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Music Teacher Strikes Blow for Fixed-Term Contract Workers

A music teacher who ended up on a zero hours contract after his employment was transferred from a local authority to the private sector has scored a legal victory of importance to all fixed-term contract workers.

The teacher had worked for the council for more than a decade under a series of contracts which expired annually at the start of the school summer holidays. He had no guarantee of work from year to year but had an expectation that his contract would be renewed. His last contract ended on 31 July 2013 and the council’s music service was transferred to a private company on 1 September that year. He was engaged by the company on a zero hours contract.

He launched Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings against the council and the company, claiming unfair dismissal and arrears of holiday pay. He argued that he had been dismissed by the company and re-engaged on different terms. That claim depended on whether he was employed by the council at the date of the transfer notwithstanding the prior expiry of his contract.

In ruling in his favour on that issue, the ET found that his continuity of employment with the council was preserved by operation of Section 212(2) of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Following the transfer, he was thus entitled to be employed by the company on the same terms and conditions as before.

The ET also found that the transfer could not be viewed as a single, instantaneous, transaction. It had been planned for some time and it had been envisaged that the teacher and others in the same position would continue to work for the company on annual contracts.

In dismissing the company’s challenge to the ET’s ruling, the Employment Appeal Tribunal could detect no error of law in its findings.