Fixed term and non-permanent appointments in schools (tenure)
- Last Updated on Thursday, 04 June 2015 21:12
A fixed term agreement is when your job at a school is temporary rather than permanent. For example, you might be appointed to a full-time position at a high school to teach English for a year or you may be appointed to work on a literacy project at a high school and your employment will conclude at the end of the project.
PPTA field officers commonly become involved in disputes over the tenure of the jobs of individual teachers. Many of these could be avoided if schools followed the provisions of the relevant collective agreement.
Fixed term agreements: guidelines to the Employment Relations Act 2000 (Download advice)
- The law where a fixed term appointment is not genuine
- Advice from PPTA field officers on fixed term appointments - 2 cases
- Get it in writing from the outset
Teacher employment agreements negotiated by PPTA contain teacher appointment provisions.
The employer must have a genuine reason, based on reasonable grounds for fixed term agreements
Fixed term teachers should have a letter of appointment setting out their terms of appointment. The letter must indicate a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds for specifying why the employment will end.
The employee must understand and agree to the reason why the appointment should end at a particular time or at the end of an event or project. This agreement should be put in writing.
The collective agreements set out the expectations for part-time and fixed-term teachers.
The law where a fixed-term appointment is not genuine or for genuine reasons
3.2.3 Fixed-term (non-permanent) employment
(a) Full-time and part-time teachers may be employed on fixed-term (non-permanent) basis where the employer and employee agree that the employee's employment will end:
(i) At the close of a specified date or period; or
(ii) On the occurrence of a specified event; or
(iii) At the conclusion of a specified project.
(b) Before an employee and employer agree that the employment of the employee will end in a way specified in 3.2.3(a), the employer must have genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds for specifying that the employment of the employee is to end in that way.
3.2.3 Fixed-term (non-permanent) employment
(c) The following reasons are not genuine reasons for the purposes of 3.2.3(b):
(i) To exclude or limit the rights of the employee under the Employment Relations Act 2000;
(ii) To establish the suitability of the employee for permanent employment
An employer may not employ someone on a fixed-term agreement where the job is really a permanent one and the employer really wants to avoid having to go through a fair disciplinary or dismissal procedure later on if there are problems.
Advice from PPTA field officers on fixed term appointments
Principal advises fixed-term appointment will not be renewed (Case 1)
Monica had been employed at her current school for five years. At the end of last year her principal advised her that her fixed-term appointment would not be renewed. She approached her field officer.
Monica's original letter of appointment could not be found. Neither could the original job advertisement. However the field officer was able to have Payroll confirm that for five years the school had been coding information supplied to Payroll regarding Monica as if she was permanently employed.
When this advice was drawn to the school's attention, the school agreed that Monica was permanently employed.
Principal seeks to remove fixed term management unit (Case 2)
Robert held three management units. When he was originally employed his letter of appointment indicated that two were permanent and one was fixed-term. Two years later the principal wrote advising that the fixed-term unit was to be made permanent.
Several years, and a change of principal, later the school sought to remove Robert's third unit. Robert sought the advice of his field officer. Although the school had no copy of the earlier principal's letter making his third unit permanent, Robert had kept his copy.
When this was produced, Robert's unit was retained.
Get it in writing from the outset
An employer must provide a written letter of appointment. It is good practice in such circumstances for the teacher to keep a copy of the original job advertisement and the letters of offer and acceptance. Where a teacher is subsequently promoted within his or her existing school, or when a teacher's job description is significantly altered, letters should be exchanged between the principal and the teacher confirming the nature of these changes.
Part-time teachers should have their hours confirmed in writing and subsequent changes to their hours of work should also be confirmed in writing.
Any additional hours that apply for a period of four weeks or more should also be confirmed in writing.
Written advice relating to part-time hours should indicate clearly whether there is any payment for non-contact time and whether the hours being offered are exclusive or inclusive of such non-contact time.
Fixed term teachers should have a letter of appointment setting out their terms of appointment. The letter must indicate a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds for specifying when and why the employment will end.
Field officers are available to offer advice to job applicants to ensure that the nature of the job being accepted is properly documented.
(Case studies published in the PPTA News April 2010 (Get it in writing from the outset p.10)