Fixed Term Employees in Ireland-the Legal Position
An overview of the law covering fixed term
workers in Ireland
Fixed term employees are employed on either a
fixed term contract or a specified purpose
A fixed term contract is one where the end date
of the contract is known at the outset whereas a
specified purpose contract is one which
terminates on the occurrence of a specific event
or cessation of a specific purpose.
The Employment Equality Acts apply to all
employees, regardless of their length of service,
including fixed term employees
the purpose of this act is to ensure that fixed term workers get no less
favourable treatment than their comparable permanent counterparts and
to prevent employers from abusing employees by employing them on a
series of successive short fixed term contract.
Fixed term workers are excluded from the protection of the Unfair Dismissals
Acts by virtue of the fact that the contract has come to an end (either by
expiry of the term or the arrival of the specific purpose event) but only
provided three conditions are met:
The contract was in writing
The contract states that the Unfair Dismissals act will not apply to a dismissal
which occurs only as a result of the end of the contract arriving
The contract was signed by both employee and employer.
The above exclusion does not apply to dismissal during the term of the fixed
term contract, provided of course the employee has the necessary period of
continuous service (1 year).
It has been held by the Labour Court that the
non renewal of a fixed term contract will not,
of itself, give rise to a claim of less favourable
treatment under the act.
The Act also provides that where an employer
proposes to renew a fixed term contract the
employee shall be informed in writing, not
later than the date of the renewal, of the
objective grounds justifying the renewal of
the fixed term contract and the failure to
offer a contract of indefinite duration.
There is an anti-abuse provision in the Unfair
Dismissals (Amendment) Act 1993 also which
prevents the employer from giving the employee
a series of fixed term contracts.
Generally there is a limit of four years on the
length of successive fixed term contracts with the
same employer or associated employer.
Even if the contracts are not successive eg a 3
month gap, they may be held to be successive
However there is no limit on the duration of the
1st fixed term contract.
An employee on a fixed term contract can be
treated less favourably than his permanent
counterpart with respect to one term of his
contract if this can be objectively justified ie
It arises from a real need on behalf of the
Is appropriate to achieve the objective
Is necessary to achieve the objective.
The employee must be notified in writing as soon as
possible of the objective condition ending the
The employer must inform the employee of vacancies
and training opportunities to avail of a permanent job
should one arise.
Fixed term employees may make a complaint to a
Rights Commissioner in the first instance should a
breach of their rights occur; the next step would be
an appeal to the Labour Court and then to the High
Court. The time limit is 6 months or 12 months in
Section 13 of the Act prohibits penalization of the
employee by the employer for making a complaint.
A fixed term employee may be redundant
within the meaning of the Redundancy
Payments Acts on the expiry and non renewal
of his/her fixed term contract.
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