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Fixed term contracts

Discussion in 'Career clinic' started by moonirules, Jun 18, 2019.

  1. moonirules

    moonirules New commenter


    I've found myself in a little bit of an awkward situation and I would like to check my understanding.

    I recently moved and to be able to work closer to home I have been working in a school which I am not entirely happy with. To rectify this, I began looking for jobs and making some contacts in my new area and yesterday a very interesting offer came through.

    The tricky bit....

    I am currently on a fixed term contract and whilst my current school have arranged for me to be here next year, nothing has been signed so contractually there is nothing to tie me here next year. Does this mean that legally, despite being past the official resignation deadline I could still pursue this new offer and simply decline the work offered for next year in my current post. I know that ethically speaking this might not seem right, but for the sake of health and happiness, it feels like something I would be prepared to do.

    Thank you
  2. 50sman

    50sman Lead commenter

    Legally if you have a written contract and the expiry date is 31st August 2019 then you can work for whoever you want on 1st September

    Check with your union however because you may have verbally agreed to an extension even though the school hasn’t issued new contract yet
    agathamorse likes this.
  3. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    It is not totally clear from this what the situation is. If the school has made arrangements but not consulted you but just assumed that you will continue, then you are free to leave on the final date of your current contract. If, on the other hand, you were asked to work for (say) another year, and you agreed, then there is something contractually to tie you there for the start of the next year, regardless of the fact that you haven't signed something. I suppose that if you have been told that they are planning for you to be there for another year and not said that you agree then you are legally free to leave but there is an ethical question.
  4. moonirules

    moonirules New commenter

    Interesting. Thank you for the reply.

    What constitutes agreed? One of the leadership team (not the head) suggested a timetable to me and I OK'd it. What else was I to do at the time without other work to go to? Would the alternative have been to say "That looks OK but please be aware that I am still looking for other opportunities"? I've wondered before how such a verbal agreement is enforceable?

    I've been open with my new opportunity that there were plans for me to stay in post which could affect my start date with them, but would hate to spook them by saying it would be Christmas before I could start.
  5. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    Morally, it sounds like an offer made and accepted, but legally, I suspect not. I also suspect that the school would not see it as legally binding if they had a reason to change their mind. My guess would be that you can give in your notice to leave at the end of August. The school won't like it, but I doubt if they can do anything about it. But consult your union if you are not sure - it will come in handy if the school makes a fuss. One possible danger is that the Head will have an attack of the sulks and refuse to give you a reference, I hope not, but it might happen.

    Yes, that would have been a good alternative. Then the school would have been reminded to take the professional approach and formally offer you a contract for another year, as they should have done in the first place.
    agathamorse and JohnJCazorla like this.
  6. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    It doesn't sound like an extension/renewal of your contract has been formally offered to you or accepted by you so I don't think you are contractually bound. Someone suggesting a timetable to you is not the same as making a contractual job offer. You reasonably assumed (didn't you? :) ) that was just so that you would be aware, if and when a contract renewal offer was made, what you would be teaching so that you could decide whether to accept a renewal offer. And that's what you'll tell the head when you see them (ASAP) to let them know that you won't be continuing in September.

    The main reason you need to tread carefully and diplomatically isn't because you are contractually committed but because you presumably will need a reference from your current school.

    You don't need to give notice if it's a fixed term contract as the contract automatically expires on 31st August. However it's good practice and more professional to let the school know in writing that you are not seeking an extension or renewal after 31st August so that everyone knows where they stand and can plan accordingly

    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  7. moonirules

    moonirules New commenter

    "Then the school would have been reminded to take the professional approach and formally offer you a contract for another year, as they should have done in the first place."

    That is a big part of the problem, we use a lot of fixed term contracts here and being last minute about renewing them is the norm.

    I had also considered the references situation. I am hoping (but not too naive to assume) that as I have been open with the head over the course of my contract about the role not being something that I could see myself doing long term, that they would appreciate my reasoning for pursuing this offer at this late stage in the year and whilst unfortunate, it is the right thing for me to do.
  8. moonirules

    moonirules New commenter

    The other point to mention would be that the new opportunity is not finalised. Typically, nothing can be confirmed until they have decided whether to offer it as fixed term or permanent!
  9. 50sman

    50sman Lead commenter

    Until you have an offer the new opportunity does not exist. You can inform your
    Present school you are not going to sign a new contract which means you may end up jobless in September.
    agathamorse likes this.
  10. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    Yes, that is right, but it is not usually clear that the employer is expecting you to continue. It is also likely that the new employer (is it a school?) will want a reference from your current employer, so you will need to tell them anyway. So, why not do it now? Assuming that you have a firm "subject to references" offer from the new employer. If not, you need to get it firmed up quickly.

    Not sure that this is relevant. They can easily offer you a fixed term contract now, and offer to make it permanent later. Also, once you have completed two years of fixed term contracts without a break, then you acquire employment rights. An employer ending a fixed term contract is, in law, dismissing you.
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  11. mswisdom

    mswisdom New commenter

    Please forgive me if this as already been clarified. What is fixed tern contract? Is it possible to complete NQT within that contracted time? Many thanks
  12. moonirules

    moonirules New commenter

    I believe so yes. Someone at my current school has done exactly this. It seems in my new area a lot of schools are doing it. Reasons vary, but it seems from the inside it allows management the flexibility to change their minds.

    I do wish that the situation was a little cleaner, and I do feel lucky that I have these options available to me - despite one of them not being very good for me. Thank you for all the help.
  13. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    A fixed term contract is one that has a set final date. If it is for a year full time, then an NQT would be able to complete their induction then. During such a contract, you have exactly the same rights as other staff. If the contract is for less than a year, then it would count for the relevant number of terms.

    In theory, they are for use either when it is known that a role will exist for a fixed term, such as covering a temporary absence or for a limited term project, or when the future staffing needs are unclear. In practice, some employers use them as a form of probation. There is some useful information on them here. https://www.gov.uk/fixed-term-contracts Staff under fixed term contracts have more rights than many people, including employers, realise.
    agathamorse and JohnJCazorla like this.
  14. mswisdom

    mswisdom New commenter

    Thank you! It is a maternity cover from September.
  15. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    I think that if I were you, I would firm up the new job (if this has not happened already) and then give my regrets to your current school. The more I think of it, the more I realise that you have no guarantees there. Good luck, and please let us know how you get on.
    agathamorse likes this.
  16. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    Sorry to be a wet blanket, but it is likely to contain a clause that it can be ended at short (perhaps 4 weeks) notice if the person on maternity leave comes back early. Which often happens at the end of the summer term, so they get the holiday pay, not you. If your contract does look like this, it is a good plan to see if you can find something else starting after Christmas or Easter which will last for the summer.
    agathamorse and JohnJCazorla like this.
  17. mswisdom

    mswisdom New commenter

    Thank you so much! I am planning to apply for the job and will definitely look at the finer details of the contract. Hopefully it WILL be clarified.
  18. 50sman

    50sman Lead commenter

    @mswisdom if it is not clarified to your satisfaction then as, for it to be clarified

    If it os still not clarified then don’t sign it!
    mswisdom likes this.
  19. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    You don't usually get the contract until it is too late to back out, often some time after you have started. The notice period is something you would need to clarify it it is an issue. In any case, the maternity contract may well be your only option, so it could be wise to accept it with such a clause, but look for another job to start before it ends.
    agathamorse likes this.
  20. moonirules

    moonirules New commenter

    Thank you again, I'll certainly return with an outcome. I suspect with the rise of fixed term positions I won't be the last person to need some clarity.

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