The government yesterday (Friday) issued a consultation paper and draft Regulations on its proposals for new rights for fixed term employees. Responses to the consultation paper are sought by 31st May 2001.
The proposals seek to implement the EC Directive on Fixed Term Working 1999 (which required member states to introduce legislation by 10th July 1999!).
The draft Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2001, upon which the government is consulting, contain the following provisions for fixed-term employees:
• fixed-term employees are defined as employees (or ex-employees) who worked under a contract of employment which was fixed for a term in advance, or was agreed to terminate upon the occurrence (or non-occurrence) of a specified event;
• a fixed-term employee has the right not to be treated less favourably than a comparable non-fixed term employee engaged in the same or broadly similar work, either in connection with terms and conditions of employment or being subjected to a detriment. There is a defence of objective justification, and the level of pay is excluded (one of the particular points the government is consulting over);
• a fixed term employee who suspects less favourable treatment can ask for written reasons for that treatment. If the employer fails to provide written reasons, a tribunal is entitled to draw an adverse inference (for a change!)
• A NOVEL PROPOSAL: An employee working under a fixed term contract has a right to be notified by the employer of any suitable available vacancies (ie non fixed-term) that may arise.
• The usual remedies for breach of rights: declaration, recommendation or compensation. Compensation is unlimited, having regard to the employee's loss, but no award shall be made for injury to feelings.
• IMPORTANT: Where a employer renews a fixed term contract, and the employee has been working for 4 years (or more) under a series of fixed-term contracts, it is deemed by law to become an indefinite contract and the attempt to fix the term is void. Note that this is not retrospective - any continuity of employment prior to the Regulations coming into force shall not count. This proposal (particularly whether 4 years is appropriate) is another of the central questions being asked in the consultation document.
More information, including the draft Regulations, the EC Directive and the consultation document, is available from http://www.dti.gov.uk/er/fixed/index.htm