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Treating Fixed-Term Employees Fairly
Employers are now increasingly aware of the issues involved in managing part-time workers, and the protection that the law offers them from differences in terms and conditions to those offered to their full-time colleagues. Similarly, fixed-term employers are entitled to protection under the Fixed-Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 from being treated less favourably than comparable permanent employees. The comparison will be made with employees who work for the same employer, work in the same organisation and who are doing the same or broadly similar work. Differences in skills and qualifications can be considered where relevant to the job. Examples of less favourable treatement include differing contractual terms or exclusion from benefits such as bonus schemes, pensions or even gym membership.
Employers should be careful to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and less-favourable treatment avoided at all costs, as this issue can be pertinent for many different categories of employee, not simply those part-time or fixed-term. Any justification of less-favourable treatment before a Tribunal will always be controversial, only acceptable if the less favourable treatment could be ‘objectively justified’ – i.e. if ‘necessary’ and required to achieve a ‘legitimate objective’ by the employer in question.
We would advise all employers to seek formal legal advice if they are concerned about any of the issues raised above.