Fixed-term worker legislation could open floodgates for disputes

New
legislation designed to improve the rights of employees on fixed-term
contracts, including pay and pension entitlements, could open the floodgates
for workplace disputes.

This
is the view of law firm Eversheds which claims the Fixed Term Work EU Directive,
due to come into force in the UK by 10 July, is vague and open to different
interpretations.

Elaine
Aarons, employment specialist at Eversheds, said: "Although the
Government’s stated desire is to reduce the workload of the already over-burdened
Employment Tribunals, costly litigation caused by a

lack
of understanding of what the new draft regulations require becomes inevitable."

Aarons
said the directive states that fixed term workers should be treated the same as
permanent employees ‘where appropriate’ but does not clarify this.

She
added: "Whenever there are uncertainties in employment legislation,
managers whose job it is to decide how to apply the rules in their individual
workplaces are put in an impossible position."

Aarons
said the legislation is also not clear over whether employers will have to
provide pension benefits to cover past service by fixed term workers.

"In
the case of a contributory pension scheme, would employees have to make
payments to cover past service and, again, how could these contributions be
made given Inland Revenue limits? There are a lot of questions still to be
answered," said Aarons.

By Ben Willmott

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