What is a fixed-term contract?


You might be employed on a fixed-term contract at your school and want to know what your employment rights are. Sometimes fixed-term contracts are issued to cover maternity leave, long-term sick leave or for a specific time-limited task. You will want to check your employment contract for specific information about your role.

In this article, we look at the differences between a fixed-term contract and a permanent contract and how fixed-term contracts typically operate in schools.

What is a fixed-term contract?

GOV.UK explains that fixed-term contracts:

  • last for a certain length of time
  • are set in advance
  • end when a specific task is completed
  • end when a specific event takes place

It states that fixed-term employees must receive the same treatment as full-time permanent staff.

What are my employment rights on a fixed-term contract?

GOV.UK states that employers must not treat workers on fixed-term contracts less favourably than permanent employees doing the same or largely the same job, unless the employer can show that there is a good ‘business’ reason to do so. This is known as ‘objective justification’.

Employers must also ensure that fixed-term employees get:

  • the same pay and conditions as permanent staff
  • the same or equivalent benefits package
  • information about permanent vacancies in the organisation
  • protection against redundancy or dismissal

Anyone who’s worked continually for the same employer for 2 years or more has the same redundancy rights as a permanent employee.

You can find out more information on redundancy in another one of our support articles.

Renewing or ending a fixed-term contract

The ACAS website explains that fixed-term contracts will normally end automatically when they reach the agreed end date. The employer doesn’t have to give any notice.

If the work ends after two years service you may be entitled to a redundancy payment, and will be entitled to the same redundancy rights as a permanent employee.

If the work ends before the agreed date and the contract allows the worker to be dismissed then the employer should give the appropriate notice period. Employers may be in breach of contract if they wish to end the contract and there is no provision to do so in the contract of employment.

How am I able to be placed on a permanent contract?

ACAS explains that if you are on a contract for four or more years you can automatically become a permanent employee, unless the employer has a good business reason not to do so, or a collective agreement removes the right. 

Essentially, you should have a conversation with your school to be placed on a permanent contract if you have received successive fixed-term contracts which last longer than a combined period of four years.

Additional questions

If you are an Edapt subscriber and have additional questions about your fixed-term contract please contact us for further advice and support.

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.