15 October 2021
Pensions and pay and conditions
An update on pensions and pay and conditions
We want to attract, retain and develop world class talent across the university and we know our ongoing success depends on this. This is underpinned by our commitment to treating staff fairly with terms and conditions and rates of pay which are appropriate and clearly defined.
Rates of pay, as in most universities, are negotiated annually through the National Pay Bargaining round each year by the University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) which undertakes pay negotiations nationally with the five sector trade unions. Following the 2020/21 round of national pay, we implemented the 1.5% uplift for all staff. And for those staff at the lower end of the pay scales, we increased their pay up to a maximum of 3.6%. Additionally, we also implemented the annual incremental pay progression increases for eligible staff on the single pay spine.
We are committed to embedding intersectional equality, diversity and inclusion in our approach to working and studying at King’s. We conducted an equal pay audit in 2016 and then reviewed this in 2021. We did this to ensure staff pay is appropriately and clearly defined and following which, we addressed any inequalities raised by the review including the introduction of the Professorial Pay Framework.
The gender pay gap is often confused with equal pay which is about men and women being paid the same for doing similar work. The gender pay gap is the difference between the average hourly earnings of men and women. The main reason for this gap at King’s is caused by having more men than women in senior roles and, visa versa, more women than men in junior roles.
The most recent set of figures show that the gender pay gap at King’s decreased from 19.5% in 2017, to 17.1% in 2020. Whilst we are making progress in this area, we know we have more to do and are focusing on increasing the representation of women in senior level roles at King’s.
Each year we calculate the ethnicity pay gap as part of our own institutional commitment to race equality. This assessment shows that we have more work to do in reducing this gap. Especially since we saw this figure increase between 2019 and 2020 when we insourced over 400 cleaning and security staff to improve their pay and conditions in line with the rest of the King’s community. We are working with departments to better understand which parts of the university this affects most, so we can focus on those areas where we can make a real impact.
King’s values and cares about its’ people and has carried out extensive work to create ways of working that support our staff throughout their time with us. Our HR policies accommodate a range of different needs from shared parental leave, adoption and surrogacy leave, dependents leave to wellbeing days and we also provide support schemes such as the Parent Buddy scheme.
Our approach is to always employ staff on permanent contracts where possible. In 2019 we established a set of recruitment principles to address and reduce our reliance on short fixed-term contracts (FTCs). Where we can reasonably anticipate a continuing need for particular roles, we are employing staff on permanent contracts beyond the end date of the research project or teaching assignment.
We will always have a need to employ some staff on fixed term contracts or on an hourly paid basis depending on the nature of the role. Short FTCs can be helpful to cover circumstances like parental or sick leave, and roles covered by external research grants.
To support our staff and prioritise their health and wellbeing during this difficult time, where possible, during the pandemic we extended fixed term contracts regardless of whether the work and research was able to continue. Where we had staff placed on temporary furlough leave we topped up their salaries to make sure they continued to receive 100%.
We are proud to be a London Living wage employer, an accreditation awarded by the Living Wage Foundation to businesses who voluntarily pay the real living wage. We do not use zero-hour contracts.
Our Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) are an important part of King’s and play a vital role in delivering and supporting teaching and learning. The important work they undertake deserves to be fairly and fully recognised, which is why we have implemented the new GTA pay framework and moved them onto standard King’s contracts.
We understand that workload is of significant concern amongst our staff and has been intensified by the pandemic. People have worked extremely hard and in ways that none of us could have imagined. We recognise the extraordinary achievements and exceptional work and commitment of our colleagues which for some, has been through very challenging personal circumstances.
During this time, we have tried to support our staff to prioritise their families and health and wellbeing. We put in place measures including a temporary attendance allowance at the start of the pandemic for cleaning, security and engineering staff who volunteered to come onto campus. We also introduced the option to request temporary resource to support staff under pressure from juggling caring commitments, home schooling and working.
We hope these measures along with additional leave, the virtual meetings framework to lighten meetings load, carrying over untaken leave and our wellbeing support package have helped staff in some way.
Like many other organisations, the last 18 months has proven we can work in flexible ways we had perhaps not imagined before. Hybrid ways of working has been introduced to staff across the university. Already, we are seeing that staff value this new way of working and the opportunities it brings to improving the work-life balance. Many value their time on campus to connect with colleagues and have face to face conversations in a manner not possible online.
We know how important pensions are to our staff and we are determined to work hard to ensure the USS Pension scheme remains affordable and good value for our staff.
The pensions dispute relates to the rise in cost of funding the USS Pension scheme in order to pay out for the pensions already promised to our staff. The Russell Group’s short video explainer articulates the challenges we are facing.
Recently, the USS Trustee announced its’ decision to increase pension contributions by 0.2% for staff and 0.3% for King’s. We are disappointed by this decision because we believe and have said that at 30.7%, the current already high levels of joint contribution should be sufficient to secure a good pension for our staff. Whilst the additional contributions will cost the university around £1.2m each year, it is important we support our staff and pay much of the increase required to repair past deficits to the USS scheme. You can read more in our message to staff here.
If we do nothing, or if the JNC (Joint Negotiating Committee) cannot reach a decision, we and our staff will end up paying higher and unaffordable contribution rates of up to 56.2%.
So, it is vital we have our say on the proposals during the consultation process in November, where we can express our views and opinions to help shape the outcomes on benefit reform.
Taking Industrial Action won’t impact USS in any way, but it will impact our students and the wellbeing of our staff. We will be holding another Town Hall on the 21 October where you can put your questions and comments to us.
We know we have more work to do in a number of areas and we are committed to continuing to make progress against these important issues. We hope at the same time, it is also useful to help update you on what we are doing and the impact we have made so far. We are not complacent and will continue to strive to make further improvements that makes King’s an attractive place to work.