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Fixed-term work

The Directive establishes minimum requirements relating to fixed-term work, in order to ensure equal treatment of workers and to prevent abuse arising from the use of successive employment contracts or relationships of this type. It calls on the Member States to lay down penalties for infringements of these requirements. It stipulates special clauses to limit the administrative burdens which could ensue for SMEs from the application of these new standards.

ACT

Council Directive 99/70/EC of 28 June 1999 concerning the framework agreement on fixed-term work concluded by ETUC, UNICE and CEEP.

SUMMARY

The agreement covers only working conditions for fixed-term employees; statutory social security schemes are the prerogative of the Member States.

The agreement concerns fixed-term workers (including seasonal workers) with the exception of workers placed at the disposal of a user undertaking by a temporary employment agency. However, the parties intend to adopt a similar agreement to cover temporary employment.

Moreover, the Member States may provide that this agreement does not apply to:

  • initial vocational training relationships and apprenticeship schemes;
  • employment contracts and relationships which have been concluded within the framework of a specific public or publicly-supported training, integration and vocational retraining programme.

The principle of non-discrimination

The agreement forbids employers to treat fixed-term workers in a less favourable manner than permanent workers solely because they have a fixed-term contract, unless the difference in treatment can be justified on objective grounds.

The agreement aims to improve the quality of fixed-term work by ensuring application of the principle of non-discrimination, and to prevent abuse arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts or relationships.

Preventing the abuse of fixed-term work

To prevent abuse arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts or relationships, the Member States, after consultation with the social partners, must introduce one or more of the following measures (taking account of the needs of specific sectors and categories of workers):

  • objective reasons justifying the renewal of such contracts or relationships;
  • the maximum total duration of successive fixed-term employment contracts and relationships;
  • the number of renewals.

Training opportunities

As far as possible, employers should facilitate access by fixed-term workers to training opportunities to enhance their skills, career development and occupational mobility.

Workers' representatives

Fixed-term workers must be taken into consideration in calculating the threshold above which workers' representative bodies may be constituted.

Penalties for infringements by employers

Member States must determine the penalties applicable for infringements of national implementing provisions.

Fixed-term work and SMEs

Regarding the application of the Directive to SMES, special care has been taken to avoid imposing administrative, financial and legal constraints in a way which would hold back their development. According to the Commission, several clauses of the agreement refer to national laws, collective agreements or practice and/or to the social partners regarding the arrangements for their application, allowing the special needs of SMEs to be taken into account.

Application

Member States shall bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 10 July 2001 at the latest, or shall ensure that the social partners have put the necessary measures into place by this date at the latest. Member States may have a maximum of one more year to take account of special difficulties or implementation by a collective agreement. The Commission must, however, be made aware of the circumstances.

Implementation of this Directive cannot justify any reduction in the general level of protection afforded to workers in the field of the Directive. Member States may, however, introduce more favourable provisions than those set out in the Directive.

Background

Fixed-term employment contracts were the subject of a Commission proposal for a Council directive dated 29 June 1990 [Official Journal C 224 of 08.09.1990]. Parliament delivered its opinion on the proposal on 24 October 1990 [Official Journal C 295 of 26.11.1990].

In the absence of agreement in the Council, the Commission decided to consult the social partners under Article 3 of the Agreement on Social Policy. During the first consultation, the social partners stressed the need to combat discrimination of workers affected by new, flexible forms of work.

At the end of the second round of consultation, the social partners decided to begin negotiations in this area.

In parallel, on 19 June 1996, the UNICE, the CEEP and the ETUC concluded a framework agreement on part-time work, implemented by Directive 97/81/EC of 15 December 1997. In the preamble to this agreement, the contracting parties announced their intention to consider the need for similar agreements relating to other flexible forms of work. On 18 March 1999 they concluded a framework agreement on fixed-term work, which is implemented by this Directive.

The Commission felt that it was necessary to establish a balanced and flexible framework, compatible with the continued increase in fixed-term contracts, while preventing their abuse.

On 6 May 1999 Parliament adopted a resolution on the Commission's proposal in which it called on the Council to approve the framework agreement on fixed-term work [not published in the Official Journal]. Nonetheless, Parliament regretted to note that the agreement covers only successive employment relationships, that the rules designed to prevent abuse through successive fixed-term contracts contain no qualitative or quantitative obligations, and that no provision is made for priority access to jobs created or for these workers to have access to appropriate vocational training.

REFERENCES

Act Entry into force - Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 99/70/EC 10.07.1999 10.07.2001 L 175 of 10.07.1999

RELATED ACTS

Council Directive 97/81/EC of 15 December 1997 on the framework agreement on part-time working concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC. [Official Journal L 14 of 20.01.1998].

Last updated: 04.07.2006
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