The appeal of fixed-term and fixed-purpose contracts is to fill a temporary gap in the workplace without having to hire a full-time employee. Because of the short-term nature of such contracts, many employers misuse them in the erroneous belief that the temporary employee does not have the same rights as full-time staff.
However, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (BCEA) defines an employee as “any person, excluding an independent contractor, who works for another person or for the State and who receives, or is entitled to receive, any remuneration” and “any other person who in any manner assists in carrying on or conducting the business of an employer”.
Whether an employee is permanently hired, or whether they are employed for a fixed-term or on a fixed-purpose basis, makes no difference when it comes to the treatment of employees. All are afforded the protection of the BCEA.
Moreover, such employees are to be treated the same as permanent employees in regards to rules and discipline, remuneration and benefits, opportunities etc. The rules, policies, procedures and legislation of the workplace must be consistently applied across the board, otherwise, it may be considered an unfair labour practice.
The only difference between a fixed-term or fixed-purpose employee and a permanent employee is the duration of their employment. They may not, therefore, unless it is objectively justifiable, be treated less favourably than a comparable permanent employee.