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How King’s is tackling key issues

Bush House

The University and College Union (UCU) has notified us that three days of national strike action are planned, on Thursday 24, Friday 25 and Wednesday 30 November 2022, as part of their two disputes over USS pensions and the 2022/23 pay claim.

King’s College London is about the people who study and work here. We recognise and are taking steps to address other important issues which are of concern to our students and staff and colleagues across the sector.  

Pay

At King’s, like other universities, we take part in national pay bargaining as we believe it to be fair and equitable for staff.

The national pay award is an annual increase negotiated with the trade unions by Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) on behalf of 140 universities. Individual universities don’t have control over these national negotiations, but we have worked on reward options aimed at supporting staff with the rise in cost of living within the context of national pay bargaining.

This year’s national pay increase ranged from 3% to 9% with those on the lowest end of the pay scale receiving the higher percentage increase. The national pay increase was one element of pay increases which staff received in the 2022 calendar year. Most of our colleagues at Grades 1 to 8 (who are not on probation and below the top spine point for their grade) also received an incremental progression award which is equivalent to a 3% increase.

We also increased the London Weighting Allowance by £500 to £4,000. The London Weighting Allowance continues to be negotiated locally between King’s and our recognised unions. The pay award and increase in the London Weighting Allowance results in a mean increase by employee in 2022 of 5.4%.

Eligible staff also received a one-off ex-gratia payment of £1000 (pro-rata for part-time staff) in their July pay. This was included in the final offer made to the unions on increasing the London Weighting Allowance. This increase means King’s is paying staff one of the highest amounts of London Weighting Allowance amongst the London Russell Group institutions.

In the 2022 calendar year, eligible staff who received incremental progression, in addition to the national pay award and increase to London Weighting received an increase in pay ranging from 15.6% for staff at Grade 1 level to 8.3% at Grade 8 level.

King’s has been committed to paying the London Living Wage since March 2014 and became an accredited London Living Wage employer in 2018. The current London Living Wage is £11.05 an hour and King’s pays a minimum of £12.55 per hour.

There is a range of support for students and staff to help with cost of living.

Job security

Precarious employment is something we are taking action on. Our default position is to employ staff on indefinite contracts. However, the nature of some roles does mean that we will always have a need to employ some staff on fixed-term contracts or on an hourly paid basis. This can be helpful to support parental leave, and roles covered by external research grants.

Where we can anticipate a need for particular roles, we are employing staff on permanent contracts beyond the end date of the research project or teaching assignment.

Our Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) play a vital role in delivering and supporting teaching and learning to our students. GTAs continue to remain employees of King’s which means their contract remains with King’s and they maintain all current benefits, including leave entitlements and membership of the USS pension scheme.

Workload

King’s leadership has heard very clearly the concern expressed by staff across the university about their workload. This is a complex problem involving looking at systems and recruitment locally as well as across King’s.

We know the increase in student admissions due to the record number of A-Level results in 2021 has had an impact on workload. To address this, we introduced rapid approvals on additional staff resourcing requests and as part of Strategy 2026 we are looking to further simplify our systems and processes to reduce the time and effort processing routine business.

For example, the introduction of Worktribe, an intuitive cloud-based platform, has transformed the management of research grants. It brings together information about research applications, contracts and funding into one central repository, improving efficiency and transparency. This is just one of a range of initiatives that aim to bring greater simplicity and effectiveness to our underlying operations.

Equality and pay gaps

Intersectional equality, diversity and inclusion is rooted in our approach to working and studying at King’s and we’re committed to ensuring fair and equal pay for all our staff.

The pay audits we carry out help to identify any pay inequalities which we can then work to address. The Professorial Pay Framework which ensures a fair and transparent pay structure for our professors was introduced as a result of the pay audit. The next pay audit is due to take place in 2023.

Each year we voluntarily calculate, record and publish the ethnicity pay gap at King’s, the difference between the average hourly earnings of white staff and those from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background. In 2021 the ethnicity pay gap decreased from 19.9% to 19.1% and we are continuing to address this gap.

We are working hard to reduce gender and ethnicity pay gaps – caused by the disproportionate representation of Black, Asian, ethnic minority and female staff lower down our pay scale – through e.g., mentoring programmes and career coaching. Through this work, we have increased the number of female professors at King’s and the number of senior black women in our Academic and Professional Services units.

King’s now has the highest proportion of senior female academic staff within the Russell Group according to the latest Higher Education Statistics Agency data, with the number of senior female academic staff increasing to 40.4 per cent in 2021-22. We have also seen a 2% uplift in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic academic staff in the past year.

The disability pay gap is not something we currently calculate and record as there isn’t an agreed national methodology for doing this.

USS Pension

We have always been clear in our position that at 30.7%, the already high levels of joint employer and employee member contributions should be sufficient to secure a good pension for staff members.

We are committed to working with the USS Trustee and UUK and continuing to push for a full review of the scheme. To support our engagement with UUK and spark debate we commissioned the Pensions Policy Institute, in conjunction with King’s Policy Institute, to develop a report on the future of university pensions.

Recently more positive updates from the USS Trustee give hope that the funding position of the scheme has been improving, if this continues there may be the opportunity as part of the March 2023 valuation to potentially improve benefits and cost. However, with the world and UK economies remaining uncertain, it cannot be assumed that the current improved position will continue into 2023.