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Thursday 8 March


12:15 Milton Lane (next to main security lodge, opposite Berrill parking lot)


Walk to Ouzel Valley Park behind the Church for a short rally in support of USS, followed by parade back to Milton Lane


Special guest speaker: Hannah O’Neill, prospective parliamentary candidate (Labour) for MK South


Wear purple if you can! Rain is expected so dress warmly.





Newcastle University vice-chancellor, Professor Chris Day, has today broken rank with Universities UK to support striking lecturers and called for negotiations on pensions to resume.

Professor Day was speaking as members of UCU walked out this morning for the first of 14 strike days scheduled over the next month. Sixty-four universities* are being hit by the unprecedented disruption that will affect more than 1 million students.

In his statement, Professor Day said he "absolutely supported staff's decision to strike", saying he didn't know "what else they could do to express their concerns about the current situation". He said he was meeting the employer body, Universities UK (UUK), today and would "urge strongly that negotiations need to recommence."

UCU said that this intervention was welcome and added to the long list of people putting pressure on UUK to get back around the table to resolve the dispute. Earlier today, both Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and universities minister Sam Gyimah called for talks to be resumed, and UCU welcomed an indication from UUK that they may be willing to return to negotiations.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'Professor Day's support for striking staff is very welcome, and it is good to know that he is pushing UUK to get back to the negotiating table. He is the latest in a line of staff, students and politicians calling for talks to be resumed to sort out this dispute.

'UCU remains ready to negotiate and avoid further unnecessary disruption. We would encourage more vice-chancellors to keep the pressure on UUK and make their position clear so that staff and students know how they are being represented by their institution.'


The purpose of this guidance is to outline the introduction of the new Government Tax-Free Childcare scheme (TFC) and the implications for Childcare Vouchers offered by the University to eligible staff.



The launch of the Government’s tax-free childcare scheme (TFC) was delayed in 2015 due to legal challenges raised by the Childcare Voucher companies. It was finally introduced on 24 April 2017. Currently the scheme is open to parents with children who were under 4 years old on 31 August 2017, but it should be rolled out to parents of older children soon. Parents who are eligible will be able to take advantage of the scheme until their child is 12 years of age, or 17 years if they are disabled. 

Tax Free Childcare covers up to 20% of approved childcare costs, to a maximum claim of
£2,000 per year, per child. The scheme is also open to the self-employed. To be eligible both parents must be working 16 or more hours a week and earn at least £120 per week but less than £100k per annum. Parents manage their own account on-line and employers have no role in the administration of the scheme, but there's no NI saving for either the employee or employer.


Childcare Voucher Schemes, such as the University’s salary sacrifice scheme administered through Computershare, have been available for employers to run as a benefit since 2005 but they will only stay open to new entrants until April 2018.   

Parents who are already in this scheme may opt to continue until their children reach the age of 16 years old (17 years if registered disabled), or they may switch to TFC, so long as they meet the TFC eligibility criteria and their child is the correct age.

The most beneficial option will depend on each individual family’s circumstances (i.e. income levels and tax position) but many may still be better off in the Computershare scheme, so it is important that they act before the April 2018 deadline.


Action required/by whom

It is important that interested parents find out which scheme works best for them, and that they do this in advance of the closure of employer-run schemes to new entrants in April 2018.

HR are planning various communications to staff over the coming months, the first of which has been added to OU Life (24th November) and the HR intranet “News” area.  The aim of the communication plan is to:

-        Highlight that TFC is now available for some parents

-        Educate parents about both the TFC scheme and Childcare vouchers scheme

-        Advise that the University scheme will close to new entrants by April 2018

-        Promote the existing University scheme benefits, to encourage further uptake, where appropriate

-        Publicise a planned staff drop-in session with Computershare on Thursday 11th January 2018 in Milton Keynes


Units are requested to highlight this change to their staff.


Computershare have developed the following: Give Yourself a Choice website as well as a Decision Tree tool, that helps parents navigate through a series of simple questions to find out which scheme (childcare vouchers or TFC) is best for them and their family.



The University’s salary sacrifice scheme, administered through Computershare, will only stay open to new entrants until April 2018.


Further information

The University scheme continues to perform very well. For core staff (i.e. excluding ALs), uptake is around 20%, which is extremely high. The average monthly voucher value is £182, which is well above the industry average. These indicators show this is currently a valued benefit for many of our employees

Computershare has advised that they will keep the University scheme open for as long as we have employees registered and that we will continue to benefit from employer’s NI savings.

Further information concerning the University scheme this can be found at: Childcare Vouchers Scheme Guidance and the Computershare website:



For further advice please call the HR Service Centre on 01908 (8)58567 or by email to

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn MP has today offered his solidarity to striking UCU members on behalf of the Labour Party.

In a message posted on his social media channels he says 'I join staff, students and UCU - University and College Union in calling for the employers to commit to meaningful negotiations to resolve this dispute.'

You can watch his full message below:



Here is a reminder that the closing date for Winter Fuel Grant is Friday 16th February 2018.



information/ form on the website.