35-hour week for all

Each year the New JNCHES higher education pay offer is made with reference to HE staff being employed on a 35-hour week contract. In years prior to 2019/20, the Living Wage Foundation rate has been achieved as a minimum level of pay but only for those employed on a 35-hour week contract.

UNISON’s 2022 FOI (based on data correct at October 2021) showed that, in fact, the majority of universities in the UK issue standard contracts with a working week that is higher than 35 hours, meaning that the Foundation Living Wage isn’t achieved even for staff directly employed by universities if they are paid on the lowest few spine points.

The response to UNISON’s FOI from October 2021 shows that:

  • 55 universities employ staff on a 35-hour week as standard,
  • 28 universities employ staff on more than a 35-hour week and less than a 37-hour week as standard,
  • 49 universities employ staff on a 37-hour week or more as standard,
  • Approximately 10 HEIs use a combination of standard contracted hours depending on grade.

The joint trade unions believe that New JNCHES can show leadership for the sector by developing national guidance on moving staff onto a 35-hour week. Addressing this would go a significant way towards eliminating poverty pay in the sector.

The number of hours in the standard weekly contract directly correlates with the amount that salaries are worth per hour. This comes into sharp focus for those working on part-time, hourly paid or zero hours contracts as well as for those on the lowest pay points. Whilst contracts are issued locally by each employer, the New JNCHES agreement states that discussions can take place on remuneration matters ‘…where the detail is determined locally in the context of the Framework…. allowing consideration of practice…across the sector as a whole…”.

Additionally, the New JNCHES pay agreement 2006-09 section 4 “The Standard Working Week” states that “…the sub-committee jointly recommends HEIs with a longer working week explore actively …a reduction in working hours”.

UNISON believes employers across the UK should do exactly this, and start the process of moving our members onto 35-hour week contracts with no detriment, to level up across the UK. Why should our members work 2 hours a week for free?

Download the list of HEIs and their hourly standard working week.