Help with the cost of living

The end of the University year is always a chance to reflect on where we are, with the last 12 months once again shining a light on the ways we work together as a community at Kent. While it has been a real pleasure to see more of you face to face as we have re-integrated into campus life, I know that the amount of change we are all having to get used to has added pressure in certain areas and we still have work to do to ensure the wellbeing of all our staff is fully supported. This will be a priority in our new People and Culture Strategy which I look forward to sharing with you all next term. 

Staff Resilience Fund 

While some of the more immediate difficulties presented by Covid have now reduced, we are also now facing a cost of living crisis driven by high energy costs and inflation. This has an impact on our University finances but I am also very aware it will be very worrying for many of you and your families as day-to-day budgets are squeezed by rising prices.  

In the immediate term, Executive Group has agreed to make a one-off payment of £398.06 (pro rata) to all staff who were impacted by the 2020/21 Pay Freeze. This will come out of the Staff Resilience Fund which was established when staff pulled together to help us weather the financial impact of Covid – while budgets remain tight, the impact of rising costs mean we wanted to bring this initial payment forward to do what we can now. Around 75% of our current staff would have been impacted by the pay freeze, with the one-off payment applying to all salaried staff who have been with us since August 2020 and were covered by the agreement – payments will be made directly via the July pay run and, in accordance with the rules of the Fund, will be paid pro rata to hours worked. 

We have also agreed to suspend planned parking charge increases for next year and are looking into what more we can do to support both staff and students, including a possible hardship fund. Both of these immediate measures to help with the cost of living followed helpful input from JSNCC and we will continue to discuss what more we can do – please send any further suggestions either directly to me or via your Staff or Trade Union representative so that we can consider them in full.  

2022/23 Pay Increases 

On 1 August, along with other member universities, we will be implementing the final offer put forward by UCEA on behalf of universities across the sector in the 2022/23 national pay negotiations. The negotiations with trade unions have so far failed to reach agreement and there is understandable concern about how to renumerate staff fairly in an environment where costs are rising so steeply, but the same squeeze felt by households also has an impact on the cost of running the University. 

While I know this won’t feel like enough, increasing salaries by at least 3% for all staff and up to 9% for those in lower grades is felt to be the most that the sector can afford at this time. I am pleased that we can make sure this increase will reach staff pay over the summer and it’s also especially important that the increases are weighted towards those on lower salaries who may be most impacted by the wider pressures we face. It is also important to remember that, as usual, around 50% of colleagues will receive a further 3% increase through moving up an increment on the pay scale in October. 

Wellbeing and Support 

The last few years have felt like a period of constant change, from the top of Government down to our day-to-day working lives. I know this can be very difficult to manage – the way staff have adapted to new ways of working and the frustrations they can bring has, though, shown the best of our community. The way colleagues support each other, and our students, shone through in particular at both our Staff Recognition Awards and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Awards earlier this year.  

I know there is more to do to build a positive working environment at Kent for everybody, with wellbeing and workload pressures being key priorities for us to address next year. I would also encourage all of you to continue to seek support where you need it, from colleagues, your line manager or your local HR team – and remember our Employee Assistance Programme is available for confidential support and advice whenever you need it. 

Martin Atkinson | Director of HR and Organisational Development

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