Establishing Reasons for Fixed-Term Employment

It is a legal requirement and therefore essential, that the employee understands the reason for the fixed term nature of the work to be undertaken and how the employment agreement will end. Listed below are some examples of how genuine fixed term reasons can be applied in different limited duration work situations.

How to structure a fixed term reason

When entering into a fixed term employment agreement, it is a legal requirement, therefore essential, that the employee understands:

  • the reason for the fixed term nature of the work to be undertaken; and
  • the way the employment agreement will end (when and how); and
  • the reasons for the employment agreement ending.

 These 3 aspects all need to be written into the letter of offer for the employee to consider and to seek independent advice on, prior to commencing employment. 

Listed below are some examples of how genuine fixed term reasons can be applied in different limited duration work situations. If your reason for establishing employment of a limited duration is not covered below, here is a helpful way to draft a reason, ensuring legal compliance:

Start the paragraph with:

  • The specific reason why they are being employed on a fixed term basis i.e. covering period of leave/providing additional assistance on a project/providing additional teaching assistance in course XX.XXX for semester X due to increased student numbers etc.

Finish the paragraph with:

  • When it will end i.e. at the close of a specified date or period, on the occurrence of a specified event, or at the conclusion of a specified project;
  • Why it will end that way i.e. incumbent returns to work/end of semester and no further teaching assistance required/exhaustion of funding allocated;
  • How it will end i.e. without further notice.  

Your HR Advisor will be able to assist you with drafting a specific reason as well as to discuss the nature of fixed term employment agreements more generally.

Click here if you would like to go directly to completed examples of fixed term reason wording.

Common situations and associated reasons

Covering for absence - A staff member has had an accident and you need to temporarily replace them

The reason for the fixed term is:
"To carry out the duties of the JOB TITLE until the incumbent staff member returns to work. It is expected that the staff member will return to work on DATE but this is not yet confirmed."

The reason for the agreement ending and the way it will end  i.e.: by the following event occurring:
“The employee will be given at least 48 hours notice of termination, to end on the date the incumbent returns to work, once the return date of the incumbent staff member is known. This is because once the incumbent staff member returns to work; the employee will no longer be required to carry out their duties for the University”.

In this example the expected date of return is not the date the employment agreement will terminate, the agreement will terminate when the staff member returns to work. In these circumstances the fixed term employee would be given the period of notice, as a minimum, as set out in the employment agreement, once the actual date of return is known.

Peak workload (General) - Your area of work has a significant amount of filing to be completed before the next semester, and you have sufficient funding for a full time person for 6 weeks to clear the bulk of the filing. You are not expecting it all to be completed but most of it

The reason for the fixed term is:
"To significantly reduce the backlog of filing in the school over a period 6 weeks”.

The reason for the agreement ending and the way the employment will end:
"On (date in 6 weeks time) without further notice being given. The finite period of 6 weeks of full time work is the maximum period the school has budgeted for this work.”

The employment agreement will then terminate on its stated expiry date in 6 weeks time.

Project work - You have a project to review a number of study guidelines. You estimate the project will take 6 months

The reason the fixed term is:
"To review X number of study guidelines. It is estimated that this review project will be able to be completed by (date in 6 months time). The review project has maximum funding of 6 months full time work and if not completed in that time, must cease."

The reason for the agreement ending and the way the agreement will end:
"This agreement will end on (date in 6 months time). If the project is not completed by (date in 6 months time), the agreement will end on that date, without further notice due to the maximum funding set out above becoming exhausted”.

Peak workload (academic) - You have a much higher number of students enrolled in a semester two elective course than you estimated and immediate extra teaching assistance is needed

The reason for the fixed term is:
"To provide additional teaching assistance of 6 hours per week on COURSE NUMBER for Semester X of 201X. This assistance is necessary to meet the needs of an unplanned higher number of students enrolled in this elective course for 201X".

The reason for the agreement ending and the way it will end:
"At the end of Semester X on (date of end of semester) without further notice as the additional teaching assistance for COURSE NUMBER in 201X would now have been completed"

A note of caution with this example: it is not possible to keep employing someone on this basis and have it remain valid. If student numbers continue to require extra assistance in the following year, consideration should be given to establishing a permanent position. Where a peak need situation becomes an ongoing need, it no longer fits the criteria of fixed term employment.

Development opportunity - You regularly provide development opportunities by way of an assistant lectureship to support post graduate students to complete their PhD. In return for providing a salaried position to complete their PhD, the successful employee will have to agree to carry a supervised teaching workload across a number of courses

The reason for the fixed term is:
"To provide a three year paid fixed term development opportunity to assist the employee to complete their PhD. The employee will be required to undertake supervised teaching duties in addition to completing their PhD, as set out in the job description."

The reason for the agreement ending and the way it will end:
"On (date in 3 years), the last day of the three year paid development opportunity without further notice, to ensure that the school is able to continue to offer support and this development opportunity to successive post graduate students."

Further completed examples of fixed term reasons

Project work

The reason for the fixed term nature of the employment is to DESCRIPTION OF WORK TO BE CARRIED OUT. It is estimated that THIS WORK/THE NAME PROJECT will be able to be completed by END DATE. THIS WORK/THE NAME PROJECT has maximum funding of X MONTHS/YEARS /FULL TIME/PART TIME work and if not completed in that time, must cease.  In making this offer there is no expectation of ongoing work.

Therefore this agreement will end by either the completion of THIS WORK/THE NAME PROJECT either on or a date before END DATE in which case one month's notice in writing will be given. If the project is not completed by END DATE, the agreement will end on that date without further notice due to the exhaustion of the maximum funding allocated to THIS WORK/THE NAME PROJECT.

Project work/external funding

The reason for the fixed term nature of the employment is to undertake work in relation to SPECIFICS OF WORK TO BE CARRIED OUT on the X year fixed term project titled TITLE OF PROJECT. This project is externally funded through NAME OF FUNDING PROVIDER and a portion of this funding has been allocated in relation to the work of this fixed term agreement. In making this offer there is no expectation of ongoing work.

It is expected that this work will be completed by END DATE; however this is unable to be confirmed. Therefore, this agreement will end on either the completion of the work on a date before END DATE in which case one month's notice in writing will be given, or if the work is not completed by END DATE, the agreement will end on that date without further notice, due to the portion of external funding allocated to this work being exhausted. This agreement will end also if external funding for this project is no longer available in which case one month's notice in writing will be given.

New programme or initiative

The PROGRAMME/DEGREE is IN AN ESTABLISHMENT PHASE/A NEW INITIATIVE starting on DATE and at this initial stage there is considerable certainty over the financial viability of this PROGRAMME/DEGREE.

The reason for the fixed term nature of the employment is to provide TYPE of assistance/support for this NAME programme/degree starting on DATE.

Due to the uncertainty of the viability of this programme/degree, the University is unable to offer employment on an ongoing basis while the success of the PROGRAMME/DEGREE is being measured therefore this agreement will end on END DATE without further notice.

This success will be reviewed by the Head of School/Institute during the term of this agreement.  

Should the Head of School/Institute identify an ongoing need for this or a similar position, then, subject to the necessary approvals, it will be advertised in accordance with our State Sector obligations and you would be entitled to apply.

Peak workload while HOS/I undertakes review of position

The Head of School/Institute for SCHOOL is currently reviewing the staffing levels and duties undertaken by the administrative staff within the school; this position is likely to be affected by these discussions. Until there is clarity around these factors, the school is unable to know what the ongoing requirement for this position will be; however there is an immediate need for the duties set out in the attached job description to be undertaken. Therefore this position can only be offered on a fixed term basis starting on DATE to provide TYPE OF assistance on NAME programme/course/degree. This assistance is necessary to meet the needs of this programme/course/degree in Semester X of 201X.

This agreement will end on END DATE without further notice, as it is expected that any review outcomes will be known by that date and the future staffing levels will be determined. In making this offer there is no expectation of ongoing work, however should the Head of School/Institute identify an ongoing need for this or a similar position, then, subject to the necessary approvals, it will be advertised in accordance with our State Sector obligations and you would be entitled to apply.

Note: this current wording reflects a fixed term agreement that would need to be extended should the review not be completed by the end date specified, to ensure completion of the work. If you have a fixed term need that must end on a specific date regardless of the status of the review, due to budget reasons, please use the below reason:

The Head of School/Institute for SCHOOL is currently reviewing the staffing levels and duties undertaken by the administrative staff within the school; however there is an immediate need for the duties set out in the attached job description to be undertaken due to a peak workload period. In line with this peak workload period, a set budget for this fixed term agreement has been allocated for this agreement to be undertaken in conjunction with the review. Therefore there is no expectation of ongoing work and this position can only be offered on a fixed term basis starting on DATE to provide TYPE OF assistance on NAME programme/course/degree. This assistance is necessary to meet the needs of this programme/course/degree in Semester X of 201X.

This agreement will end on END DATE without further notice, as the budget set aside for this work will be exhausted

Graduate assistant

The purpose of graduate assistantships is to encourage the pursuit of further academic qualifications and to provide experience in the academic environment.

These assistantships are offered annually on a fixed term basis to University students and there is no expectation of ongoing work. In line with this, this agreement will end on END DATE without further notice, to ensure that the COLLEGE is able to continue to offer this development opportunity to successive post students.

Assistant lecturer

The reason for the fixed term nature of employment is to provide a three year paid fixed term development opportunity to assist the employee to complete their PhD. You will be required to undertake supervised teaching duties in addition to completing their PhD, as set out in the job description.

As there is no expectation of ongoing work, your employment will end on END DATE, the last day of the three year paid development opportunity without further notice to ensure that the school is able to continue to offer support to successive post graduate students.

Waiting for outcome of request to establish position as permanent

The reason for the fixed term nature of the employment is to provide temporary cover in a vacant position until the outcome of the request to establish this position on a permanent basis is known.

It is expected that the outcome of this request will be known, and the advertising and recruitment processes completed, by END DATE, therefore this fixed term agreement will end on END DATE without further notice.

Should the recommendation to establish this position on a permanent basis be approved, then in accordance with our obligations under the State Sector Act the position will be advertised and you will be welcome to apply.

Waiting until position has been advertised and the appointee has started

The reason for the fixed term nature of the employment is to provide temporary cover until such time as the permanent NAME position has been advertised and the successful appointee has commenced duties. It is expected that this process will be completed by END DATE, therefore this agreement will end on END DATE without further notice as there will no longer be a need for temporary cover in this position once the permanent employee has commenced.

Cover for "buy out" of academic work

The reason for the fixed term nature of the employment is to provide teaching, marking and course administration support to the offerings of course NAME AND NUMBER in Semester X of 201X. This assistance is necessary due to a "buy out" of the teaching, marking and administration duties of the incumbent staff member who would normally teach this course. The incumbent’s “buy out” of teaching is solely for Semester X of 201X, and there will be no further need for this position beyond this time therefore this employment agreement will end on END DATE without further notice.

Parental leave cover

The reason for the fixed term nature of the employment is to provide TYPE OF POSITION cover whilst a staff member is on parental leave. It is expected that the staff member will return to work on RETURN DATE. Therefore this employment agreement will end on END DATE without further notice, as the incumbent would have returned from parental leave. Should the staff member return to work earlier than END DATE, then you will be given at least 21 days notice of termination.

Other cover

The reason for the fixed term nature of the employment is to carry out the duties of the POSITION TITLE position while the incumbent staff member is absent from the workplace. It is expected that the staff member will return to work on END DATE but this is not yet confirmed.

Once the return date of the incumbent staff member is known, you will be given at least one month's notice of termination, and this agreement will end on the date the incumbent returns to work.

Teacher aide certificate programme

The reason for the fixed term nature of the employment is to deliver core and elective courses in the Teacher Aide Certificate programme for term X of the school year in 201X. Elective courses are offered on a demand basis and therefore may not be offered over successive school terms and the requirement for Teacher Aide Tutor support also varies from term to term due to the specialist nature of the programme. As there is uncertainty around whether this course will be offered further to term X, your employment will end at the conclusion of term X (DATE) of the school year without further notice being given

Event based reason

This is a fixed term appointment commencing DATE. The reason for the fixed term nature of the employment is to provide TECHNICAL/RESEARCH support to the NAME OF PROJECT Project. An initial indication is that the support this position is providing to the project will likely come to an end on DATE, however this is unable to confirmed. As there is no expectation of ongoing work, this fixed term employment will end by way of one month's notice in writing, once the end of the involvement in this project has been determined.

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