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Two academics are suing Oxford University for employing them as gig economy workers in a case which draws on the landmark ruling that gave Uber drivers the right to paid holidays and a pension.

The two lecturers were employed on fixed-term “personal services” contracts to teach on Oxford’s creative writing course for 15 years, but these were not renewed in 2022.

The pair, Alice Jolly and Rebecca Abrams, claim the nature of their employment means they should be considered employees and their misclassification meant they missed out on several fundamental workplace rights.

“We are bringing this action on behalf of hundreds of Oxford University tutors who, like us, are employed on legally questionable casual contracts. Oxford is one of the worst offenders when it comes to the Uberisation of higher education teaching, with nearly 70% of its staff on precarious contracts. This is bad for teachers and bad for students,” said Abrams.

Jolly added that universities use writers’ CVs to market their creative writing courses, yet often they “will only offer zero-hours contracts which offer no job security and sometimes pay as little as £25 an hour” – which doesn’t factor in preparation time.

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