Contract type

Individual circumstances will vary, but the factors to be taken into account when deciding what sort of contract of employment should be used include:

  • the source of funding - external or internal

  • the length of the funding and the likelihood of renewal

  • the purpose of the funding - general purpose/part of a large rolling programme grant, or for a specific short-term project

  • the nature of the work - specific and time-limited project or an open-ended task which is part of the core function and therefore likely to continue

  • the contracts of employment issued to other staff engaged in similar work or from the same funding source

The main types of employment contract

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These should be used where:

  • the post is funded from general University income, AND

  • the work is essential to the future plans of the department and therefore such that the department will wish to continue to support it.

Ongoing needs for core teaching should normally be met at the appropriate professional level (for example, by an associate professor). If divisions make permanent appointments at departmental lecturer level or similar, they will need to ensure that the duties are sufficiently differentiated in theory and practice from those of an associate professor and are commensurate with the lower salary scale.

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This is intended for use for posts where:

  • the post is externally funded and there is a reasonable prospect that external funding will continue from whatever source for the foreseeable future,


  • the work is central to the future plans of the department and therefore such that department will wish to continue to support it for at least as long as external funding is available.

A number of staff are funded from large, rolling programme grants where such funds have been successively renewed and the department is confident that they will continue to be renewed. In these situations, where no objective justification for the use of a fixed-term contract seems to exist, an open-ended, externally-funded contract should be used. 

Open-ended contracts may not be used for academic staff - where there is no objective justification for a fixed-term appointment, a permanent contract (or self-financing contract, if applicable) should be used.

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Fixed-term contracts may be used where there are transparent, necessary, and objective reasons for doing so.

Each subsequent renewal of a fixed-term contract must be objectively justified. This applies equally in situations where individuals are recruited from another University department where they already hold a fixed-term appointment, providing there is continuity of employment.

Particular care must be taken in appointing an employee to a second, or subsequent, fixed-term contract if that individual has, or will have, 4 years or more of continuous service with the University. Unless there is an objective justification for this, under the Fixed-Term Employees Regulations, the individual may be deemed to be employed on a contract of indefinite duration, ie the clause specifying the fixed-term may be deemed to be invalid.

The employee must be given the justification for being given a fixed-term contract in a contract side letter issued with the contract. This should provide details of, for example, the maternity cover, training role or research funding which underpins the appointment.

Examples of situations where a fixed-term contract is likely to be objectively justified:

  • The appointment is to cover temporary staff absence (for example, sabbatical leave, parental leave, sickness absence, secondment)

  • The appointment is to provide specialist expertise or experience which is required for a specific time or for a specific project

  • The appointment is to develop a product or service for which the outcome and future need is uncertain (for example, developing a course or service)

  • The appointment is specifically intended to provide a time-limited period of training or development 

  • The appointment is to work on (provide specialist expertise or experience to) a research project which is dependent on a time-limited external research grant and for which there is no expectation that the work will continue beyond the availability of that external funding

  • The appointment is limited to the fixed period for which the person concerned has been granted a valid visa

In many situations the choice of contract will be straightforward. For example, where both the funding and the work are well-defined and time-limited, the use of a fixed-term contract is likely to be objectively justified. The contract would need to be coterminous with the length of the project/funding. Such contracts can be used successively, provided that each time there is such an appropriate objective justification.

Departments and divisions should note, however, that it may be less easy to justify the continued use of fixed-term contracts (rather than an open-ended contract) in situations where the repeated renewal of funding undermines the argument that there is no expectation that the work will continue.

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