Two lecturers who sued Oxford University for employing them on “sham contracts” have won their claim for employee status.

Rebecca Abrams and Alice Jolly, who taught on Oxford’s creative writing course for 15 years, were employed on “personal services” contracts which they claimed denied them of some key workplace rights.

The pair, both authors and tutors, maintained that their status at the university was that of employees and not personal service providers or workers.

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After an employment tribunal hearing last month, the judge ruled that both academics were engaged on fixed term contracts of employment and should be classed as employees.

Law firm Leigh Day said a hearing would be scheduled to assess the implications of the ruling.

The University and College Union (UCU) called the judgment a “huge win” in the fight against institutions using “gig economy” working practices for staff.

Ms Abrams said: “This ruling is a vindication of everything we’ve been fighting for since 2018.

“Alice and I are skilled professionals teaching at one of the world’s top universities, yet we’ve been employed year after year on sham contracts that have denied us our employment rights and legal protections.

Witney Gazette: Two former employees of the Oxford University have won their claim Two former employees of the Oxford University have won their claim

“With nearly 70 per cent of its teaching staff on precarious contracts, Oxford is one of the worst offenders, but this is an issue that extends across UK higher education. Casualisation is a race to the bottom – bad for teachers, bad for students and bad for universities.

“I hope this ruling will encourage an urgently needed reboot in the way universities treat the teachers on whom they rely.”

Ryan Bradshaw, a solicitor with Leigh Day, which represented the pair, said: “This is an important case that highlights the need for higher education providers to review and rethink their treatment of precariously employed staff.

“It is not acceptable for these institutions to continue to seek to avoid their legal obligations. The gig economy has no place in our universities.”

A report released by the UCU last month suggested two in three research-only staff in UK universities are employed on fixed-term contracts.

The union said the figure was even higher at some of the most prestigious institutions in the UK – including the University of Oxford.

Jo Grady, general secretary of UCU, said: “This is a huge win in the fight against gig economy working practices in higher education.

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“Despite being one of the richest institutions in the world, the University of Oxford keeps thousands of academics on low-paid insecure contracts that leave staff impoverished. It’s completely unacceptable and it has to stop.

“This victory shows these contracts are often a sham and staff on them are entitled to the benefits of secure employment. Every employer in the sector now needs to pay attention to this ruling and begin working with UCU to move their employees on to secure contracts.”

A spokesman for Oxford University said: “We have been notified of the tribunal’s ruling on this preliminary hearing and are currently reviewing it."