Fixed term contracts and early career teachers
While many early career teachers are initially appointed to teaching positions on a fixed-term contract, in many cases employees should make appointments to continuing employment.
There are many instances where a fixed-term appointment is appropriate; however, these appointments must be due to an “identifiable short-term need”.
Where an identifiable short-term need does not exist employees have a valid case to move from fixed-term to continuing employment.
What is an “identifiable short-term need”?
Fixed-term contracts are often necessary in the appointment of teaching staff when schools can identify a short-term need for additional staffing. Examples of short-term needs include:
- a special project on-going at the school;
- increased short term funding;
- nominated leave of an existing employee;
- fluctuating enrolment numbers;
- class size issues;
- periods of maternity leave; and
- proposed school closure.
A fixed term contract should never be treated as a probationary period for a teacher.
Rolling fixed term contracts create uncertainty
In some instances, school staff have been employed on rolling fixed term contracts. In a recent case, a member was employed for six years on back-to-back contracts at the same school.
Fixed-term contracts should not exceed 12 months, except in exceptional circumstances. For example, if the employer has received special funding for an identifiable period that exceeds 12 months, the length of a fixed-term contract can match this period.
Similarly, if there is a period of maternity leave (or other approved leave) exceeding 12 months, the length of a fixed-term contract can match the length of this leave. If there is a continuing short-term need, employees can elect (at the end of their 12 month appointment) to enter into another fixed-term contract.
Questioning a fixed-term contract
Members who believe that they have been appointed on a fixed-term contract without the presence of an identifiable short-term need should contact our union on FREECALL 1800 177 938.
Our industrial officers can determine whether a fixed-term contract should be challenged and provide advice and assistance in seeking continuing employment.