As an employer, you may at some point face the question of what to do with an employee who is on a fixed term contract, when her contract expires during the maternity leave period. Here’s everything you need to know…

Fixed-term employees are those who are hired for a specified period of time or to cover specified purpose, and where their employment will finish on a specific date or once the specified purpose or the task is completed. As governed by Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003, fixed term employees are not to be treated less favourably in respect of their terms and conditions of employment.

An employee is entitled to take ordinary maternity leave of 26 weeks and additional maternity leave of 16 weeks. This is irrespective of the length of service the employee has with the company or the amount of hours or type of contract the employee has.

Maternity Protection Act

The Maternity Protection Act, 1994 explains:

(2) Where an employee is employed under a contract for a fixed term and that term expires before the day which, apart from this subsection, would be the last day of her maternity leave, then

(a) notwithstanding any other provision in this Part, the last day of her maternity leave shall be the day on which the term expires; and  

(b) nothing in this Part shall affect the termination of the employee’s contract of employment on that day.

This would explain that when the fixed term contract expires during the maternity leave of the employee, the termination date of the contract should be the date on which maternity leave expires.

Subsequently, if the fixed term role is still there after the maternity leave of the employee, she should be offered the position. To not renew a contract of employment due to pregnancy or maternity leave will automatically lead to dismissal being discriminatory and automatically unfair.

Awards for equality claims are up to 2 years for discrimination and up to 2 years for victimization. On top of that, unfair dismissal claims are awarded at a rate of up to 2 years of employee salary.

It’s very important to ensure that any fixed term employees on maternity leave are treated fairly to avoid any potential claims – please call us if you need any help.

If you have any questions regarding the issues in this article, please don’t hesitate to contact our 24 Hour Advice Service on 01 855 50 50.