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Human Resources

Fixed-term Contracts

The approval and recruitment process for fixed-term contracts is identical to that for permanent staff. In addition you must notify HR of the objective justification for the fixed-term so that this can be recorded in the contract.

Queen Mary University of London policy is that fixed-term contracts of any duration, including those of under a year, are appropriate only if:

  1. the post requires input from specialist practitioners whose expertise or experience is not part of the core competencies required within the University, department or institute. The expression “core competencies” refers to the attributes, skills, experience or capacity of the employee rather than core subject areas;
  2. the post is appropriate to cover staff absence (e.g. parental and adoptive leave, long-term sickness, sabbatical leave or secondment);
  3. the post is to provide interim cover while arrangements are being made to appoint on a permanent basis (e.g. the effect of an unexpected resignation, a skills shortage or a delay in making a permanent appointment can be worked around by making an interim appointment to provide short-term cover);
  4. the contract includes a specific and finite training, developmental or educational component, such as secondment, career development opportunity or apprenticeship;
  5. the student or other business demand can be clearly demonstrated as particularly uncertain;
  6. the post is to cover a peak in demand due, for example, to seasonal fluctuations or the requirements of a particular stage in a project;
  7. there is no reasonable prospect of funding being renewed or becoming available. Where funding has already been renewed, continuing use of the fixed-term contract would need to be justified by objective reasons;
  8. the post is one in which the University offers work to a succession of its current students on the grounds that this will offer valuable work experience; or support the student during their studies; or is convenient for the University.


Only the HR Department is authorised to issue fixed-term contracts on behalf of Queen Mary University of London.

The University generally uses fixed-term contracts for its research staff on limited-term contracts.

One practical reason why the University uses fixed-term contracts is that when the contract ends, the University has a streamlined process for reviewing the need for the job and, if need be, ending the employment. In practice, notice is given at the time the contract is instigated. The process to be followed at the end of the contract is set out in the HR Code of Practice for Reviewing Fixed-Term Contracts.

Staff on fixed-term contracts are protected in law from being treated less favourably than comparable staff on permanent contracts. In addition, staff appointed on successive fixed-term contracts with 4 years or more continuous service are entitled to a permanent contract (unless the fixed-term in their contract can be objectively justified).

The advantages and disadvantages of fixed-term contracts and the potential pit-falls that arise from their use are discussed in the document:

Key Concepts: Reviewing Fixed-term Contracts [PDF 194KB]

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