When workers are on fixed-term contracts, action is needed to ensure that they do not suffer unjustified discrimination. In addition, abuse of successive fixed-term contracts between the same employer and employee for the same work has to be prevented.
These are the two main aims of the EU Directive regulating this issue (1999/70/EC). It is based on a Framework Agreement between Europe’s trade unions and employers. Such framework agreements are an important part of the EU social dialogue.
The directive and the agreement on fixed-term work forbid employers to treat fixed-term workers less favourably than permanent workers, unless different treatment can be justified on objective grounds. To prevent abuse of successive fixed-term contracts, EU Member States, after consultation with the social partners, must put in place one or more of the following limits:
Member States must also lay down penalties for infringements. Special clauses limit the potential administrative burdens on small and medium enterprises. Member States may also decide that the agreement does not apply to initial vocational training and apprenticeships and/or to workers on specific public or publicly-supported training, integration and vocational retraining programmes.
The agreement applies to fixed-term workers, including seasonal workers, who have an employment contract or relationship as defined in law, collective agreement or practice in each Member State.
The text of the Fixed-Term Work Directive, the social partner consultation documents and implementation reports are available below.