Expiry of Fixed Term Contracts – Ensure you follow the right procedures
It is a common misconception that an employer only need inform an employee if it has decided not to renew their fixed term contract. In the case of Royal Surrey County NHS Foundation Trust v Drzymala employers are reminded that a lot more is required.
The case involved a locum consultant doctor who had been employed on a series of fixed term contracts. Prior to the expiry of the fixed term, a permanent vacancy arose. Whilst the locum was interviewed for the position, she was unsuccessful and was subsequently given notice that her fixed term was to come to an end. The Trust failed to give her the right to appeal and also made no alternative roles for her.
Notwithstanding that dismissals for non-renewal of a fixed term contract are normally fair, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that the same rules of fairness that apply to general unfair dismissal apply equally to dismissals which arise from non-renewal of a fixed-term contract. In the light of this, it found that when the Trust failed to provide her with a right to appeal her dismissal and when it failed to engage in discussion about alternative roles, her dismissal was unfair.
Employers should follow a fair procedure
This case is a useful reminder to employers to ensure that they take steps to follow a fair procedure with the employee, even where there is a sound business reason for bringing a fixed term contract to an end.