Section 3: support staff handbook

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Under current employment legislation, each employee must receive written particulars of the terms of employment within two months of commencement. This statement, together with a description of the duties of the post, is issued to a member of staff by the appointing department in a standard University format as the formal letter of appointment.

This whole section of the handbook supplements that statement by dealing under separate headings with each of the substantive conditions of service, some of which may have been referred to only in summary form in your appointment letter. It should be noted that most of your general conditions of service are stated separately and definitively in University circulars or national agreements which Council has approved for adoption in Oxford, or in agreements collectively negotiated at a local level; circulars containing these can be inspected within the department, usually in the Departmental Administrator's (or equivalent's)* office or on the University HR circulars web page. Certain conditions (as referred to below) are determined at departmental level (within general university policy); new members of staff will be advised of these on joining the department.

If you are in doubt or have any questions about your conditions of employment you should first of all consult the Departmental Administrator.

* Note: in some departments, faculties and other units the role of Departmental Administrator may be carried out by an equivalent person with a different title.

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An appointment may be made subject to a defined probationary period, in which case the period is specified in your letter of appointment and/or statement of terms of employment. If your appointment is subject to a probationary period, your progress should normally be reviewed and discussed with you, normally no later than halfway through the probationary period, in addition to the usual monitoring of your performance as a new member of staff.

The purpose of a probationary period is to ensure that a postholder taking up a new appointment is, within a reasonable period of time, able to gain a full understanding of the requirements of the post and to achieve a satisfactory level of performance.

Probationary periods may, exceptionally, be extended to allow additional time for the postholder to demonstrate that they have achieved a satisfactory level of performance. This will normally be done through a formal process, following a formal interview held, in accordance with the probationary procedure, before the expiry of the probationary period. However, where the postholder has not been able to attend work for the full length of the stated probationary period (e.g. through sickness absence), the University may decide to extend the probationary period to allow for this, in which case the probationer, having been unable to attend an interview, will be informed of the extension of their probationary period in writing before the date on which their probation would otherwise have been due to expire.

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The objective of appraisal is to improve communication between individual members of staff and those responsible for their management and thereby increase job satisfaction and motivation and the effectiveness with which the organisation works.

Appraisal is not related to promotion, merit awards or disciplinary action. There are likely to be differences in the detail of the implementation of appraisal between departments, but broadly speaking the procedures involve the completion of a self-appraisal form each year and a formal discussion with a nominated appraiser at least once every three years, although you or your appraiser may request an appraisal discussion at any time. Further details of the appraisal scheme which operates in your department may be obtained from your Departmental Administrator.

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3.4.1 Rate of pay, etc

The title of your post, your grade, commencing rate of pay and salary scale are stated in your letter of appointment. No payments may be made in addition to this rate of pay, except as set out below.

If you feel that, because of a change or increase in your duties, the grade of your job should be reviewed, please speak to your Departmental Administrator in the first instance.

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The University offers a number of different occupational pension schemes for eligible employees. You are an eligible employee if you have been issued a contract of employment with the University (specifically, the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford) and are aged at least 16 and under 75. Eligible employees are admitted into membership of the pension scheme offered by the University appropriate to their status: full details of the available pension schemes can be found on the University's Pensions website. Separate pension arrangements are in place for non-employees who have a contract to work or provide services.

If eligible, you will be automatically enrolled into the appropriate pension scheme until you give notice in writing to opt out of the scheme, to the Head of Pensions, Finance Division, University of Oxford, 6 Worcester Street, Oxford OX1 2BX. You must state that you wish to exercise your statutory right not to belong to the scheme. If you choose not to belong to a pension scheme you will not receive any form of compensation in lieu of pension scheme membership.

The pension schemes offered by the University meet or exceed the qualifying standards set by the government. If you cease membership of a qualifying pension, and you are aged between 22 and the State Pension Age, work, or ordinarily work, in the UK and earn above the threshold set by government, the University has a duty under law to enrol or re-enrol you automatically into the appropriate qualifying scheme.  If this happens, you have the right to opt out of the scheme.  If you are not a member of a qualifying pension scheme, and are aged at least 16 and under 75, you may ask to opt in or join, and the University will enrol you.

Pension schemes

The schemes offered by the University are:

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) This is a national scheme for staff employed on academic and academic-related scales of pay (grade 6 and above).

The University of Oxford Staff Pension Scheme (OSPS) This is the University’s scheme for staff who are employed on grades 1 - 5. OSPS includes a defined benefit and a defined contribution section.  New employees are enrolled into the defined contribution section.

If there is a change to your grade, the appropriate scheme will be that which is applicable to the new position. For example if you are employed on a grade 1 - 5 and are promoted or re-graded to an academic-related grade, you will have to change pension scheme.

The University also participates in certain other schemes in respect of specific employees in exceptional circumstances. These include:

The National Health Service Pension Scheme This is a national scheme for NHS employees. The only University staff who participate in this scheme are those who are employed in a clinical role and were active members of the NHSPS immediately before their employment by the University.

Salary exchange scheme for pension contributions (Salary Exchange)

Subject to certain limited exceptions, if you are eligible to become a member of either USS or OSPS and you join the pension scheme, you are automatically enrolled in the University's salary exchange scheme for pension contributions.

A new employee may opt out of Salary Exchange. To do so you must give notice in writing to the Payroll Manager that you do not wish to join the scheme.

Under Salary Exchange, the deduction for your personal pension contributions is reduced to nil. At the same time your pensionable salary is reduced by an amount equal to your pension contributions and the University increases its contributions to the pension scheme by an equivalent amount. Your pensionable salary and pension scheme benefits are not reduced. Because National Insurance is calculated on your salary after Salary Exchange, you will benefit from reduced National Insurance contributions. Your salary before Salary Exchange, ie your pensionable salary, remains unchanged.

You may change your decision to opt in or out of Salary Exchange either annually on 1 April, or on any date if you experience a "life change" event.

If you have a period of unpaid leave you will be automatically opted into Salary Exchange on the date you return to paid employment, unless you give notice in writing to the Payroll Manager that you do not wish to be enrolled.

If you do not participate in Salary Exchange you will pay contributions to the relevant pension scheme as required by the rules of the pension scheme. The University will deduct these contributions from your salary.

Further information

Further information on the University’s pension schemes, including on contribution rates, transferring benefits from another pension scheme and ways of paying additional contribution to boost your pension may be obtained from:

Information on the pension schemes is available from:




Information on Salary Exchange for Pension Contributions is at:

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The total number of hours you are expected to work in each week is 36.5 hours. The daily hours of attendance within this total are normally specified in your letter of appointment. The total number of hours to be worked are standard for support staff, but the arrangement of hours may vary from department to department.

Staff working less than the normal working week laid down for their staff group receive a rate of pay in proportion ("pro rata") to the full-time rate of pay.

Requests for flexibility of working hours for religious observance

All staff, regardless of religious belief or non-belief, are required to work in accordance with the arrangements set out in their letter of appointment. However, your line manager will make every effort to ensure that, if your religion requires you to pray at certain times during the day, you are free to do so. Please discuss any requests for flexibility with your line manager so that any agreed time away from work can, if necessary, be made up.

Information on local facilities for prayer in Oxford are available on the Equal Opportunities website.

3.7.1 Public holidays

Your annual leave entitlement is for 38 days of paid leave (pro rata for part-time staff and staff who work a non-standard week). Eight days of leave for public holidays are included in your annual leave of 38 days. Most staff are not required to work on public holidays and their department/place of work will be closed.

(1) Staff who are contractually required to work on a public holiday will be paid at plain time rates for the hours worked, and will retain the day's leave to take at another time.

(2) Staff who are not contractually required to work on a public holiday and who are asked to work on a public holiday will retain one day's leave to take at another time. In addition, they may choose to either take time off in lieu (TOIL) or be paid for the hours worked. Staff who choose to take TOIL will be entitled to one hour off for every additional hour worked. Staff who choose to be paid will, in addition to their normal salary, receive payment at a single time for the hours worked, which thus equates to double-time rates for the hours worked.

3.7.2 Overtime

All staff employed in grades 1-5 are eligible for overtime, i.e. hours additional to your contracted weekly working hours. These additional hours can either be taken as time off in lieu (TOIL) or paid in hours. Overtime will be according to the following schedule:

  • TOIL will be at single time, regardless of when the hours were worked, i.e. one hour off for every additional hour worked
  • If the number of hours worked in a month could result in pay dropping below national minimum wage, TOIL must be taken within the same pay reference period. If this is not possible then overtime should be paid.
  • any additional qualifying hours that you work up to 36.5 hours per week will be paid at plain time rates
  • periods of up to 30 minutes per day will be discounted [and periods in excess of 30 minutes will count as a complete hour]
  • the first 7.25 hours of overtime working (in excess of 36.5 hours) will be paid at time and a half
  • any subsequent hours of overtime working (i.e. on completion of 43.75 hours) will be paid at double time
  • for overtime worked on public holidays, see 3.7.1 above.

3.7.3 Other compensatory arrangements

If you are employed in grades 1-5 and are required under your contract of employment to work to a variable pattern or changing shifts you will be eligible for a premium payment, the size of which will be determined by the extent to which your working pattern varies. Any percentage premium paid is an addition to your hourly rate and is for your contracted weekly hours only. It does not apply to any hours of paid overtime. It will be determined by University HR in accordance with the table below:


Number of flexible shifts Percentage premium to hourly rate
3 3
4 4
5 6
6 7
7 8
8 10
9 11
10 13
11 15
12 16
13 18
14 20
15 21
16 23
17 25
18 27
19 29
20 31
21 33


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You are entitled to 38 days of paid annual leave, inclusive of eight public holidays (pro rata for part-time staff and staff who work a non-standard week). Any locally agreed departmental closure days will be deducted from the total entitlement of 38 days.

For staff with less than a year’s service the amount of annual holiday allowed will normally be calculated on a pro rata basis. Holiday accrual begins from the first day of your employment.

Holidays are to be taken at times approved in advance by your Departmental Administrator (who will not unreasonably withhold consent). The normal leave year runs from 1 October to 30 September. Only in exceptional circumstances, and subject to the agreement of your head of department, may up to five days of any balance of the annual entitlement be carried forward from one year to the next. (For situations where holiday is prevented or interrupted by sickness refer to section 4.1.1.)

3.8.1 Holiday entitlement for part-time workers

Holiday entitlement for part-time workers is pro rata to that of full-time workers, including pro rata time off in lieu for public holidays, according to the number of hours worked. Further details are available from your Departmental Administrator.

3.8.2 Additional holidays for long service

The University scheme for long service leave is set out below. The amount of long service leave is based upon your length of continuous service within higher education. Staff who have had a break or breaks in service for domestic reasons (i.e. maternity leave or family commitments such as the care of relatives), provided that during the break they have taken no other paid employment, should have any period of continuous service in employment with the Chancellors, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford at the time of commencing each break in service for domestic reasons counted for the purposes of calculating long service leave entitlement.

 Years of continuous service    
More than (yrs) Less than (yrs) Days leave
5 7 1
7 10 2
10 15 3
15 20 4
20 - 5

Part-time staff will be entitled to accrue long service leave pro-rata to the above schedule.

3.8.3 Booking leave for religious observance

By custom, holiday arrangements include (amongst other public holidays and fixed closure days) a day off on Christmas Day and Good Friday, both of which are Christian religious festivals. Those practising other religions should be given preferential treatment when booking leave on the religious festival dates of most significance to them, providing these days are booked with as much notice as possible in order to assist operational arrangements. The number of annual leave days overall will remain 38 working days.

3.8.4 Untaken holiday for those leaving the University

If you are leaving the employment of the University, any untaken holiday or lieu time should normally be taken prior to your last day of employment.  It will be at the head of department's discretion to require that any period of outstanding leave is taken during the notice period. Exceptionally, if you have not taken your full holiday entitlement at the time you leave, you will be paid accrued holiday pay calculated in proportion to the period already worked during the leave year less the value of any days of holiday already taken - public holidays being ignored both in terms of entitlement and days of holiday taken. If you have taken more than your full holiday entitlement at the time you leave, calculated in proportion to the period already worked during the leave year, then the University may deduct an appropriate sum from your final payment, or alternatively, by mutual agreement, may arrange for you to work for some or all of these additional days without further pay at a later date.

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3.9.1 Termination of appointments by notice

The period of notice which you are obliged to give to terminate your appointment is laid down in your letter of appointment. Notice to terminate your appointment should be given to your department in writing. The minimum period of such notice is one week, but a department may exercise its discretion to require a longer period of notice, which is likely to be not less than the ordinary period from one payment of salary to the next. That is, if you are paid monthly you would be expected to give at least a month's notice of your resignation.

The length of notice of termination of your employment by the University that you are entitled to receive is similarly stated in your contract, but there are certain minimum periods laid down by legislation, which are as follows:

  • 1 week if your period of continuous employment is less than two years;

  • not less than one week's notice for each year of continuous employment if your period of continuous employment is two years or more, but less than twelve years;

  • not less than twelve weeks' notice if your period of continuous employment is twelve years or more.

3.9.2 Termination of fixed-term appointments

A fixed-term contract includes notice of its expected expiry date. As the expiry date approaches departments will seek alternatives to expiry such as renewal or redeployment, where possible. At three months before the expiry date, unless a renewal or redeployment has been confirmed, a reminder of the expiry date will be issued to you, together with information about the support that is available to you in seeking alternative employment within the University, if you wish to pursue this.

3.9.3 Retirement

You may elect to retire at, or at any time after, the minimum pension age stipulated in the Rules of the pension scheme to which you belong, on giving the amount of notice that would be required to terminate the appointment by ordinary resignation. Eligibility for retirement benefits, and the benefits payable, will be in accordance with the provisions of the pension scheme.

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The University must comply with Home Office requirements to ensure that all employees and workers have permission to work in the UK. Some nationals of non EEA countries will require a visa to work in the UK.

Please refer to the Staff Immigration Team website for the latest information on right to work in the UK, visa requirements and contact details for the Staff Immigration Team.

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You should always notify your department in writing (and Payroll Section at the University Offices as necessary) of any change to your name, address, marital status, next of kin, etc.

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