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Fixed-term employees

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Summary: Renewal of fixed-term contract beyond four years was justified.

In Lobo v University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the Claimant was employed by the Respondent as a locum consultant under a series of fixed-term contracts. After acquiring four years’ service, she sought a declaration under the Fixed-Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 that her employment had become permanent. The Respondent contested the declaration.

The tribunal held (and the Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed) that the continuation of the fixed-term locum appointment beyond four years was objectively justified. 

The Respondent had a vacancy for a permanent substantive consultant. The Claimant had been ring-fenced and interviewed but was not appointed. She was not found to be the best candidate. The Respondent extended her fixed-term locum consultant contract instead. The Respondent knew that it would be appointing a permanent substantive consultant and needed clinical cover, at consultant level, whilst this process was on-going. The substantive Consultant role and the locum role were different. The Respondent did not require a permanent employee carrying out the role the Claimant was carrying out – that is, ‘a permanent locum consultant’. It could show an objective need for a fixed-term locum consultant.