A fixed-term contract is an employment contract by which an employer recruits an employee for a limited period of time. Such a contract is only possible for the performance of a specific, temporary task and only in the cases listed by law (Labour Code, Articles L1242-2 and L1242-3).
Thus, recourse to a fixed-term contract concerns: the replacement of an employee who is absent or temporarily part-time (parental leave for education, etc.) or the replacement of an employee who has not yet taken up his or her duties. It may also be used in the event of a temporary increase in the employer's activity, seasonal work or contracts concluded as part of the employment policy ("assisted employment", art. L1242-3). Finally, the legislator provides for the use of fixed-term contracts for jobs for which it is "customary" not to use permanent contracts, due to the nature of these jobs. Article D1242-1 sets out in particular a list of sectors concerned. This list may also be extended by certain collective agreements.
The fixed-term contract must be in writing and may be "fixed-term" (the contract sets an end date and therefore a duration) or imprecise in certain circumstances (for example, in the case of replacement for an employee's sick leave or maternity leave), and must in this case provide for a minimum duration. It ends on the date fixed at departure or, in the absence of a precise term, when the purpose for which it was concluded is achieved (return of the replaced employee, etc.). The maximum total duration of a fixed-term contract (possibly renewed once) is generally 18 months (or even 24 months in some cases) and varies according to the nature of the appeal.
Whatever the reason for its conclusion, a fixed-term employment contract may have neither the object nor the effect of permanently filling a post linked to the normal, permanent activity of the company. In such a case, it may be amended as an open-ended employment contract by the courts at the request of the employee, along with appropriate severance payment. Additionally, a contract which is not complying with specific conditions (especially procedural ones) attached to fixed-term contracts may also be amended as an open-ended employment (see art. L1245-1).