Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (661)

Catherine Connolly


661. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if his attention has been drawn to the use of contracts of indefinite duration at third level institutions and the use of such contracts with unpaid related academic duties; his views on this practice; the analysis, if any, undertaken by his Department in relation to the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38138/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Higher education institutions (HEIs) are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997, Technological University’s Act 2018 and the Institute of Technology Acts 1992 -2006. Institutions have autonomy in relation to human resource policies, subject to compliance with Government policy in respect of employment numbers and pay policy, and are not under the direct control of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

My Department has engaged with representative bodies of the HEIs and been advised that circumstances where a staff member may have in excess of two years’ service but not have a contract of indefinite duration, would include where there is an objective ground for the position being filled on a fixed term basis, that is, there is an ‘objective condition’ (per the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003) such as arriving at a specific date, completing a specific task, or the occurrence of a specific event, that objectively justify the position being filled on a fixed term basis.

Typical examples would include replacement appointments for academic staff ‘seconded’ to School or institutional leadership roles; time bound philanthropic-funded activities; and appointments to new academic programmes, the continuance of which would depend upon student uptake.

Officials from the HEA, DFHERIS and DPER are currently engaged in discussions to agree revised principles for a new Higher Education Staffing Agreement which will update the current Employment Control Framework.

Employers in the higher education sector are also required to operate in accordance with the provisions of national industrial relations agreements. In the event that a lecturer has concerns regarding work and contract conditions in any third level institution, they can raise this with their employer in the first instance and they also have a variety of dispute resolution options open to them.