Definition of a Fixed Term Employee

In the recent decision of Maurice Power v HSE IEHC 346, the High Court held that the Labour Court should not have dismissed the Claimant’s case under the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 (the “Act”).

The Act provides that an employee who holds successive fixed-term contracts for an aggregate period in excess of four years shall thereafter be treated as though they are a full-time employee. In the above case, the complainant was the CFO for the Saolta university hospital group. In 2014 he took up the role of Group CEO on an interim basis until the role was to be filled. When the role was eventually filled by a third party in 2019, the Complainant claimed that, by virtue of his holding the role in excess of four years, he was entitled to be treated as holding the CEO role on a full-time basis.

The Respondent’s case, which was successful before the Labour Court, was that the relevant section of the Act only applied where the employee was forced to leave their employment by virtue of their contract not being renewed. In this case, the Complainant had returned to his role as CFO once the new CEO was appointed.

In its decision, the High Court held that the law provides for the end of the contract only and not the end of the employment relationship. Accordingly, by virtue of having held the position for in excess of four years, the Complainant was entitled to be treated as a full-time employee in that role.

Fixed-Term Contracts require careful management by employers. Employees cannot be retained indefinitely on fixed-term contracts and where such contracts are being renewed or terminated employers must provide their employees with their objective justifications for not providing them with a full-time contract instead.

If you have any queries in relation to any Employment Law matter, please do not hesitate to contact either Brendan Dillon or Conor White on 01-2960666.