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Can employers change when fixed term contracts end? What are your rights as someone working on fixed term employment? When it comes to fixed term contracts, the contract itself is very important in determining whether or not an employer can end the contract or change it before the contract’s end date. Scorpion Legal Protection discusses the laws that apply and what legal recourse you have.
An employer cannot just end a fixed term contract, because that contract is a legally binding agreement between the employer and the employee. An employee also cannot be made to sign a new contract or enter into an agreement with less favourable terms. If this happens, you can refuse to sign the new agreement. If you are fired because of your refusal to sign the new agreement, it is an unfair dismissal, and you can go to the CCMA.
Section 187(1)(c) of the LRA says that a dismissal will be automatically unfair if the reason for the dismissal is “a refusal by employees to accept a demand in respect of any matter of mutual interest between them and their employer.”
It depends on the end date stipulated in your contract – does it specify a fixed date or does it work on the end of a specific project or task? For example, let’s say you’re a builder working at a site. You sign a fixed term contract for plastering. The employer said they would probably need you for two or three months, but your contract says that your work ends when the plastering portion of the job is done. If the plastering portion of the job only takes one month to do, then the employer is allowed to end your fixed term contract because those are the terms of the contract.
Other reasons for ending the contract are if the employee resigns before the date of termination, or if the employee is found guilty of serious misconduct (like theft) and is dismissed, which will mean the employee was in breach of the contract. It’s also important to check if your contract includes a clause that says the employer can end the fixed term contract by giving you notice. If this is specifically mentioned in your contract, then the employer is within their rights to end your contract earlier than the end date specified.
You may also be interested in:
Step-by-step guide on going to the CCMA
Can you be forced into early retirement?
Can you do anything about workplace bullying?
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* This is only basic advice and cannot be relied on solely. The information is correct at the time of being sent to publishing
Date added: 10 November 2020
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