With recruitment still in the doldrums it was perhaps no surprise to be greeted on our return to work after the Christmas and New Year break with an announcement that there is to be another round of the Mutually Agreed Resignation Scheme (MARS).
For some this might be seen as a late Christmas present, but we should all remember that this “downsizing” of the workforce comes as a consequence of decision-making in the infinitely more secure and rarefied atmosphere of senior management.
Some of you may remember the furore surrounding comedian Jimmy Carr’s involvement in a legal but nevertheless morally questionable tax avoidance scheme, leaving a contrite Jimmy to make a much publicised apology. Those who are contemplating a ride on the “rocket to MARS” might wish to reflect on that as they very carefully consider the implications of a scheme that is in itself clearly structured to avoid the legal responsibilities placed on an employer that flow from the implementation of a redundancy programme.
The MARS scheme in effect transfers risk to the employee, who due to the nature of the scheme is left ineligible to claim benefits, which may have significant implications for those of working age or for whom retirement remains unviable.
Also worth considering is the nature of your contract of employment. All academics and some academic-related contracts have provision for a 12-month notice period (or payment in lieu by agreement), whereas the previous MARS scheme was capped at a payment equivalent to six months salary.
As the Bradford Excellence Programme continues to impact adversely on job security it is understandable that some of those who fear the worst might consider MARS rather than enduring the pain and distress of continued employment uncertainty. Your Local Association of UCU would advise all members that MARS should not automatically be seen as a practical alternative, and would urge anyone contemplating such a move to consider all possibilities before doing so.
The message is clear – TREAD CAREFULLY and GET GOOD LEGAL ADVICE.