HR Tips Q3 2019 - Checking the fine print

Is this the employment contract I need?

When recruiting new staff, it is important to use the right type of employment contract. If a fixed term contract is what you have in mind, be sure to choose one of the options set out in clause 2.3 of the University of Adelaide Enterprise Agreement 2017-2021 (‘Enterprise Agreement’). Employing a staff member in the incorrect employment category could breach the Enterprise Agreement and have serious consequences.

This quarter’s HR Tip provides an outline of the most common fixed-term contract categories and guidance on when they can be used.

Specific Task or Project

This is the most common fixed term contract. Use this contract when you don’t expect a task or project to be ongoing and the work has a definite start and end date. Work that would ordinarily be undertaken on an ongoing basis by continuing staff is not intended to constitute a specific task or project. You can also use this contract when the position is supported, at least substantially, by external (non-recurrent) funds for the period you have in mind. The role is contingent on the funding and may end when the funding is no longer available.

Before the employment contract can be generated by HR, you will need to provide us with justification for the fixed-term nature of the task/project the staff member will be working on.

 If a staff member is engaged year after year on the basis of a specific task or project where there appears to be a predictable ongoing need to perform that role into the future, you should reconsider the staffing arrangement. Speak to your HR Advisor about whether a fixed term contract is still the appropriate category of employment.


This fixed-term contract category lets you employ a staff member to undertake research-only functions such as research assistance or to directly support a researcher or research program. You can use this contract for either professional or academic staff members, for a period of up to 5 years. A further contract may be offered at the conclusion of the contract and successive contracts are common due to the nature of research funding.

Replacement Staff Member

This is the contract to use when you need a replacement staff member to perform the duties of a vacant position or to temporarily replace a staff member for a specific period (e.g. while a staff member is on maternity leave or a secondment).  You can employ more than one person to make up a 1 FTE role if this will suit your business needs.

If the position is vacant you are restricted to employing a replacement staff member for up to 12 months although this could be extended once, if you advertise a continuing role at the end of the original contract.

When nothing seems to fit, consider ‘Other Circumstances’

Since 2013 the University has had the ability to employ a staff member on a fixed term contract if the Area Manager (usually the Executive Dean or Executive Director, HR) and the NTEU approve the use of this special category. The contract can be for up to 5 years.  You will need to justify the case for employing a staff member in this category. Speak to your HR Advisor who can support you with this.

And remember…

Before the expiry of a fixed term contract you must advise your staff member whether or not there is a further need for the position. If there is and the staff member was employed through a competitive and merit-based selection process and has performed satisfactorily in that position you must provide them with further employment in the position.

If you have determined that you no longer need the fixed term position, advise your staff member that their contract will not be renewed beyond the end of their contract. Keep in mind that notice periods and severance entitlements apply for staff on specific task or project or research-only contracts, as set out in clauses 2.3.14 and 6.4 respectively.

Further information

Your Human Resources Advisor can support you and provide advice on the correct employment type.

For help with general HR enquiries, the HR Service Centre is available to assist you on 8313 1111 or email

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