Employers will from next Monday have to consider requests from staff, who have been employed on successive fixed-term contracts for four years, to be moved on to a permanent contract.
Under the Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002, employers who fail to offer permanent contracts to such employees, could face an employment tribunal claim.
Richard Linskell, employment partner at law firm Dawsons, said: “Since 2002, fixed-term employees have had the right to equal access to training, pension rights and pay.
“In 2002, the government gave employers four years to get their houses in order and now employers who continue to abuse fixed-term contracts will face the consequences.”
Under the regulations, after four years of service on two or more successive contracts, a contract automatically becomes indefinite unless the employer can ‘objectively’ justify the renewal of the contract on a fixed-term.
For example, if a construction worker is engaged on a series of short contracts on a large project, such as the Olympics or the Kings Cross redevelopment, it may not be justifiable to continue to employ that person on a fixed-term contract when the reality is that the person is a permanent member of the workforce.
The same might apply in catering where the job is linked to the length of a contract with a particular client. Unless the contract is genuinely for a short term, for example for the duration of the Wimbledon championships, employers should not rely on fixed-term contracts to regulate their core employees.
The regulations are designed to prevent the abuse of this type of arrangement. They also provide that fixed-term employees are entitled not unjustifiably to receive worse terms and conditions that permanent workers.