Fixed-Term Contracts

Sometimes a worker will have a “fixed-term contract” which states a date when the relationship comes to an end (e.g., one year from starting work). These contracts can be used to avoid notice periods if the worker was clear throughout the relationship that it would end and the expiry date and if the worker did not continue to work after that expiry date.

However, fixed-term contracts are often ineffective means of avoiding notice periods because either: the workplace suggested that the relationship would continue; the worker continued to work after the expiry date without a new contract; or there was a long series of fixed-term contracts.

For a court to determine that it is a fixed-term contract, it will require unequivocal and explicit language. If the worker had good reason to believe that they were instead an indefinite worker, the courts will impose the same notice obligations for this worker as they would for someone with no contract or an indefinite contract.

In determining whether it is truly a fixed-term contract or an indefinite contract, the court will look for any periods where a contract had expired and work continued, which would convert the worker into an indefinite worker. If there are a series of fixed-term contracts, the court will consider the extent to which renewal was automatic (and thus an indefinite contract) or involved detailed negotiations and uncertainty (and thus potentially a fixed-term contract).