See also ‘Contract of Indefinite Duration’ and ‘Specified Purpose Contract’ – In Ireland employees on fixed-term contracts have broadly similar rights to those on open-ended (permanent) contracts of indefinite duration. The term, fixed-term employee, covers employees whose contract ends on a specified date, or when a specific task is completed, or when a specific event occurs. Generally, a fixed-term contract ends on an agreed date. The period of such a contract may range from a matter of weeks or months up to a period of a year or more. However, a fixed-term contract may also be for a specified-purpose and therefore not end on a specific date. Rather, it is agreed that the contract will finish when a particular stated task is completed, such as replacing an employee while she is on maternity leave.
Employees working under a fixed-term or specified purpose contract are entitled to equal treatment as compared to a comparable permanent employee. However, fixed-term employees whose normal hours of work are less than 20% of the normal hours of the comparable permanent employees can be excluded from entitlement to join a contributory pension scheme.
If an employee whose employment started after 14th July 2003 has been employed on 2 or more continuous fixed-term contracts, the total duration of those contracts may not exceed 4 years. At that point, if the employer wishes to renew the employee’s contract, it must be an open-ended contract unless there are objective grounds justifying the renewal of the contract for a fixed term or specified purpose only. Where a fixed-term or specified-purpose contract expires and the individual is re-employed within short succession, usually 3 months, the individual is generally deemed to have continuous service. Importantly, fixed term contracts should never be offered as a tool to assess performance and should only ever be used where there is an objectively justifiable reason as to why a contract of indefinite duration cannot be offered (e.g. a shop could justifiably offer a fixed-term contract to cover the busy Christmas shopping period).