Casual FE staff struggling to make ends meet, says UCU

Seventy-two per cent of staff on casual contracts are in financial difficulties, with some resorting to food banks to survive, a UCU report finds

Kate Parker

Casual contracts, casual contracts in FE, casual contracts in further education, temporary contracts

Widespread use of casual contracts across the further education sector is forcing staff to work multiple jobs and visit food banks to make ends meet, says the University and College Union (UCU).

A report from the union found that 72 per cent of staff working on insecure contracts in further, adult and prison education said they struggled to subsist, and 56 per cent said they experienced problems paying bills.

The uncertainty of fixed-term or part-time contracts is taking a strain on mental and physical health too, with two-thirds saying they believed their mental health had been damaged as a result and almost half found it had impacted on their physical health.

Background: Insecure contracts ‘could undermine FE provision’

Read more:  Corbyn: FE must have funds to pay decent wage

Quick listen: Tes FE Podcast: Adult education and mental health

Respondents told the union they suffered with the fear and stress of hours – and therefore income – being cut with little or no notice. Others said it was difficult to get a mortgage or secure rented accommodation without being able to demonstrate they had a stable income. 

The vast majority (93 per cent) of respondents on fixed-term contracts said that they’d rather be employed on a permanent basis. 

According to UCU, employing staff on insecure contracts is having a damaging impact on students’ education. The union is calling on Ofsted to address the negative impact on teaching quality due to casualisation.

Respondents complained they were not given the same resources as permanent staff – one said they had no work email address, no desk or work space, and struggled to get simple tasks such as photocopying done.

UCU’s head of further education Andrew Harden said that the survey lifted the lid on the damage that insecure work is doing to people’s health in our colleges and prisons.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. UCU has worked with colleges to improve the security of employment for teaching staff and will work with any employer willing to engage with us on this issue. But it is no longer acceptable for employers to ignore the problem," he said.

Kirsti Lord, deputy chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “Teachers are the engines that keep our education system running – they shape and transform lives. Nobody should have to use food banks, or worry about how they are going to pay their bills. We are working with UCU and others to make clear to government that ‘the end of austerity’ must also apply to colleges.”

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a schools and colleges content producer.

Find me on Twitter @KateParkerTes

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