Q&A  

Consider contractual rights of temp staff

Consider contractual rights of temp staff

Q. Can a temporary position become permanent?

A. Temporary or fixed-term staff, as they are often referred to, are commonly used by employers to address a temporary labour shortage in their organisation.

These contracts are either designed to last for a predetermined period, or to finish once a specific task or event is completed.

Despite this, there will be instances where employers wish to make a fixed-term position permanent, whether due to increased business demand or the performance of the employee themselves.

In this situation, employers are advised to liaise with fixed-term staff, informing them of their intention to make the role permanent and see if they are willing to agree to this. 

If the employee does agree to become permanent then they should be provided with written confirmation of their new employment terms.

Where individuals begin their permanent role immediately after the fixed-term period ends, it is important to understand how this will impact their length of service.

In this situation, the employee’s period of continuous service will not reset and will instead stretch back to when they began their first fixed-term contract.

It will be important to reflect this in employee records and ensure they receive the appropriate amount of contractual rights.

However, employers should keep in mind that they cannot force fixed-term employees to accept an offer of permanent employment.

Many individuals prefer the flexibility and sense of autonomy that comes with fixed-term work and they should not be treated any less favourably for refusing an offer of permanent employment.

Having said this, it is important to note that fixed-term staff who have been continuously employed for four years or more, on successive contracts, will automatically become permanent employees.

All other terms will remain unchanged at this point, unless both parties agree. However, newly permanent employees will be entitled to any contractual benefits that come with having four years’ service.

Employees who feel they are automatically converted from fixed-term to permanent can again request a written statement from their employer to confirm this change in status.

Employers must respond within 21 days, either providing confirmation of the variation or explaining why an exemption will allow the contract to remain fixed-term.

Employers should ultimately remember that while they can look to make a fixed-term position permanent, they will need to understand how this stands to impact an individual’s length of service and contractual entitlements.

As a result, it will be essential that HR personnel maintain accurate and up-to-date records to avoid any breach of contract claims.

Peter Done is managing director of Peninsula