Staff on fixed-term, temporary and as-and-when contracts can accrue continuous service if their contract is renewed or a subsequent contract is issued. The law on continuous service is complex. For University staff it is important to note that the break between semesters is not likely to break continuous service. Please take advice from the HR Department if you need to know whether an employee has continuous service or not.
Continuous service is an important issue because an employee’s legal rights accrue with the passage of time, irrespective of the kind of contract they have. Appendix 1 of the Key Concepts: Fixed-term Contracts [PDF 194KB] sets out a comprehensive list the rights that employees accrue over time.
It follows that staff, even those without a permanent contract, can accrue employment rights. These can sometimes take managers by surprise.
Therefore, when issuing or renewing a fixed-term or temporary contract, always:
- be robust in identifying and specifying the objective justification for offering a fixed-term contract;
- tell the employee what the objective justification is;
- notify the HR department so that they can record this in the contract documents;
- review carefully, before you issue or renew a contract, or make any offer of further work, the legal and financial obligations which the University will face at the end of the contract, or when the employee has 4 years continuous service;
- plan to follow appropriate dismissal or review procedures at the end of the contract, taking into account all the employee’s continuous service;
- at the end of any contract, consider whether the fixed-term is still warranted in any future contract. If so, explain this to the employee. Make sure to record fully the objective justification and the reasons for your thinking in the appropriate sections on the “Extend or End” Form;
- be accurate in recording and applying your funding codes. It is not helpful if you seek to justify a fixed-term contract because the funding is limited when other documents indicate that the funding is from a “permanent” HEFCE source;
- think through the pensions’ implications of employing staff on fixed-term contracts:
– bear in mind that some staff made redundant after the age of 50 may have the right to take early retirement; and
– take advice from HR on ways to minimise the risks.
- take care not to create an unnecessary employment relationship with people to whom you make one-off payments when these can legitimately be treated as self-employed or as contractors:
- specify the outputs you require rather than the way the work is to be done