Fixed-termers may sue Govt over law delay

Staff on fixed-term contracts who suffer discrimination at work will be able
to sue the Government rather than their employer because of the delayed
introduction of the Fixed Term Workers Regulations.

Under the EC Fixed Term Workers Directive, new regulations had to be
implemented in the UK by 10 July, but the Department of Trade and Industry has
delayed the legislation until October 1 because the Employment Bill has yet to
receive Royal Assent.

Employment law barrister Daniel Barnett said that as a result of the delay,
people will be able to sue the Crown if they are discriminated against because
they are fixed-term workers.

"This leaves the Government open on a Francovich claim – workers may be
able to sue the Government, rather than their employer, for any discrimination
they suffer on grounds of being a fixed-term worker between July 10 and October
1," he said. "Employers can relax until the DTI brings in the new

"HR advisers should remember that the new regulations need the
fixed-term employee to compare himself with a full-time employee within the
same company."

"Employees may be able to sue the Government for failing to bring in
the rules by July 10, 2002 if they are discriminated against after that date.
But they can only sue the Government – not the employer," he said.

Barnett also said that employers can get around the fixed term regulations
before they come into force by transferring workers on fixed-term contracts to
a separate associated company where there are not any full-time employees for
them to be compared with.

A DTI spokeswoman confirmed the DTI was open to legal action – but said she
believed the scope was limited.

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