Nottingham Association of University Teachers: AUT

New legal rights for Fixed Term Staff

Details of a seminar on this subject: please click here


Are there new legal rights for fixed term staff?

Yes -- the Fixed Term Employees Regulations 2002 came into force on 1 October 2002. This new legislation gives new employment rights to thousands of staff, including:

  • The right to be treated equally to a comparable permanent employee. This includes all terms and conditions including pay and pensions.
  • If fixed term staff believe they are being discriminated against compared to a permanent employee they have the right to ask Personnel for a written statement giving the reasons for the difference in treatment. This must be provided within 21 days of the request.
  • Any contract signed, extended or renewed on or after 1 October cannot contain a redundancy waiver. (At Nottingham it was agreed with management that such waivers would be discontinued from an earlier date of January 2002)
  • After four years’ service on two or more contracts, the contract automatically becomes indefinite unless the continued use is objectively justified. Service prior to 10 July 2002 will not count towards the four year period.

Will this mean a change in employment practices?

AUT and other campus unions have negotiated national guidance on the use of fixed term and casual contracts. This improves on the minimum legal requirements. Nationally, the employers have recognised that universities’ employment practices must change and that:

  • The new legislation will result in a significant and substantial reduction in the use of fixed term and casual contracts in higher education.
  • Indefinite contracts will become the normal form of employment.
  • There must be a major overhaul in the way that contract research staff are employed in the future in order to transfer significant numbers of staff to indefinite contracts.
  • Hourly paid contracts should be converted to pro-rata indefinite contracts.

Where can I find out more information?

A new AUT campaign pack has been sent to all local association secretaries and fixed term staff representatives. It provides resources and information for a local negotiating agenda that sends an unequivocal message that the abuse of fixed term contracts must end. Detailed advice about the introduction of the new legislation and guidance is also included in the campaign pack.

A series of regional seminars launched the campaign in the autumn term. The purpose of the seminars was to discuss in detail the negotiating opportunities presented by the new legislation as well as local recruitment and campaigning objectives. Two Nottingham LA committee members attended one of these seminars. Where there is sufficient interest it may be possible to arrange for further seminars for groups of members from a specific LA, such as Nottingham. Please let one of the local committee members know if you would be interested in attending such a seminar.

In November 2002 the House of Commons Committee on Science and Technology published its report of an enquiry into the use of short-term contracts in science and engineering. The AUT presented substantial information to the enquiry, and Sally Hunt, AUT general secretary and other AUT members gave evidence. AUT's summary of the report, including a link to the full report can be found here.

What should I be doing about it?

There are a number of ways you can participate in this work:

  • Contact any local Committee member to let us know you are interested, and for more information about activities here at Nottingham.
  • Make sure members in your department know about their new legal rights and the AUT campaign. Posters and leaflets have been included in the campaign pack. You can obtain a copy of the pack from our local admin assistant – Ian Nelson on extension 14976.
  • Find out who the hourly paid and fixed term staff members are in your department. Ask any who are not AUT members to join the union and get involved in the campaign.
  • Help to organise a meeting for fixed term staff to discuss the new legislation and national guidance, and decide on local negotiating priorities.
  • Let us know if you are interested in attending a seminar.

    Updated 11 May 2003 by Sandi Golbey