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Fixed-term Contract Policy

  1. Introduction
  2. Definitions
  3. Purpose
  4. Reduction in the use of fixed-term contracts
  5. Transfer of staff to permanent contracts
  6. The circumstances in which fixed-term contracts may be considered
  7. Management of fixed-term contracts
  8. Particular groups of staff
    1. Research staff
    2. Hourly paid staff
  9. Ending a fixed-term contract



1.1  The University of Dundee recognises the contribution of all staff in delivering the clearly stated objectives of providing the best possible student experience and delivering excellence in learning, teaching and research.  In order to support these aims, staff must have where possible, security of employment and thus the University has established as the ‘norm’, permanent contracts.

1.2  The Fixed-Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations came into effect on 1 October 2002.  The main points of the regulations are:

 1.3  The University is committed to maintaining continuity of employment for its staff as far as possible and to use fixed-term contracts only for transparent and objective reasons where there is a genuine fixed-term need.

1.4  The University will avoid the successive use of fixed-term contracts and will transfer staff to open-ended, permanent contracts once they have completed four years’ service, or earlier if appropriate.

1.5  Where fixed-term contracts are used the University will ensure that staff are treated no less favourably than permanent staff and have access to permanent vacancies.

1.6  The University will not take any action that contravenes the Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002.

1.7  This policy will apply to the use and management of fixed-term contracts across the University.

1.8  This policy will be jointly reviewed when raised by the University or the campus unions or whenever there is a change in relevant legislation.

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2.1 Campus unions  

The representative bodies recognised by the University: DUCU, UNISON and Unite.

2.2 Objective justification

Objective justification is the term used in the regulations to describe the occasions when an employer continues to use fixed-term contracts.  However, it is unlikely that it will be possible to objectively justify the continuation of a fixed-term contract, relating to the same position, for a period beyond 4 years.  The University is therefore, committed to not using fixed-term contracts beyond 4 years.

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3.1  The University aims to:

3.2  As part of this policy, the University will carry out a quarterly audit of the use of fixed-term contracts across the University which will include equality data and will share the results with the campus unions. If the use of fixed-term contracts does not significantly reduce to an acceptable level or there are equality implications the University will take action to address the situation and prior discussion will take place with the campus unions.

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Reduction in the use of fixed-term contracts


4.1  The University is committed to continuing to make reductions in the numbers of fixed-term contracts, to limiting their future use and to report annually on progress regarding this.

4.2  In future, open-ended, permanent contracts will be the normal form of employment for staff and fixed-term contracts will only be used when there are transparent and objective reasons and where there is a genuine fixed-term need. This test for whether there is a genuine fixed-term need should be applied in every case.

4.3  The University, as employer has overall responsibility for fixed-term contracts. Management of the fixed-term process is devolved at an operational level to Schools and Professional Services.  Decisions on the use of fixed-term contracts are made at School/Professional Services Staffing Committees with the input of the Human Resources Officer to ensure that they are in line with University policy and in accordance with the fixed-term employee regulations.

4.4  The University will ensure that this policy is brought to the attention of all managers and staff, and is well publicised.   It also commits to ensuring that managers receive the requisite training on the implementation of the policy and procedure. 

4.5  School/Professional Services HR Officers will also take steps to monitor the implementation of the policy and will take appropriate action where it appears that the policy is not being followed within Schools/Professional Services.

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Transfer of staff to permanent contracts


5.1  A process for renewing fixed–term contracts is well established in the University.  Within the Schools/Professional Services the HR function will highlight any contract which, by being extended, exceeds four years’ duration. 

5.2  Any contract that will exceed 4 years in the course of the period for which it is being renewed will be transferred to an open-ended, permanent contract.

5.3  Where the decision is made to transfer the fixed-term contract to a n open-ended, permanent contract, a new contract of employment will be issued. 

5.4  As a fail-safe measure a quarterly audit will be undertaken by School/Professional Services HR Officers to ensure any fixed-term contract in excess of 4 years will be investigated and considered at the School/Professional Services Staffing Committee as stated above, with the intention of transferring them to permanent contracts.

5.5  Fixed term contracts will be transferred to open-ended, permanent contracts at the earliest opportunity.

5.6  Hourly-paid staff will be treated no less favourably than other staff and their contracts will be monitored in the same way to ensure compliance with the fixed-term regulations and the University’s policy.

5.7  In pursuing this policy, the University gives its commitment that the acquiring of 4 years’ service will not be regarded as a legitimate reason for the expiry of a fixed-term contract.

5.8  The University gives a commitment to implementing the Redundancy Avoidance Policy when fixed-term contracts, and open-ended, permanent contracts are due to expire.

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The circumstances in which fixed-term contracts may be considered


6.1  Fixed-term contracts should only be used on those occasions where the University can demonstrate a real business need, i.e. where it can identify facts evidencing a business objective which can only be met by the use of a fixed term contract.

6.2  The University will adopt an individual approach to cases, taking account of the particular circumstances when considering whether or not a fixed-term contract is appropriate.

6.3  Whilst it may be appropriate to offer fixed-term contracts for short periods of time with an aggregate period of less than 4 years, fixed-term contracts should not be used for a period beyond 4 years of continuous employment.

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Management of fixed-term contracts


7.1  Where staff are placed on a fixed-term contract they shall be treated no less favourably than comparable staff on permanent, or open-ended, permanent contracts.

7.2  In particular, fixed-term staff will:

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Particular Groups of Staff


8.1       Research Staff

8.1.1  The University recognises that the use of fixed-term contracts within the research community at large for the employment of research staff is widespread. This policy applies to research staff as it applies to other staff groups and the commitment to the use of open-ended, permanent contracts as the normal form of employment, where possible, extends to research staff. For example if a member of research staff has an objectively justified fixed-term contract for 3 years and a further 3 year contract is obtained, a permanent contract will be issued at that point rather than delaying the issue of an permanent contract until 4 years have elapsed.

8.1.2  The University wishes to retain high quality, experienced staff and to maintain their continuity of employment as far as possible.

8.1.3  The University reiterates its commitment to the active management of research careers and the concordat for the career management of research staff.

8.2       Fixed-term hourly-paid staff

8.2.1  The University will continue to work with trade unions to find ways to maintain its resourcing flexibility, whilst seeking to reduce the use of fixed-term contracts.

8.2.2  The University recognises that hourly-paid staff also form a large and distinctive group affected by the use of fixed-term contracts.

8.2.3  The University will monitor all staff on fixed-term contracts including fixed-term hourly paid staff as part of the fixed-term staff annual audit.

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Ending of a fixed-term contract


9.1  The University recognises that the ending of a fixed-term contract is a dismissal in law. In most cases, the dismissal will constitute a redundancy.

9.2  The University recognises its legal duty in relation to collective consultation on redundancy and provision is made for this in the University’s established collective consultation arrangements and quarterly meetings.

9.3  Throughout the consultation period the University will consult with campus unions about any potential redundancies.

9.4  The University will take all necessary and appropriate steps to avoid compulsory redundancies of both permanent and fixed-term staff by use of its Redundancy Avoidance Policy.

9.5  Four months prior to the expiry of a fixed-term contract renewal documentation is issued to the manager of the member of staff at which time all alternative options should be considered e.g. alternative funding arrangements, renewal, use of bridging funds, retraining and redeployment, as set out in the University’s Redundancy Avoidance Policy.

9.6  Consideration should be given to transferring the employee to an open-ended, permanent contract if the work is on-going, extending the fixed-term contract providing alternative work or funds for a temporary period (for example between grants) or slotting the employee into a suitable vacancy, either on an permanent or fixed-term contract (see the Redundancy Avoidance Policy).

9.7  Up to three months prior to the expiry date, face-to-face consultation should take place with the member of staff on the prospects of alternative options and their attention must be drawn to the possibility that alternative work might not be identified and they may be subject to redundancy. The member of staff may be accompanied by their trade union representative or work colleague at any discussions about the future of their post.

At the same time the University will consult with the recognised trade unions about any potential redundancies.

9.8  The search for redeployment opportunities will continue throughout the consultation and notice periods, and staff are given access to the redeployment portal to search for appointments.

9.9  The redundancy procedure will be applied to fixed-term staff in the same way as it is applied to comparable permanent members of staff including any redundancy payments i.e. Statutory Redundancy Pay.

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Approved at LJC 2nd June 2011

updated, February 2016