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HEFCE makes early REF maternity leave decision

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has decided it will allow researchers who have taken maternity leave to submit fewer than the standard four pieces of work for assessment in the Research Excellence Framework.

Following a consultation on its draft REF panel criteria and working methods, published on 29 July, HEFCE said an “overwhelming majority” of respondents supported the proposal.

The decision means that any period of maternity leave would be considered “sufficiently disruptive” to allow researchers to submit one fewer output per period.

The original draft document put forward two proposals that would allow some researchers to submit fewer than the standard four pieces of work for assessment.

The first option introduced a scale through which researchers could submit two fewer outputs if they took off between 28 and 49 months between 1 January 2008 and 31 October 2013 and three fewer if they took off more than 49 months.

But to get a reduction of just one output, a researcher would have to take career breaks amounting to at least 14 months per REF cycle. Women who took less than 14 months maternity leave would be expected to produce the same amount of work as others.

But responses seen by Research Fortnight—including those from the 1994 group, the Academy of Social Sciences, the British Academy, and the University and College Union—said that this proposal could discriminate against women taking maternity leave.

HEFCE therefore decided on the “possible alternative approach” in the draft document.