Casebook

10th March 1995 at 00:00
The difficulty in determining whether a part-time contract is for a fixed period or not was highlighted in Wiltshire County Council v NATFHE and Guy (1980). Ms Guy, who taught part-time in a college, had habitually been re-appointed each year for the next academic session. Sometimes she did not work for the whole of the session because the principal decided that a particular course was undersubscribed or insufficiently well attended, and curtailed the course.

When her contract was not renewed she complained of unfair dismissal. Wiltshire suggested that she had not been "dismissed" for the purposes of the Employment Protection Act 1978, as the contract was for a fixed term which could expire before the end of the session by decree of the principal. The Court of Appeal decided that the contract was indeed for a fixed term, but even though her work might end beforehand, the contract continued until the end of the session. In that case there was a technical dismissal.

However, the Court also pointed out that this decision was reached on the interpretation of this particular contract. In an important distinction, it said that if Ms Guy had been employed under a contract to teach for an uncertain length of time, with her employment ceasing when the courses ceased, it would not have been a fixed-term contract. A fixed-term contract is one which has a defined beginning and end.

More recent cases have indicated that where a number of such uncertain term contracts have been agreed end-on, then under discrimination laws they might be deemed discriminatory since there are more part-time women lecturers who could be affected. To succeed, employees would have to claim unfair dismissal on the grounds of discrimination and each case would have to go to a tribunal. It would be helpful all round if this area of employment law was made more certain.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now