Huet v Université de Bretagne occidentale is a case referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) from the administrative court in Rennes concerning the French equivalent of the Fixed-term Employees Regulations and makes an important practical point. The background was that Mr Huet had a series of fixed term contracts as a researcher at the université de Bretagne occidentale for a total period of six years. He was then given a permanent contract – but with a different title and slightly reduced pay, although his duties remained the same. He asked for his contract to be amended and brought a legal challenge when his request was refused.

The ECJ decided that there is no rule that fixed term contracts have to be converted into a permanent contract in identical terms once they have been renewed for longer than four years. However, it made the point that where an employee continues to carry out the self-same functions as he did under the fixed term, it would defeat the objective of the Directive on fixed term workers if employers impose

…material amendments to the clauses of the previous contract in a way that is, overall, unfavourable to the person concerned.

This will not give rise to issues where the contract of an employee who has been working on successive fixed-term contracts is allowed to run on and become a permanent contract. However, if a decision is made to offer a new and different permanent contract it will be important to make sure that, overall, it is not less favourable to the employee.