Fixed term employees

The Fixed-term Work Act 2003

The Fixed-Term Work Act(2003) generally applies to all employees who are employed under a fixed-term contract of employment.  You do not have to have worked for any particular period of time with your employer or work a minimum number of hours per week in order to be covered by the Act. 

It does not, however, apply to those employed on fixed term contracts through employment agencies (e.g. agency nurses/midwives), apprentices, nurses/midwives in training, trainee gardai or members of the defence forces. 

Fixed term employees Q&A

  • The Act implements the provisions of the EU Directive on fixed term work.  Its main objective is to ensure that fixed-term employees are not treated less favourably than their ‘comparable permanent’ colleagues in respect of terms and conditions of employment. This includes pay, pensions, entitlement to sick pay, overtime, etc. 

    The Act also aims to eliminate the practice of keeping employees on successive fixed-term contracts. 

  • Fixed-term employees must be informed of permanent vacancies that become available.  

    Any service requirement which relates to a condition of employment must be the same for both fixed-term and comparable permanent employees (except where it can be justified on objective grounds).  For example, requirement to have ‘x’ number of years service to be eligible to compete for promotional posts. 

    Employers must facilitate, as far as is practicable, access by fixed-term employees to training courses. 

  • Complaints relating to the provisions of the Act, can be made to the Adjudication Service of the WRC with the right of appeal to the Labour Court.   

    If you believe your employer has failed to provide you with an entitlement to which you are due under the Act, you should contact your INMO Industrial Relations Officer/Executive. 

  • Anyone who is employed on a fixed-term contract must be informed in writing by the employer, as soon as practicable, of the ‘objective condition’ which will cause their contract to come to an end, i.e. 

    • The arrival of a specific date (e.g. contract ends on 31 Oct);
    • The completion of a specific task (e.g. contract ends on completion of research project); or
    • The occurrence of a specific event (e.g. contract ends when permanent employee returns from maternity leave).
  • The Act defines a fixed-term employee as one who is employed on a fixed term contract, i.e. where the end of the contract is brought about by an ‘objective condition’ such as the arrival of a specific date or where specific employment circumstances have occurred. 

  • A fixed-term employee can be compared to a permanent employee: 

    • where both the fixed-term employee and permanent employee are employed by the same or associated employer, or 
    • where both are employed in the same industry or sector of employment; and 
    • where the fixed-term employee performs work which is the same or similar to, or (where different) is equal or greater in value to the work performed by the ‘comparable permanent’ employee. 


  • The Act defines a ‘permanent employee’ as one who is not a fixed-term employee. 

  • Yes, less favourable treatment is permitted if the employer can show such treatment is ‘justified by objective grounds’, where the less favourable treatment is intended to help the employer achieve a ‘legitimate objective’, and it is ‘appropriate and necessary’ for that purpose.  
    Less favourable treatment based solely on the fixed-term status of the employee is not an ‘objective ground’ and is therefore prohibited by the Act. 

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    Catherine Hopkins

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    Catherine O'Connoe

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