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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 2006

Part-Time Lecturer Wins Precedent-Setting Victory

A university lecturer has won an important settlement which may ensure that part-time British academic staff are paid a pro-rata equivalent to their full-time colleagues.

Susan Birch, who was employed on a part-time basis at Leeds Metropolitan University, challenged her inadequate pay and precarious job status using the European Union’s Part Time Workers (Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000. The regulations put in place minimum standards for rates of pay, access to pension and other benefits, training opportunities and other working conditions.

Birch worked as a teacher trainer and taught English as a second language for seven years, teaching more hours than her full-time colleagues for less pay.

She took the university to court after reading about new laws regulating the use of part-time workers. The lecturers’ union, NATFHE, supported her through the three-year employment tribunal process, viewing it as a landmark case that could represent major gains for thousands of hourly paid employees.

The university agreed to a settlement just before the case was due to go to a final hearing. Birch received £25,000 in compensation and was transferred to a full-time position.

NATFHE general secretary Paul Mackney said the case establishes that part-time lecturers are entitled to equal, pro-rata pay rates to full-time colleagues.

“This will bring confidence and hope to thousands of badly paid lecturers in further and higher education. More than 40 per cent of university teaching staff are on hourly-paid contracts. Many experience poverty pay, job insecurity and poor working conditions — often not even having a desk.”

NATFHE is continuing to work on the long-term goal of a fully pro-rated system, where part-time staff are employed with equivalent rates of pay and working conditions to full-time colleagues.