Employees (including variable hours)

University employees are those who are employed on University contracts of employment, where the employer is identified as the 'Chancellor, Master and Scholars of the University of Oxford', also referred to as 'CMS contracts'. University employees work in approved posts and are paid from the main payroll. 

Contracts of employment (ie CMS contracts) can be issued with fixed-hours of work (ie regular weekly hours, whether on a full-time or part-time basis) or variable-hours, whereby the appointment is offered on an ‘as required’ basis. This means there are no set hours of work, and the hours are agreed on a week-by-week or ad-hoc basis. Departments should assess carefully the requirement for variable-hours employment within their department, especially when considering issuing a variable-hours contract on a permanent basis.  

The hours worked by variable-hours employees should be subject to regular review, and

  • if the hours worked remain regular but unpredictable, continue with the variable-hours contract 

  • if the hours have stabilised, consider moving to a fixed-hours contract 

  • if no work has been undertaken for a period of at least 3 months, and no future work is planned contact your HR Business Partner for advice. 

Employees (whether on a fixed-hours or a variable-hours contract) are entitled to all employment rights subject to the length of time they have worked for the University, and have entitlement to contractual benefits offered by the University, access to some of which is subject to a minimum length of service. Entitlement to contractual benefits by employees on variable-hours contracts may be on a pro-rata basis, where appropriate. 

Tier 2 visa holders cannot be placed on a variable-hours contract as their hours and salary are specified in their visa. If part-time hours are being considered for someone on a Tier 2 visa, the Staff Immigration Team must be contacted as any such changes may affect the conditions of the visa and may need to be reported to the Home Office.  

If you are considering moving an employee between a fixed-hours (full or part-time) and a variable-hours contract, please contact the Pensions Office to understand any potential pension implications. 

All further terms and conditions of employment are set out in: 

  • the contract templates 
  • the staff handbooks for academic-related and support staff 
  • the guidance for employment of academic staff
  • the benefits handbook

See also the guidance on 'casual workers and casual teachers'.


Staff who are hired into temporary positions via the internal Temporary Staffing Service do not have employee status, and as such have limited entitlement to employment benefits. In particular, they are not eligible for the University's contractual schemes, such as enhanced family leave benefits and enhanced sick leave schemes. In addition, their service as a temporary worker does not count towards continuous service with the University.