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Impact of EU Fixed Term Work Directive: Scientific Research

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Published: Fri, 13 Jul 2018

Employment/Policies for Scientific Researchers: Is the EU Fixed Term Work Directive of any Assistance to Scientific Researchers in the UK?

Introduction

This dissertation proposal proposes to examine the impact of the new EU Fixed Term Directive on contract researchers throughout the UK. Its scope and potential for impact is quite wide, yet its workability and prospective effectiveness remains to be seen. Its aim is to increase levels of stability, consistency and equality among employees within Europe, which are employment conditions, from which scientific researchers on short term contracts in the UK have arguably been distanced from due to the nature of their employment.

Also, the legislation is aimed at making research work between member states easier to access for EU citizens. The legislation also aims to make the EU a more attractive work destination, for, for example Chinese scientists who have a lot to contribute to European academia. The legislation applies to both private and public sector actors, and will also impact firms and universities employing researchers.

The wider socio-political environment, the continued concentration of power with the European Commission and the growing influence of European Institutions upon actors operating at member state level will be examined in the writer’s proposed research, as this will ultimately contextualise both the final recommendations of the research and the processes of the proposed research as it unfolds.

The proposed research will examine the research question from a primary data collection angle, and accordingly data will be collected in relation to how many individuals in the UK work as scientific researchers, and these individuals will be asked to contribute to the research by articulating their views on the potential workability and usefulness of the Directive. Also, employers, such as universities, public laboratories and firms will be approached in an effort to gather information from a wide variety of actors who will experience the impact of the new legislation. Data will be collected from other actors with expertise on the issues which relate to the employment of scientific researchers within the EU.

The Research Question

The research question will address the potential workability and usefulness of the new EU Fixed Term Directive; how it may be critiqued and how it may be improved. The research question will be addressed using primary and secondary research. The research question will be assessed qualitatively, and quantitatively, in an approach known as methodological pluralism. The next section will examine the background and aims of the EU Fixed Term Work Directive in a more in depth way, and it will give details on what literatures will be used and why.

Review

Literatures which give detailed background on the new Directive and literatures which provide background on the wider role of the EU will be used to create a point of reference for the study, and as they will help the guide the writer in identifying where gaps in the literature exist, and where research will best be concentrated. The literature which has been relied upon by the EU to gather background information in relation to the situation of scientific researchers on short term contracts is not an exhaustive body of research, and it is anticipated that this proposed research will add to this literature.

The European Commission has become a deeply influential body[1]. Accordingly, its proposals in terms of legislation and social policy within the sphere of employment law have become fundamentally important for both employees and employers operating within Europe[2]. Therefore, the European Commission’s recent indications that it wished to address what it termed the ‘abuse’ of fixed term contracts, ‘through their continued use’ had many legislative and political consequences for employers and employees operating within the European Union[3]. In terms of operationalising their concerns, the Commission has recently called for all European Union member states to desist from what the Commission regarded as ‘short-term’ contract misuse through engaging in collective bargaining or through the implementation of domestic legislation.

Many of the UK’s estimated 40000 researchers[4] will be impacted by the new EU Fixed Term Directive which proposes to ensure that fixed term contracts, under which many of these employees work, are made permanent after a period of four years. Also, the Directive requires that employers offer contract researchers equal terms of employment, compared with those enjoyed by permanent staff, in relation to departmental committees and maternity leave provisions[5]. However, the Directive allows employers to extricate themselves from having to implement the Directive, in circumstances where they can show specific and objective reasons for doing this[6].

Other criticisms of the new legislation are that it does not go far enough to prevent or discourage the ‘misuse’ of short term contracts, since contractual periods of any length are still legally enforceable under the legislation. Also, as the chairman of the Association of Researchers in Medicine and Science, Stephen Hopkins has commented, contracts may be terminated before the expiration of the four year period[7]. Also, it is unclear how much of an impact the legislation would have upon scientific researcher’s whose contracts are tied to external sources of funding and are therefore terminable upon the expiration of funds.

However, the functions and circumstances of scientific researchers within the UK remain understudied and obscure. For example, there is little data which tells us what the exact number of researchers who are working on short term contracts, in the academic community is, and accordingly the extent of the impact of the new legislation is unclear.

It would therefore be sensible to attempt to gauge these figures, and accordingly the proposed research will address this gap in the literature on this subject. Also, since the legislation is relatively new, little literature is available on the viewpoints of individual scientific researchers, and due to this, in particular the relevance of the proposed research can be seen to be even more sharply defined. These perspectives will allow the new legislation to be evaluated with reference to the views of those who are constrained and impacted by it.

Ogbonna and Noon (2001) gives us further insight into the concept of ‘equality’ and equal opportunities with the context of the European Union:

‘There are two separate aspects to evaluating the effectiveness of equal opportunities policies…The liberal approach aims to provide equality of opportunity, and relies on fair procedures, bureaucratic processes, and a sense of justice being seen to be done. The emphasis is on the principle of recognising individual merit, rather than on any notion of providing social justice in relation to under-represented or disadvantaged groups. The radical approach is interested in equalising outcomes, and thus emphasises the fair and equal distribution of rewards, and positive discrimination…[8]’.

As we have seen explained in previous sections, the new Directive is predicated upon a desire to offer contract researchers working within universities greater job security and more equal rights compared with other categories of professionals, like veterinary surgeons and doctors whose rights have been embodied prescriptively through EU legislation, particularly within the last five years. The research will therefore, also address literature on how the new legislation will impact upon the concepts of equality and equal opportunities within the EU.

Research Design

As has been explained, the focus of the research will be methodologically pluralistic in nature. This means that both qualitative and quantitative methods[9] will be relied upon to implement the proposed research. Qualitative research regards reality as a subjectively evolving social construct, whereas quantitative research is more specific and confirmatory. The meaning and application of both disciplines can be illustrated with reference to these two quotations:

‘Historians have always analysed documentary evidence, much of it non-quantitative data such as correspondence, as their primary source material, and through oral history methods have added in-depth interviewing to their repertoire…Organisational theory has been based largely on case studies created from an amalgam of observation, documentary material and interviews…[10]’.

‘Quantitative research is frequently referred to as hypothesis-testing research (Kerlinger, 1964)…Characteristically, studies begin with statements of theory from which research hypotheses are derived…[11]’.

Therefore, the research design of this project will draw from both of these disciplines to construct the research framework, and gather primary information. Qualitative data will be primarily relied upon to gather the primary data needed for the operationalisation of the research.

Semi-Structured interviews (this involves information exchange usually on a one to one basis) and focus groups[12] (these are groups interviews, usually led by the researcher) will be used to gather the qualitative data from research scientists working within the UK and surveys will be used to gather data in respect of the numbers of individuals the new legislation is likely to affect. Experts such as representatives of the European Industrial Research Managers Association, and the Association of Researcher in Medicine and Science will be interviewed.

Within the qualitative arm of the study, semi-structured interviews will be mainly relied upon for practical reasons, since logistically, conducting focus group interviews, when dealing with a niche community like scientific researchers, and representatives from those actors who employ them like universities might be difficult to organise.

The research design is pluralistic in nature, since this will provide a holistic context from which to examine the topic of employment law and policy in the context of scientific researchers.

GANNT Chart/Discussion of Implementation

The project will be implemented over approximately a three month period. The writer anticipates that they will implement the project alone. Various resources will be needed, such as access to libraries, equipment and respondents. The implementation of the research, and the time-scales which certain aspects of the research design must accord with may be represented diagrammatically in the following way:

TASK DESCRIPTION

START

LENGTH

RESOURCES

FINISH

Research/Introduction and Write Up

Literature Review

June 20th

Ten days

Library, Computers

Approx. 1st of July

Conduct Semi-Structured Interviews and Surveys and Continue to Write Literature Review

1st of July

Three weeks

Library, Respondents, Tape

Recorder, Venues

Approx. 21st of July

Results Collation

21st of July

Four Weeks

Computer, Excel

21st of August

Write Up Conclusions and Discussion

21st of August

Approx. Two and a

Half Weeks

Computer

8th of September

Chapter Headings

Introduction: Background to the Study

Literature Review: The EU Fixed Term Directive and the Role of the EU Commission

Methodology

Results and Discussion: New Models for Evaluating the Employment Circumstances of Scientific Researchers

Conclusion

Evaluation of Possible Problems and Barriers to Completion.

The research project will be limited and constrained in many ways, as is the case with every research initiative. Resources with which to implement this project are finite and there is a very limited time scale to work within. Accordingly, the project design must be cogent and well-organised if the implementation of the research is to run smoothly.

The writer does anticipate that the problem of representation may be a barrier to the implementation of the research design. Any research which claims to survey a group of individuals, and then seeks to comment upon the situation of a group of individuals in similar circumstances, imputes that the research is representative of those individuals and of that group, yet, there can be problems with the concept of representation. Therefore, the writer must ensure that representation bias is not introduced within the research design by over-reliance on the views of any particular age, gender or ethnic group. Also, a relatively large sample must be taken to ensure that trends which are discerned are not just random occurrences or anomalies[13].

Observance of ethical research methods will help to facilitate the research, since respondents are more likely to be willing to participate if they know that the information they impart will be used ethically. Therefore, matters such as confidentiality and informed consent will need to researched in detail and absorbed within the research design.

However, these barriers to completion and potential problems will only thwart the prospective research if they are not addressed and recognised before the research is conducted. Also, they will need to be made reference to in the writing up of the research since to ignore potential barriers to completion in the write-up of one’s research is to, by default, suggest that they have been eliminated or are not relevant. This could therefore lead to the research indirectly being biased. Therefore, the writer will give an honest account of how problems have been identified and addressed throughout the research. Also, if the writer needs to travel to conduct research, journeys will be planned in advance and cost will therefore be minimised.

Overall, therefore this proposed research will evaluate the usefulness and prospective workability of the EU Fixed Term Work Directive, by gauging the opinions of those most likely to be affected by it.

Bibliography

Books

Benz, C. and Newman, I. (1998) Qualitative-Quantitative Research Methodology: Exploring the Interactive Continuum. Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press. Place of Publication: Carbondale, IL.

Darlington, Y. and Scott, D. (2002) Qualitative Research in Practice: Stories from the Field. Publisher: Allen & Unwin. Place of Publication: Crows Nest, N.S.W..

Frankfort-Nachmias, C. and Nachmias, D. (1996) Research Methods in the Social Sciences. Publisher: Arnold Publishers. Place of Publication; London.

Noon, M. and Ogbonna, E. (2001) Equality, Diversity and Disadvantage in Employment. Publisher: Palgrave. Place of Publication: Basingstoke, England.

Roberts, I. and Springer, B. (2001) Social Policy in the European Union: Between Harmonization and National Autonomy. Publisher: Lynne Rienner. Place of Publication: Boulder, CO.

Article

Payne, D. (2002) New Job Security for UK Researchers on Short Term Contracts? The ELSO Gazette. Issue 12.

1


Footnotes

[1] P151. Roberts, I. and Springer, B. (2001) Social Policy in the European Union: Between Harmonization and National Autonomy. Publisher: Lynne Rienner. Place of Publication: Boulder, CO.

[2] P16. Noon, M. and Ogbonna, E. (2001) Equality, Diversity and Disadvantage in Employment. Publisher: Palgrave. Place of Publication: Basingstoke, England.

[3] P1. Payne, D. (2002) New Job Security for UK Researchers on Short Term Contracts? The ELSO Gazette. Issue 12.

[4] P1. Payne, D. (2002) New Job Security for UK Researchers on Short Term Contracts? The ELSO Gazette. Issue 12.

[5] P1. Payne, D. (2002) New Job Security for UK Researchers on Short Term Contracts? The ELSO Gazette. Issue 12.

[6] P1. Payne, D. (2002) New Job Security for UK Researchers on Short Term Contracts? The ELSO Gazette. Issue 12.

[7] P1. Payne, D. (2002) New Job Security for UK Researchers on Short Term Contracts? The ELSO Gazette. Issue 12.

[8] P16. Noon, M. and Ogbonna, E. (2001) Equality, Diversity and Disadvantage in Employment. Publisher: Palgrave. Place of Publication: Basingstoke, England.

[9] See Chapters One and Two of: Frankfort-Nachmias, C. and Nachmias, D. (1996) Research Methods in the Social Sciences. Publisher: Arnold Publishers. Place of Publication; London.

[10] P2. Darlington, Y. and Scott, D. (2002) Qualitative Research in Practice: Stories from the Field. Publisher: Allen & Unwin. Place of Publication: Crows Nest, N.S.W..

[11] P19. Benz, C. and Newman, I. (1998) Qualitative-Quantitative Research Methodology: Exploring the Interactive Continuum. Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press. Place of Publication: Carbondale, IL.

[12] P19. Benz, C. and Newman, I. (1998) Qualitative-Quantitative Research Methodology: Exploring the Interactive Continuum. Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press. Place of Publication: Carbondale, IL.

[13] P19. Benz, C. and Newman, I. (1998) Qualitative-Quantitative Research Methodology: Exploring the Interactive Continuum. Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press. Place of Publication: Carbondale, IL.


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