Understanding the fixed-term working legislation

Vitae has recently published a report on how Higher Education Institutions responded to the changes in employment law surrounding the use of fixed-term contracts.

The key messages for Research Staff are copied below, but you may find it useful to take a look at the entire report (especially if you’re coming to the end of a fixed-term contract) in order to understand what universities have done, what your rights and responsibilities are, and how being moved to an open-ended contract would really affect your job security.

It is important to remember that many research posts are funded by temporary external money which can mean that even if a researcher is moved to an open-ended contract, the funding may run out and the post may end. At Manchester, the researcher is then likely to be placed on the redeployment register in an effort to find suitable continuing employment.  Therefore, an open-ended contract is not a guarantee that a researcher will continue in similar employment at the same institution indefinitely.

Other key messages from the Vitae report were:

  • A range of initiatives to address the employment, management
    and career development of researchers and academic staff
    more generally has been developed nationally.
  • Recent legislative changes around fixed-term employees seek to
    strike a balance between flexibility (for employers) and security
    (for employees). They do not seek to abolish or prevent fixed-term
    employment. However some key rights and measures have been
    introduced:
  • Fixed-term employees have the right not to be treated less
    favourably than comparable permanent employees who
    undertake the same or broadly similar work unless less
    favourable treatment can be justified on objective grounds
    Employees who are employed on successive fixed-term
    contracts for four years or more are considered by law to be
    permanent unless a fixed-term contract can be justified on
    objective grounds.
  • HEIs are autonomous and diverse institutions with different
    characteristics and goals. Responses to the legislation, and to
    national policies, vary between institutions. Researchers should
    therefore identify their institution’s policy.
  • It appears that changes to institutional policies are taking time to
    become part of working life within departments, groups or teams.
  • Some researchers anticipated that a move to open-ended
    employment would change things substantially, however a link
    between short-term funding and the likely duration of
    appointments continues.

Read the full report: Fixed-term contracts and the law

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