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Employment disputes cost universities £19m over four years

Seventy universities across the UK have spent almost £19m over four years on settling employment disputes.

Figures obtained by Times Higher Education using the Freedom of Information Act also revealed that 50 universities spent £10.4m in four years on external lawyers’ fees to fight employment claims.

The newspaper requested information from 125 UK universities for how many employment disputes and tribunals they had been involved in between 2010 and 2013 – and how much they paid to settle or fight those cases.

Seventy five universities that provided figures on dispute numbers had been involved in a total of 1,331 disputes and 210 tribunals across the four years – an average of 4.3 disputes and 0.7 tribunal cases per institution per year.

The 70 universities that provided figures on the cost of settling claims, either before or after a tribunal hearing, had paid a total of £18.6m – an average of £66,400 per institution per year.

The average payout was £15,600 per case with Cranfield University paying out the largest total amount over the four years: £1.44m.

It also had the fourth highest number of disputes – 52 but the university declined to comment when contacted by Times Higher Education.

The University of Oxford was involved in the largest number of disputes – 67 – but just one employment tribunal. Its total settlement payment of £210,000 was only the 29th highest.

Loughborough University was involved in the most tribunal cases -15 but paid out only £5,000 in total.

Helen Scott, executive officer of Universities HR, the professional organisation for universities’ human resources staff, said:

“The level of disputes and payouts remains low compared with many other sectors.

“The higher education sector accounted for only 0.06 per cent of employment tribunal cases in the past four years.”

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