Fixed-term role ending – should I have to reapply for it?

My fixed-term contract has ended but been extended for three months until funding is confirmed to make it permanent. I’ve been advised – as I was at the start – that I might have to reapply for my job as the role may need to be advertised externally and internally because some people may not have applied for the original post as it was fixed term. I have also been told that whether or not I have to reapply could depend on which person in HR is spoken to and that my colleagues want me and that I am in line for promotion. I have missed out on opportunities for other roles in the meantime and now face uncertainty. What are my rights in this instance?

Employee Rights


We are sorry to read about the difficulties you have had with your fixed-term contract. As with all contracts of employment, the contract itself needs to be looked at to be 100% certain of the terms and what should happen when the contract comes to an end. The contract itself should contain details in one of the clauses about the arrangements which apply at the end of the contract. Normally a fixed-term contract which relies on specific funding will be deemed to end on a particular date which is tied to the funding, without the need to give notice, and it will automatically end at that time.

However, this will still be a “dismissal” in legal terms. If you have been employed for more than two years continuously by the same employer then you will have rights protecting you against unfair dismissal and if your employer does not go through the correct process you could have a potential unfair dismissal claim. If this contract was your first role for the employer or you have less than two years continuous service then unfortunately this would not apply.

To answer your question about extending the contract, there is no automatic right to be offered a permanent role which is created from a fixed-term role. However, if they are going to make the role permanent and do not offer you the role then depending on their reasons for this it could strengthen any unfair dismissal argument you may have (if applicable).

Some organisations have a policy whereby they have to offer new roles to all existing staff as part of their internal processes and they can face criticism from other employees if they are not offered the opportunity to apply. However, as a fixed-term employee you are entitled to be given the details of all vacant roles in the same way as other employees and should be able to apply for the role. The fact you have done the role already should benefit you during the application and interview process.

If your employer has misled you by implying you had a role when this was not guaranteed then you could potentially also have an argument that they have breached your trust and confidence. If you believe you have missed out on other opportunities which you would have applied for, but for their comments about his role, you could raise this as a grievance with them. However, you mention that you were told at the start that they might have to readvertise the role (although they would try and avoid it) and so they may argue in response that even if they have not handled it in the best way by forgetting to follow up on whether or not the role could be made permanent, they had always said it was a possibility that you may have to reapply for the role and so deny any responsibility for any uncertainty caused as a result of that. As the grievance process can be stressful, submitting a grievance now may be a bit premature if you are subsequently offered the role and remain in the post so I would recommend waiting until you have more information about what is happening.

On a practical level, I would recommend you ask to speak to your manager about the next steps and ask them to reconsider advertising the role more widely and give it to you straight away instead. You could emphasise the uncertainty you are facing and that you are concerned that you have been told that whether or not you have to reapply could depend on which person in HR is spoken to which implies it is not a standard process but a decision that can be made either way.

If they say they have to advertise the role then you should apply for the role as normal and ensure your application is as strong as possible by referring to all the work you have done whilst in the role at the moment and the plans you would put in place if you were able to remain in the role. If your colleagues want you to stay and you have been earmarked for a potential promotion as well then hopefully you will be successful in the role and offered the new permanent position. You should also emphasise these points during any application process.

If you are unsuccessful with the application and are not given the role you could consider submitting a grievance at that stage summarising all of your concerns about the process and how it has been handled.

*Charlotte Farrell and Tabytha Cunningham are Associate Solicitors at Paris Smith in Southampton. 

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