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 purposes of the EU Directive regulating this issue (1999/70/EC). The Directive is based on a Framework Agreement on fixed-term work between Europe’s trade unions and employers. Framework agreements are an important part of the EU social dialogue.
The agreement forbids employers to treat fixed-term workers less favourably than permanent workers, unless different treatment can be justified on objective grounds. In order to prevent abuse of successive fixed-term contracts, EU Member States, after consultation with the social partners, must specify one or more of the following criteria:
Member States are to lay down penalties for infringements. But special clauses limit the potential administrative burdens on small and medium-scale 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 an implementation report are available.