When can fixed-term contracts be used in schools?

9 March, 2021

Rates of insecure work – where workers don’t have permanent jobs – are quite high in Australia. Only 60% of workers are in full or part-time permanent employment.

This means many workers are employed on contracts or in casual employment arrangements.

In schools, many teachers are appointed on fixed-term contracts. However, there are restrictions on when fixed-term contracts can be used.

Fixed-term contracts can only be used where there is an “identifiable short-term need”.

Where an identifiable short-term need does not exist employees have a valid case to move from fixed-term to continuing (permanent) employment.


What is an “identifiable short-term need”?

Fixed-term contracts are often necessary when schools have a short-term need for additional staffing. Examples of short-term needs include:

  • a special project on-going at the school;
  • increased short-term funding;
  • nominated leave of an existing employee;
  • fluctuating enrolment numbers;
  • class size issues;
  • periods of maternity leave; and
  • proposed school closure.

A fixed-term contract should never be treated as a probationary period for a teacher.

Fixed-term contracts should not exceed 12 months, except in exceptional circumstances.


Questioning a fixed-term contract

Our union is here to support members who believe they have reason to question their fixed-term contract.

Our expert industrial staff can help to determine whether a fixed-term contract should be challenged and provide support in seeking continuing employment.

In Queensland Catholic schools, IEU-QNT members recently won greater protections around the use of fixed-term contracts. Click here to read about how we helped a member secure permanent employment after a decade of fixed-term contracts.

If you’d like advice about your contract arrangements, contact our union for support.

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