Appropriate use

In 2009, the University reached a local agreement with trade union representatives regarding the use of fixed term contracts at the University of Exeter. This agreement is based on the following understandings:

  • The University aims to achieve a significant reduction in its reliance on fixed term contracts.
  • Open-ended contracts should be the normal employment arrangement at the University.
  • Fixed term contracts will only be used in specifically defined circumstances (see below).
  • As a consequence of converting a significant number of fixed term contracts to open-ended contracts, the reduced use of fixed-term contracts may result in an increased number of redundancy situations affecting members of staff on open-ended contracts, although every effort will be made to avoid redundancy situations arising and to avoid making individuals redundant.

Reasons for use of fixed term contracts

Fixed term contracts will only be used in the University for transparent, necessary and objective reasons. It is jointly recognised that some use of fixed term contracts will remain appropriate in specifically defined circumstances. These circumstances include:

  • Cover for a member of staff who is absent for a limited period (for example on maternity leave, sickness absence, study leave, secondment etc).
  • Where the appointment requires specialist skills for a limited period or is to accomplish a particular task or project for a limited period.
  • Externally-funded, time-limited research projects where the prospect of continued funding is unlikely.
  • Appointment to a clearly defined training or career development position (eg graduate trainees, apprentices, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships).
  • Secondment.
  • Temporary re-engagement following early retirement.
  • Appointments to cope with unexpected or unpredictable period of demand over a time-limited period.

With regard to externally-funded, time-limited research projects where the prospect of continued funding is unlikely, a fixed term appointment will usually only apply to the employee’s first appointment with the University, where there is no evidence of continued funding. In such circumstances, the University's commitments under the research concordat will apply.

In circumstances where funding bodies do not permit the holders of research fellowships to have an open-ended position or where the funding cannot be used for open-ended appointments, individuals may need to be offered a fixed term contract to fulfil the conditions of the funding body.

Fixed term contracts will not be used in lieu of probation or to monitor performance where the appointment would otherwise be open-ended (except for graduate internships).

In cases where a fixed term appointment is appropriate, to provide security to staff for as long as possible, fixed term contracts should be for the maximum length of time possible based on the funding available and the duties required.

Proposals from Colleges and Professional Services for new fixed term contracts and for extensions to fixed term contracts (made via the SR1 process) will be assessed against the principles and criteria of the 2009 local agreement, in particular:

  • Open-ended contracts should be the normal employment arrangement at the University.
  • Fixed term contracts will only be used in the specifically defined circumstances set out in the local agreement.

Any proposed renewal/extension of a fixed term contract which, by the time of its expiry, would take the length of the employee’s employment on a fixed term basis to four or more years, should detail the objective grounds (under Regulation 9(2)(b)) which justify a further fixed term contract, taking account of both the local agreement and the decision of the Employment Tribunal in Ball v University of Aberdeen. The University will take account of the objective grounds proposed by the College/Service to determine whether the employment should or should not be continued on a fixed term basis.