Schools failing on legal requirements to casual staff

Several schools have failed to provide teaching assistants with written terms of employment

Numerous members of Trinity’s casual teaching staff have not received a written terms of employment from College despite a legal requirement that came into effect in 2019.

Several casual teaching staff have told Trinity News that their Schools have failed to provide them with written terms of employment. This comes despite a legal requirement for employers to do so under legislation that came into force in 2019 and a promise from College issued in January 2020 which stated that “everyone employed in Trinity receives a written statement regarding their terms of employment, including casual staff from the beginning of this year in accordance with recent legislation”.

While some schools, such as the School of English, have from the start of this academic year introduced a policy of providing casual staff with written terms of employment, as has been the law since March 2019, teaching assistants and demonstrators within the Schools of Histories & Humanities, Engineering, and Computer Science and Statistics have confirmed to Trinity News that they have received no such documentation.

A College spokesperson told Trinity News that everyone employed in Trinity “should” receive a written statement regarding their terms of employment, but confirmed that it was an issue dealt with by the individual “Schools / areas in which they are employed”.

The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which was passed in 2018 and came into effect in March 2019, states that employers must provide employees with a written statement of five core terms of employment in writing within five days of starting employment and statement of 10 remaining terms of employment within two months of starting work.

These terms are required to include information such as the method for calculating pay, whether the employer offers sick pay, and the period of notice to be given by an employer or employee.

Speaking to Trinity News, one teaching assistant currently employed in Trinity stated that “contractual issues have been a concern for a long time now and with the current situation gravely affecting our work, this has only been magnified”.

“The college has had ample opportunity to provide a clear outline of our rights in accordance with Irish law, but has declined to do this and as with many issues, has passed the book to individual Schools and Faculties,” they added.

The teaching assistant stated that “many of us feel that this only underlines the disrespect with which we are treated”, saying that “despite the university’s reliance on TAs (perhaps as we are relatively cheap labour), we are very much second-class citizens within the structures of the College”.

Speaking to Trinity News, Gisèle Scanlon, president of Graduate Students Union (GSU) said that while she could not “respond to an unspecified set of conditions where some TAs are not getting terms and conditions”, she urged postgraduate teaching assistants “to come through the GSU”, so that she might “raise this with the appropriate people and have any issue that relates to an individual who feels that they’re not being appropriately treated directly addressed”.

“I believe that this may need a specific meeting between the GSU and HR and a discussion about a school by school approach”, Scanlon added.

Thomas Dinneen, Chair of the TCD PhD Workers’ Rights Group called on College to “rectify this situation immediately”. 

Dinneen told Trinity News that “this is a simple ask and is required of the College under legislation”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused enough uncertainty for teaching assistants with regards to loss of income, safety and online teaching. College should not add to that uncertainty by making this an issue as well”, he added. 

In the previous academic year, Trinity News reported that many teaching assistants in Trinity have said they feel “exploited” and “undervalued” in the way they are treated by College.

A College spokesperson responded to say that Trinity “greatly values all its staff members”. 

Casual teaching staff are rehired by Schools at the beginning of each new academic term. With the five-day deadline having passed for Schools to provide casual staff their five core terms of employment in writing, it is yet to be seen whether any Schools will provide the remaining statement of a further 10 terms of employment required once a member of staff has been working for two months.

Finn Purdy

Finn Purdy is the current Deputy Editor of Trinity News. He is a Junior Sophister English Studies student, and a former News Editor and Assistant News Editor.