Categories of staff covered by this code of practice

This procedure applies to all staff.

1. Introduction

1.1 The Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 were introduced in October 2002. The overriding principle of the regulations is that fixed-term employees should not be treated less favourably than comparable open contract employees unless this can be objectively justified. The regulations therefore provide protection for fixed-term employees in a number of areas:

  • The right not to be treated less favourably than a comparable open contract employee in respect of contractual terms and conditions or being subjected to any other detriment on grounds of status as a fixed-term employee;
  • The right to a statutory redundancy payment where the expiry of a fixed-term contract gives rise to a redundancy situation;
  • Limiting the use of successive fixed-term contracts unless the continued use of a fixed-term contract can be justified on objective grounds;
  • The right to be informed of open contract vacancies within the organisation.

1.2 The University of York ("the University") recognises the contribution of all staff 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 will still 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

  1. The University undertakes to treat all staff with fairness, respect and dignity at all times.
  2. 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).
  3. Where the use of a fixed-term contract is justified by objective reasons, staff on these contracts will be given:
    1. 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.
    2. Opportunities, comparable with those available to open contract staff, to develop performance and career prospects through staff development, training and performance review, in so far as practicable.
  4. Staff on fixed-term contracts will have the opportunity to apply for any open contract positions within the University for which they are qualified.
  5. 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

3.1 Heads of Departments will be required to review all posts prior to advertising to determine whether an indefinite or fixed-term appointment would be appropriate. This information will be used subsequently to advise applicants of the reason for the fixed-term appointment.

Appointments on a fixed-term basis may, however, be justified in the following circumstances, providing they would not give rise to unlawful discrimination on the grounds of part-time status, gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief or age: -

  • 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;
  • To cover staff absence as appropriate (e.g. to cover for parental or adoptive leave, long-term sickness, sabbatical leave or secondment);
  • To provide a secondment or career development opportunity for employees of the University;
  • To meet fluctuating demand for short courses, particular modules or schemes of study, e.g. Associate Tutors in the Centre for Lifelong Learning and Languages for All, or to meet seasonal fluctuations in demand;
  • To fill specific posts that the University/department can demonstrate as developmental (e.g. Lektors);
  • For an interim period pending the restructuring of a department and/or recruitment to a specific post.

This list is not exhaustive and, subject to agreement with the relevant Trade Union, there may be other circumstances in which appointment to a fixed-term contract is appropriate and can be justified on objective grounds.

3.2 HR Policy Committee will be responsible for annual monitoring of the use of fixed-term contracts to ensure overall compliance with this Agreement and legislative provisions (see 4.2 below).

4. Review of Fixed-term Contracts

4.1 The University recognises the insecurity for employees arising from the use of
successive fixed-term contracts and will seek to avoid this wherever possible. It must, however, take account of the nature of the higher education sector and, in particular, the funding arrangements in place.

4.2 Heads of Department will also be expected to 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.

4.3 In addition, Heads of Department will be provided with a list of individuals whose contracts are due to expire 12 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 recommend to Human Resources that the individual transfers to an indefinite contract.

4.4 Subject to sections 5 and 6 below, where the ongoing requirement falls within the objective reasons identified under 3.1 above, consideration may be given to the extension of an individual's fixed-term contract. Heads of Department 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

5.1 Subject to 5.2 below, the University is committed, wherever appropriate, to appointing staff to indefinite contracts at the earliest opportunity and, with the exception of research staff (see 6 below), to review the use of fixed-term contracts where the contract is renewed or extended following a period of four years' continuous service from 10 July 2002. At this point, the individual will be transferred to an indefinite contract and notified accordingly.

5.2 There may, however, be exceptional cases where, following four 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: -

  • where further time is required to finish a specific task-oriented project which has gone beyond its original deadline;
  • to provide a secondment or career development opportunity;
  • 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 seeking applications from candidates not confined to existing employees.

5.3 Nothing in paragraph 5.1 above will preclude individuals from being transferred to indefinite contracts before completion of the four-year period in appropriate circumstances (see paragraph 4.2).

6. Research Staff

6.1 As a research-based institution, the University of York relies heavily on externally funded research income. Under existing arrangements, many research grants, especially in the sciences, tend to be allocated for periods of up to three years. In seeking to protect its position, the University recognises that it would not be in the best interests of the individual or the institution to preclude individuals from undertaking more than one period of postdoctoral research where it is appropriate for this to occur. For this reason, a collective agreement has been put in place between the University and the UCU which recognises that the use of successive fixed-term contracts for this group of staff for longer than four years may be justifiable, but the use of such contracts should be limited to a maximum of three contracts or a maximum period of six years (whichever is shorter).

6.2 Subject to 6.3 below, following six years' continuous service or at the beginning of the fourth contract, the individual will be deemed to have transferred to an indefinite contract and will be notified accordingly.

6.3 There may, however, be exceptional circumstances where it would be appropriate and justified in the particular circumstances to retain the individual on a fixed-term contract in accordance with the reasons outlined in 5.2 above.

6.4 Nothing in paragraph 6.1 above will preclude individuals from being transferred to indefinite contracts before completion of the six-year period or fourth contract in appropriate circumstances (see paragraph 4.2).

7. Application for Open Contract Status

7.1 Any individual who has his/her fixed-term contract renewed or extended under paragraph 5.2 or 6.3 above has the right to apply, in writing, for confirmation that his/her employment is to be regarded as 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 his/her application. If, however, the individual can put forward reasonable grounds for this decision to be reconsidered, he/she has the right, within 21 days of receipt of the written reasons, to request a review by the Contract Review Panel. The review will be carried out in accordance with procedures laid down by the University. The panel will consider whether the reasons advanced in support of the decision are reasonable and supportable and will confirm the outcome of the review to the individual concerned. The panel's decision is final and there is no further right of appeal.

8. Expiry of Fixed-term Contract

8.1 If, following a review under section 4 above, 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 warned in writing that his/her contract may not be renewed and as a result his/her employment may be terminated with effect from the contract expiry date, together with the reasons why this assessment has been made and confirmation of the anticipated contract expiry date. At this stage the individual will be invited to attend a meeting with the line manager/contract supervisor to discuss the position. He/she may be accompanied at the meeting by a University employee or Trade Union representative. This meeting 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.

8.2 The outcome of the meeting will be confirmed in writing to the individual, including his/her right to appeal in accordance with procedures laid down by the University.

8.3 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 are therefore advised to refer to the University's Redundancy Procedure and consult with the appropriate HR Manager regarding any steps to be taken. In line with the University's Redeployment Policy, consideration may also be given to whether any alternative employment is available which would be suitable for the individual concerned.

9. Arrangements for Consultation

9.1 At the start of each month, the relevant Trade Union will be provided with details of staff whose contracts are due to expire within a period of 12 months. This will include the following details:

  • Post title
  • Employing Department
  • Start date
  • Contract expiry date

9.2 In the event that the expiry of the fixed-term contract will give rise to a situation in which 20 or more employees are to be made redundant within a period of 90 days or less, further consultation will be undertaken in line with the University's Redundancy Procedure.

(This policy is not contractual and is not intended to be incorporated into individual terms and conditions of employment. It may be subject to review, amendment or withdrawal.)

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  • Last reviewed: 31 August 2005