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Contracts of Employment

Get a Contract Issued

If a post is recruited directly by a School (for example a Research Assistant, Research Fellow) then the HR Department requires a completed Nomination Form and Applicant Declaration Form.

The form must be completed and signed by the Grant Holders AND counter-signed by the Head of School. This should then be sent to the relevant Faculty HR Partner for approval at the Faculty Executive Committee. The details contained on this form are required to draw up the necessary contract of employment. Incomplete forms will be returned. Further information in relation to the employment of research personnel is available here.

Contracts are normally sent to the email address of the new employee.

A vacancy which is filled through the Resourcing Section will issue a contract automatically once verbal agreement has been reached with the candidate.

If you require further information on contractual matters or require a contract to be issued urgently then please email Ruth Keenan or Claire Levingstone at or call extension 1835/4832. Please note that depending on the volume of contracts according to the academic year, contracts may take some time to issue.

Get a contract renewed

If you wish to renew the contract of an existing member of staff, the nature of the contract you may offer will depend on the duration of service of the employee. Please see below for further details or to seek clarification in relation to individual cases and their entitlement, please contact your HR Partner.

Your line manager will need to fill out a staffing request form and submit to the relevant HR Partner. Once the Faculty Executive Committee / Chief Officer have approved the renewal, the HR Department will be notified, a contract will automatically be issued and the employee’s payroll record updated.

Under the Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Work) Act 2003, the employer is legally obliged to inform the employee in writing of why they are being offered a fixed term contract and why they are not being offered a contract of indefinite duration. Therefore every fixed term contract letter and contract renewal letter must contain this information. We would ask that you always provide this information when requesting a contract renewal. Please note that requests for approval of renewals should be submitted 3 months prior to the employee's contract end date.

Initial Fixed Term Contract

At the commencement of an employee’s temporary employment they should be provided with a contract, which in addition to providing the standard information relating to the terms and conditions of employment, should include information relating to the employment circumstances and the objective reason which will bring about the termination of the contract, i.e.

  • Reaching a specific date, e.g. 31st December 2014.
  • Completing a specific task, e.g. until the research project has been completed.
  • The occurrence of a specific event, e.g. the employee whom the individual has replaced returns from maternity leave.
  • These conditions must be specified in writing in the contract of employment.
  • Fixed term contracts (specifying the cessation date) should only be used where the cessation date can be precisely determined at the outset.

Renewing a Fixed Term Contract

The Unfair Dismissals (Amendment) Act 1993 introduced an anti-abuse provision to prevent Employers’ successively renewing fixed term contracts. Thus, it is not possible to employ someone on a succession of fixed term contracts and retain immunity from the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 – 2001.

If the Rights Commissioner, the Employment Appeals Tribunal or the Circuit Court consider that the employer was trying to avoid liability under the legislation, the employee will retain continuity of employment (including any break in service) and the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 – 2001, will apply to the dismissal.

Additionally, the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term) Work Act, 2003 places further limitations on the renewal of fixed-term or specified-purpose contracts. Where a fixed term contract (with an end date) has been issued and it is intended to extend or renew such contract, the employer must specify in writing the grounds which will bring about the termination of the contract:

  • Arriving at a specific date, e.g. 1st July;
  • Completing a specific task, e.g. finishing a research project;
  • The occurrence of a specific event, e.g. the return of a permanent employee following secondment.

The employee must be advised in writing of the objective reasons for the renewal of the fixed term contract and the reason as to why they is not being offered a contract of indefinite duration. Heads/PIs/Managers should ensure that this information is set out in writing to the employee a month before the date of the renewal. Employers cannot retrospectively supply this information to the employee.

Objective Grounds

Section 8 of the Protection of Employee (Fixed Term Work) Act 2003 requires an employer to clearly established that it has no option but to renew the contract on a temporary basis. Employers must be able to show that they gave proper consideration to granting the employee a contract of indefinite duration, but real and objective reasons exist for continuing the employee on a fixed term basis and these reasons are set out to the employee in their renewal contract, i.e. the operational reality of the person’s employment is outlined to the employee in the paperwork that is furnished to them. The continuation of employees employed on a fixed term basis must correspond to a real need on behalf of the organisation and reflect the reality of that need, i.e. the contract renewal shouldn’t merely be a function of administration.

Example: A person has been employed on a fixed term basis to cover another member of staff’s maternity leave. The permanent employee has now returned from maternity leave so the purpose for which the fixed term employee was employed has been fulfilled.

However another member of staff has gone on sick leave and you wish to retain the person on a temporary basis to cover the vacancy caused by the sick leave. The following detail must be inserted in the renewed contract: "You are employed to cover for Ms Anne Smith while she is on authorised leave. Your employment with the University will terminate when Ms Smith returns to work, or leaves the university vacating the position. You are not being offered a contract of indefinite duration as Ms Smith is the substantive holder of this post."

Specified Purpose Contracts

Many fixed term employees (e.g. Researchers) are employed for a specific purpose, the length of time for which they will be employed may not be capable of being determined at the initial appointment stage. This type of fixed term employee should be issued with a Specific Purpose Contract, which clearly stipulates the specific purpose for which they are employed and the specific event which will bring about the contract’s termination.

Example 1: "This appointment is offered with effect on and from 01 February 2014. The specific purpose of this employment is to undertake research on the ‘Individualised Diagnostics and Rehabilitation of Attention’ research project under Professor Smith (Principal Investigator). This research project is externally funded by Science Foundation Ireland. This employment is not offered on an indefinite basis as this project is finite. Termination of this contract will occur upon completion of the work in which you are engaged in, or in the event of the funding stream being terminated or withdrawn by the external funding agency."

Example 2: "You are employed to cover the career break of Ms. Jones. Your employment will terminate upon Ms. Jones returning to work at the termination of her career break."

If the person’s employment is terminated at the cessor of the purpose specified in the contract or on the expiry date of the initial fixed term contract (i.e. there is no renewal), the employee has no further entitlements under this legislation and they will not qualify for a contract of indefinite duration. Specific purpose contracts should not be renewed except in very exceptional circumstances.

The difficulty with these contracts is that the employee involved can only be required to work on the project/purpose in question and if they are required to engage in other work it is likely that the contract will be regarded as something other than a genuine specific purpose contract. Thus the exclusion of the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977 – 2001 would be ineffective and an unfair dismissal claim could be taken. Hirers should inform employees engaged on specified purpose and fixed term contracts of their cessation in employment at least two months prior to the cessor of the purpose or fixed term.

Purpose of Fixed Term Contracts

Fixed Term Contracts should only be offered where there is a genuine University need for a short-term contract such as:

  • Sessional- e.g. to cover a member of staff's teaching commitments whilst on leave.
  • Strategic - e.g. the piloting of new initiatives such as the Broad Curriculum Lectureships.
  • Specific - a once-off fixed term contract can be issued where a specific purpose is known and the lifetime of the project is finite.

Nomination Forms

Nomination for Appointment Form
Note: The University has introduced a new Financial Information System which includes new accounting codes. For more information on the new financial coding structures, go to the FIS Chart of Accounts webpage.