undermine the future of high-quality vocational education and apprenticeships.'

 * Insecure contracts in further education refer to variable hours contracts, hourly-paid contracts, term-time only contracts and staff employed by agencies.

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