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Framework agreement on fixed-term work – Directive 1999/70/EC (1999)

The purpose of the agreement on fixed-term work as negotiated by the social partners in 1999 is to improve the quality of fixed-term work by ensuring the application of the principle of non-discrimination and to prevent abuses arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts.

Two important principles are laid down in the agreement:

  • open-ended contracts are and remain the general form of employment relationships and fixed-term contracts should be the exception;
  • the use of fixed-term contracts on the basis of objective reasons is a way of preventing abuses.

The agreement applies to all fixed-term workers as defined by national law and practice, except:

  • those put at the disposal of a user enterprise by a temporary work agency;
  • initial vocational training relationships and apprenticeship schemes;
  • specific public or publicly-supported training, integration and vocational retraining programmes.

A fixed-term worker as defined by the agreement is a person with an employment contract or relationship entered into directly with an employer where the end of the employment contract or relationship is determined by objective conditions, such as reaching a specific date, completing a specific task or the occurrence of a specific event.

The agreement implements the principle of non-discrimination – just like the agreement on part-time work – meaning that fixed-term workers shall not be treated in a less favourable manner than comparable permanent workers merely because they have fixed-term contracts, unless different treatment is justified on objective grounds.

What is a comparable full-time worker?

A full-time worker with an open-ended contract in the same establishment with the same type of contract, engaged in the same or similar work; qualifications are taken into consideration.

The principle of pro rata temporis applies, meaning that certain working conditions will apply according to the time worked, where appropriate.

Measures identified in the agreement to prevent abuse of successive fixed-term contracts include the following:

  • objective reasons must justify the renewal of fixed-term contracts;
  • the maximum total duration of successive fixed-term contracts must be fixed;
  • the number of renewals of fixed-term contracts must be defined.

Member States shall – after consultation with the social partners – introduce one or more of the measures mentioned.

The employer shall give information on:

  • vacancies for permanent positions to fixed-term workers;
  • fixed-term work in the undertaking to the workers’ representative bodies;

Employers should facilitate access to appropriate training opportunities for fixed-term workers.

When calculating company workforce thresholds – for example, for elections to workers’ representative bodies – fixed-term workers should be taken into consideration.

Fixed-term workers have the same active and passive collective rights as comparable workers with an open-ended contract.

The agreement was transposed into a Directive (99/70/EC).


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