1. Introduction

    The University of York ("the University") recognises the contribution of all employees to delivering its aim of providing outstanding research, teaching and supporting services. It also recognises the need to ensure that staff feel secure and are appropriately supported throughout their employment. The University is therefore committed to appointing staff on indefinite contracts wherever possible. It is, however, incumbent upon the University to ensure that it operates within the constraints placed upon it by funding arrangements and financial restrictions. Whilst the University is committed to reducing their use, fixed-term contracts have a role to play within the University and this document outlines the procedures that will apply to the management of all staff on fixed-term contracts.

  2. Principles

    The University undertakes to treat all staff with fairness, respect and dignity at all times, in line with its published policies.

    The University recognises indefinite contracts as the general form of employment relationship between employers and employees and will appoint new and existing staff to indefinite contracts unless necessary and objective reasons justify use of a fixed-term contract (see section 3).

    Where the use of a fixed-term contract is justified by objective reasons, staff on these contracts will be given:

    • Similar terms and conditions of employment to those in comparable jobs with indefinite employment in the University, unless the difference can be justified, in accordance with the legislation, for necessary and appropriate objective reasons.
    • Opportunities, comparable with those available to open contract staff, to develop performance and career prospects through staff development, training, performance and development review and promotion arrangements.

    Staff on fixed-term contracts will have the opportunity to apply for any open contract positions within the University for which they are qualified.

    The University will support staff seeking re-deployment on expiry of their fixed-term contract in line with the University's redeployment policy.

  3. Fixed-term appointments

    Heads of Department will be expected to consider all posts in the context of their departmental plans to determine whether recruiting to an indefinite or fixed-term appointment would be appropriate.

    Appointments on a fixed-term basis may be justified in the following circumstances:

    1. Where there is a demonstrable case that the University/department requires specialist skills or experience for a specific period and/or where the University/department can demonstrate a specific task-oriented project that will only last for a limited term and/or is limited by funding.
    2. To cover staff absence as appropriate (eg. to cover for parental or adoptive leave, long-term sickness, sabbatical leave or secondment).
    3. To provide a secondment or career development opportunity for employees of the University. (For the avoidance of doubt, the secondment of an employee does not affect the term of that individual's substantive employment by the University).
    4. To meet fluctuating demand for short courses, particular modules or schemes of study or to meet seasonal fluctuations in demand.
    5. To fill specific posts that the University/department can demonstrate as developmental (eg. Graduate Teaching Assistants).
    6. For an interim period pending the restructuring of a department and/or to provide cover pending recruitment.

    This list is not exhaustive and there may be other circumstances in which appointment to a fixed-term contract is appropriate and can be justified on objective grounds.

    HoDs will be expected to identify the reason for the use of a fixed-term contract at the outset and this information will be used to advise applicants of the reason for appointing them for a fixed-term.

  4. Review of fixed-term contracts

    The University recognises the insecurity for employees arising from the use of successive fixed-term contracts and will seek to avoid this wherever possible. Heads of Department will be expected to review/monitor the use of fixed-term contracts on an ongoing basis and make recommendations to HR that individuals transfer to indefinite contracts where the objective reasons for a fixed-term contract no longer apply

    In addition, Heads of Department will be provided with details of individuals whose contracts are due to expire a minimum of 6 months prior to the expiry date. At this stage they will be expected to review the position and consider:

    • Whether there is an ongoing requirement for the work to be undertaken.
    • The period of time during which there will be an ongoing requirement.
    • Whether a source of funding is available to support this ongoing requirement.
    • Whether it would be appropriate to transfer the individual to an indefinite contract.

    HoDs, or a nominated manager eg. the individual's line manager/contract supervisor), are expected to meet informally with individuals six months prior to the expiry of their fixed-term contract to explain the position in relation to the above and discuss their future plans. This meeting is intended to support the individual in identifying future options and does not form part of the formal consultation process (see section 8 below).

    Subject to section 5 below, where the ongoing requirement falls within the objective reasons identified under section 3, consideration may be given to the extension of an individual's fixed-term contract. Heads of Department/nominated managers should indicate on the contract extension form the reason for the continued use of a fixed-term contract. This information will be conveyed to the employee in the course of the contract extension exercise and confirmed in writing.

  5. Successive fixed-term contracts

    The University is committed, wherever appropriate, to appointing staff to indefinite contracts at the earliest opportunity and will review the use of fixed-term contracts where the contract is renewed or extended following a period of two years' continuous service. Providing there is an ongoing requirement for the work to be undertaken for a reasonable period of time, the individual will be transferred to an indefinite contract and notified accordingly.

    There may, however, be exceptional cases where, following two years' continuous service, the continued use of a fixed-term contract is appropriate and can be justified in the particular circumstances for any of the following objective reasons:

    1. Where further time is required to finish a specific task-oriented project which has gone beyond its original deadline.
    2. To provide a secondment or career development opportunity (for the avoidance of doubt, the secondment of an employee does not affect the term of that individual's own employment by the University).
    3. Where an employee is taking up a demonstrably different post, i.e. where the individual has applied and been appointed to the post in response to a published advertisement or where they have obtained the post via internal redeployment.

    Nothing in section 5, paragraph 1 above will preclude individuals from being transferred to indefinite contracts before completion of the two-year period in appropriate circumstances (see section 4, paragraph 1).

    Where individuals are transferred to open status, HoDs/nominated managers are advised to review and re-issue their job description so that both parties are clear about the expectations and requirements of the role eg. a requirement to attract funding. In cases where an individual is subject to finite funding, eg. via a research grant, the individual will be advised of the position on transfer to an open contract and the HoD/nominated manager will be responsible for keeping them advised of the funding situation.

  6. Application for open contract status

    Any individual who has their fixed-term contract renewed or extended under section 5, paragraph 2 has the right to apply, in writing, for confirmation that their employment is to be regarded as being on an open contract. If the employment is to remain fixed-term, the individual will be provided with full reasons, in writing, for this decision within 21 days of their application. If they are not satisfied by this decision, they will have the right to appeal by writing to the Director of Human Resources within 10 working days of receiving the letter explaining the reasons for their employment continuing on a fixed-term basis. The letter should outline their grounds for appeal.

    The Director of Human Resources will arrange for an appropriate manager (not previously involved in the case) to convene a meeting of interested parties, within 10 working days of the date of the appeal, in order to review the case. The member of staff may be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague or Trades Union representative.

    The designated manager will provide the employee(s) with written notification of the outcome of the appeal within 10 working days. The letter will include the reasons for the decision and the appeal decision will be final.

  7. Expiry of fixed-term contract

    If, following a review under section 4, it is apparent that there is no further requirement for the work to be undertaken or no further source of funding can be identified, the individual should be advised, in writing, that their contract may not be renewed and as a result their employment may be terminated with effect from the contract expiry date, together with the reasons why this assessment has been made.

    It is important to note that in some cases, the expiry of a fixed-term contract will constitute a redundancy under employment legislation. This gives rise to certain rights on the part of the individual, particularly in relation to consultation. Heads of Department/nominated managers are therefore advised to refer to the University's Redundancy Procedure and consult with the appropriate HR Adviser regarding any steps to be taken.

    The individual will be invited to attend a meeting with the HoD/nominated manager, eg. their line manager/contract supervisor to discuss the position. It is recommended that this meeting take place a minimum of three months prior to the contract expiry date. The individual may be accompanied at the meeting by a University employee or Trade Union representative. This meeting should explain the reasons why the individual's contract is likely to end and should also cover the individual's career plans, any assistance that might be available to support these and whether the individual would be interested in seeking alternative employment elsewhere within the University in line with the University's Policy on Redeployment. Employees should also be reminded that details of all vacancies are available via the University's website. The outcome of the meeting will be confirmed in writing to the individual.

    In cases of redundancy a further formal meeting will be required. This should take place at least 30 days after the initial meeting (see Redundancy Procedure)

    In relation to redundancy, consideration should also be given to whether any alternative employment is available which would be suitable for the individual concerned in line with the University's Redeployment Policy.

    If no further employment is available to the individual they will be advised that their employment will come to an end on the expiry of their fixed-term contract and of their right to appeal in accordance with procedures laid down by the University.

  8. Arrangements for communication with Trade Unions

    On a quarterly basis Trades Unions representatives will be provided with details of staff whose contracts are due to expire within the next quarter. This will include the following details:

    • Staff Category
    • Grade
    • Employing Department
    • Contract type
    • Diversity data (including protected characteristics)
  9. Monitoring Arrangements

    HR will be responsible for monitoring the use of fixed-term contracts to ensure overall compliance with this policy and adherence to the University's policies on equality, diversity and inclusion.

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  • Last reviewed and updated: 1 July 2020