The purpose of the Protection of Employees Fixed-term Work Act is to provide for the improvement of the quality of fixed term work by ensuring the application of the principle of non-discrimination so that fixed term workers may not be treated less favourably than comparable permanent workers.
The Act prohibits discrimination against fixed term workers where such exists and the establishment of a framework to prevent abuse arising from the use of successive fixed term employment contracts.
Fixed term employee means a person who has entered into a contract of employment with an employer where the end of the contract is determined by an objective condition such as arriving at a specific date, completing a specific task or the occurrence of a specific event.
The term ‘fixed term employee’ does not include employees in initial vocational training or in apprenticeship schemes nor employees with a contract of employment concluded within the framework or publicly supported training, integration or vocational re-training programme.
The Act provides that a fixed term employee shall be informed in writing by his/her employer as soon as practicable of the objective condition determining the contract, i.e. whether it is:
• Arriving at a specific date;
• Completing a specific task; or
• The occurrence of a specific event.
The Act also provides that where an employer proposes to renew a fixed term contract the employee shall be informed inwriting, 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.
Employees on fixed term contracts which commence prior to the passing of the Act, 14 July 2003
Once such an employee completes or has completed three years continuous employment with his/her employer or associated employer the employer may renew the contract for a fixed term on one occasion only and that renewal may be for a period of no longer than one year.
Employee on a fixed term employment contract which commences after the passing of the Act
Where such an employee is employed by his/her employer or associated employer on two or more continuous fixed term contracts the aggregate duration of these contracts may not exceed four years.
Where a term of an employment contract purports to limit the term of the employment contract of either category of employee mentioned above, in contravention of the above rules, that term shall be void, have no effect and the contract concerned shall be deemed to be one of indefinite duration – a permanent contract.
An employee may refer a dispute in relation to an entitlement under the Act to a Rights Commissioner of the Labour Relations Commission for adjudication.
The decision of the Rights Commissioner can be appealed to the Labour Court for a legally binding determination.