In late 2022 the Federal Government passed legislation to provide more job security to insecure workers.
This legislation will cover many employees who work at UTAS. Recent data suggests that UTAS employs almost 30% of staff on a fixed-term basis. See here for more information about the new rules.
Sometimes there are good reasons for fixed-term contracts, eg covering a worker on a temporary absence such as parental leave, or the role may be subjected to temporary or at-risk funding (grants, etc.), for a specific project or timeframe. Sometimes the use of fixed-term contracts is about lack of supply of “internal operational funds”, this is not for a ‘genuine reason’ enabled for fixed-term contracts in the staff Agreement. – see clause 17.a(i-xi) for reasons for fixed-term positions funded from “Operating Funds”.
The new legislation (which overrides agreement terms) will require fixed-term contracts made after 6 December 2023 to only last for a maximum total of 24 months, at which point the employee must be made an ongoing employee. It may also be necessary after 6 December to make you an ongoing employee if you’ve already had 2 or more fixed-term contracts. Note, that there are some technical legal exclusions.
There are protections enshrined in the legislation to ensure that employees aren’t simply “let go and replaced”, including fines for breaches of these laws and that no other employee can be engaged after a contract ends to do ‘substantially the same work’ in lieu of offering ongoing employment.
The NTEU understands that many individuals with expiring contracts after 6 December 2023 are being informed that those contracts will not be renewed because of budget constraints.
We are aware of individuals in this situation in both COBE and CALE. If your contract is expiring within the next 12 months, we encourage you to find out whether your contract is intended to be renewed; they may resist telling you the answer.
Another thing to consider is conversion from fixed-term contracts to ongoing employment as per clause 18 of the Agreement. UTAS has traditionally resisted conversions, but with the new legislation coming into effect, this may make it more difficult for them to avoid conversions.
If a contract is not renewed, there may be a solid argument that the employee cannot be replaced because doing so may offend the new legislation. The question then remains “Who does the work” if the employee was let go.
Fixed-term employees have rights as per the Agreement and after 6 December are likely to have even more rights. At the end of fixed-term contracts you may have a right to a few different things, including access to redeployment, be given severance pay, and potentially unfair dismissal protection if you were not employed incorrectly in the first place.
If members on fixed-term contracts have concerns about losing their jobs because of non-renewal - get in contact with us ASAP at [email protected],au.
Things we will need, are your contract(s), we will need to know your employment history and we will need to know how you were engaged initially and if UTAS has complied with 17.1(a) of the Agreement.