Coronavirus, Gig Economy, Further Education and Hourly Paid Lecturing

This is not a whinge.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer is getting glowing praise for his announcement yesterday that support would be provided for “gig economy” workers during the coronavirus lockdowns.  This is great news, though the praise is largely for his oratory skills rather than the nature of the support; the fine detail of which has yet to be worked out and shared.

On a social media channel today it was noted that while they often pay less tax, the Gig Economy workers always get far less in terms of protections and benefits.  Someone commented that this was because they also pay far less National Insurance.

There seems to be a popular perception that the Gig economy is entirely taxi and delivery van drivers or, most recently, seasonal agricultural workers.  This is not the case.  Many gig workers are in well-established professions, in my own case as an Hourly Paid Lecturer in a Further Education college.  According to the college’s own data, 60% of our ‘delivery’ is provided by HPLs, we have no job or pay security, and no sickness benefits. Out of our pay, the college deducts tax, NI and pension contribution. No hours, no deductions, but also fewer benefits.

For a qualified teacher, the gross rate of pay is about £24 per hour of teaching, which is a “composite rate” to cover preparation, delivery and marking as well as pro-rata holiday allowance. For a class of say 12 students, on a new course of six weeks of 3 hours (=18 x £24 = £432), with an essay at the end… The preparation will take a minimum of 2hrs per class (=12), and each essay will take 20 mins (the students like to think that they get far longer than that) so that’s 3 an hour (=4hrs), therefore total time spent is 34 hours.

The national minimum holiday allowance is 28 days out of a working year of 260 days, so for every hour worked we are actually being paid for 1.2 hrs.  This makes the actual rate of pay a little less than £10.60.

The pay rate in FE has risen at less than the rate of inflation for over a decade.  What’s more, classes only run if there are sufficient students enrolled (obviously) but the decision to cancel is usually made no more than two weeks ahead of the start date, so many HPLs have no chance of filling the half-day or more with teaching elsewhere.

One final point.  I said that 60% of delivery was by HPLs.  The figures above refer to qualified teachers, most of whom will be graduates with both a professional membership and a further teaching qualification. The latter typically involved them in 4-6 months study usually at their own expense.  I do not know the proportion of staff who are unqualified teachers, but I suspect that it will be a significant number.  They are paid about 20% less.

While the Chancellor’s announcement is reassuring, forgive me if I am not cracking open a bottle of sparkling water to celebrate.

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