The Fixed-Term Employees Regulations permit the continued use of fixed-term contracts in certain circumstances, for example, where an 'objective justification' exists. No specific justification is required for the use of the first fixed-term contract and there is no limit on the length of time for which an initial fixed-term contract may be offered (although of course there must be a fair reason under employment law for any non-renewal of such a contract and it is therefore strongly recommended that divisions and departments are able to justify objectively every fixed-term contract which they offer).
The regulations must be very carefully considered in relation to the renewal of a fixed-term appointment where the individual has already been, or would be under the new contract, continuously employed on one or more fixed-term contracts for a total period of four years or more. In such circumstances, the employer must be able to demonstrate a clear objective justification for issuing a further fixed-term contract rather than a contract of indefinite duration: and where, on application by the postholder, this cannot be demonstrated within the statutory 21-day period, a contract of indefinite duration will be deemed to exist and will be enforced by an Employment Tribunal.
Staff employed on fixed-term contracts may exercise their right to assert that they are employed on a permanent contract/to receive an explanation for the continued use of a fixed-term contract. Departments and divisions who receive such a request from a member of staff must seek advice from University HR before responding.
The UCU nationally takes a particular interest in monitoring the implementation of the Regulations. The overall use of different types of contract across the University is monitored centrally by University HR, and regular reports on this are given to joint committees with staff representatives. The annual reports to UCU highlight a relatively low take-up of the open-ended contract, and a lower reduction than had been hoped in the percentage of fixed-term contracts overall.
Departments are asked to give very careful consideration to the rationale for continuing to employ staff on a fixed-term rather than an open-ended contract.
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