Labour Research May 2004

Features: Law queries

Temporary employees

There are five temps in our workplace who have been working here without a break for five years. They have been working under a series of one-year contracts but at the end of each one they are always renewed. Is it true that they can claim the right to permanent contracts, and when can they do this?

The EU directive that gave temporary workers the right to no less favourable treatment did say that a worker had the right to a permanent contract after a series of temporary contracts.

However, the UK regulations do not give so comprehensive a right. They only say that, where an employee has been working on more than one consecutive temporary contract and for four or more years, the employer has to justify the renewal of another temporary contract rather than the offer of a permanent one. If there is a justification that is acceptable to the tribunal, there is no absolute right to a permanent contract.

On the other hand, the employees you mention have all the rights that permanent workers would have, including the right to claim unfair dismissal if dismissed and the right to a redundancy payment if their contract is not renewed for reasons of redundancy.

* More information: LRD booklet, The law at work 2004 (out next month)