Re­search elite of­fer best ma­ter­nity leave

Gen­er­ous pack­ages at re­search in­ten­sives used to re­tain staff, study sug­gests. Rachael Pells re­ports

THE (Times Higher Education) - - FRONT PAGE -

The UK’S re­search-in­ten­sive uni­ver­si­ties of­fer more gen­er­ous ma­ter­nity leave pack­ages than their teachin­gori­ented con­tem­po­raries, ac­cord­ing to a study that high­lights ev­i­dence of a clear di­vide in aca­demics’ parental rights.

In a pa­per due to be pub­lished at the end of this month, Vera Troeger, pro­fes­sor of quan­ti­ta­tive po­lit­i­cal econ­omy at the Univer­sity of War­wick, and Mari­aelisa Epi­fanio, lec­turer in pol­i­tics at the Univer­sity of Liver­pool, sug­gest that re­search­fo­cused in­sti­tu­tions such as those in the Rus­sell Group of­ten al­low fe­male em­ploy­ees who are ex­pect­ing chil­dren more time off at full salary as part of a strate­gic move to re­tain their best work­ers.

The re­searchers name the univer- sities of Manch­ester, Ox­ford and Southamp­ton as be­ing among the most gen­er­ous em­ploy­ers, each of­fer­ing soon-to-be moth­ers 26 weeks’ leave at full salary.

At the other end of the scale sit smaller or spe­cial­ist in­sti­tu­tions, which of­fer no weeks off at full salary. Th­ese in­clude, ac­cord­ing to the study, Leeds Beck­ett Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Bolton.

Dame Athene Don­ald, mas­ter of Churchill Col­lege, Cam­bridge, and the univer­sity’s for­mer gen­der equal­ity cham­pion, said that she was “not sur­prised” by the find­ings, since re­search in­ten­sives have “so much in­vested in each in­di­vid­ual”.

“If a PI [prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor] leaves with a re­search group in place, it can have ex­tremely neg­a­tive con­se­quences both for the stu­dents or post­docs in­volved and in the in­sti­tu­tion’s re­la­tion­ships with fun­ders,” Dame Athene said.

Much of the vari­a­tion in ben­e­fits can be at­trib­uted to terms of em­ploy­ment, which “vary mas­sively be­tween uni­ver­si­ties”, she added. “It isn’t just that the teach­ing-fo­cused uni­ver­si­ties use fixed-term (and of­ten very short-term) con­tracts but I be­lieve they also some­times of­fer es­sen­tially zero-hours con­tracts.

“How­ever, it is un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect a rapid trans­for­ma­tion with the fi­nan­cial pres­sures [uni­ver­si­ties] across the board are feel­ing, how­ever de­sir­able this is on all fronts.”

Bolton is high­lighted as one of 15 in­sti­tu­tions to of­fer zero weeks with full salary re­place­ment be­yond the statu­tory gov­ern­ment ma­ter­nity ben­e­fit – about £140 per week – an is­sue that a spokes­woman at­trib­uted to a “lack of af­ford­abil­ity”.

“The Univer­sity of Bolton...recog­nises the im­por­tance of fam­i­lyfriendly prac­tices in the re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion of high-cal­i­bre col­leagues,” the spokes­woman said. “We do of­fer our staff ma­ter­nity pay above the statu­tory min­i­mum, [how­ever] we are a rel­a­tively small [provider] and do not have the fi­nan­cial re­sources that many of the larger [uni­ver­si­ties] have.”

Ac­cord­ing to the study, re­search in­ten­sives with a small stu­dent-tostaff ra­tio were found to be five times as gen­er­ous in their ma­ter­nity pro­vi­sions as teach­ing-ori­en­tated providers with a larger num­ber of

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