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Can a fixed-term contract work for me?

Published 16 May 2022

Job security is important to a lot of us, so can there ever really be any benefit in accepting a fixed-term contract with an agreed end date?

The idea of being recruited for a role on temporary basis will not appeal to many in the current economic climate.

With a record number of job vacancies now on offer, you could be forgiven for overlooking a role on a fixed-term contract in favour of one with a more permanent guarantee.

The number of job vacancies in January to March 2022 rose to 1,288,000; an increase of 492,400 from the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level in January to March 2020 [1 cited 16.05.22]

If you are seeking to change jobs, or you are out of work for any reason, you will have in mind a good idea of exactly what it is that you want.

Salary, working hours and location will be key considerations along with the type of employment contract that comes with any new opportunity.

But what if what you are looking for is only being offered on a fixed-term contract? You may well question: is it worth doing the job if I am going to be out of work in six, 12 or 18 months’  time?

Employees are on a fixed-term contract if it ends on a particular date, or on completion of a specific task, e.g. a project [2 cited 16.05.22]

As with any important decision you will ever have to make, you will have to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages.

The advantages of a fixed-term contract.

  • You still have the same general employment rights as a permanent employee, which gives you protection against discrimination [3 cited 16.5.22]
  • It offers valuable experience and in some cases can lead to the offer of a permanent position. It can also widen your knowledge and help to enhance your CV, which can be an added bonus when looking for a permanent role.
  • Better pay, because you can sometimes be recruited for a specific need on a short-term basis and it pays more.
  • If you perform well, make a good impression and enjoy the role there is a chance your contract may be extended or you may be made permanent depending on the employer’s requirements and your performance.
  • You have the freedom to work when you want to and for as long as you want to.
  • You get an opportunity to try out a role in a particular industry without making a long-term commitment or staying, as you will have a clear end date.

In deciding if a fixed-term contact is for you it is also important, obviously, to weigh up the disadvantages, as the temporary working arrangement will not be to everyone’s liking.

It does not give you job security, once the contract expires you will be out of work and if you are looking for a permanent role having worked on repeated fixed-term contracts you could be perceived as someone who cannot commit to a job long-term.

So, if after weighing up the advantages and disadvantages you do decide a fixed-term contract works for you, remember you do not have to put up with any unfavourable treatment and just get on with the job because it is on a temporary basis.

If you feel you are being treated unfairly, you can raise a formal grievance with the employer [4 cited 16.5.22] .

Depending on the seriousness of the matter, if it cannot be resolved you can contact the ACAS conciliation service for help before making a complaint to an employment tribunal [5 cited 16.5.22]

However, if you wish to avoid having to do so or you are unhappy in the role for any reason, you could just leave early if you give your employer required notice [6 cited 16.5.22]

The notice period required should be stated in your fixed-term contract, so it is important that you check it first. Failing to provide appropriate notice could mean you may be in breach of your contract.

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