Temporary employment contract automatically converted to permanent employment due to non-timely rejection of employee's request


Recently, the District Court of Limburg (ECLI:NL:RBLIM:2024:2000) ruled on the question whether an employee was entitled to an employment contract for an indefinite period of time if the employer had failed to reject her request under the Flexible Working Act to convert to a permanent contract in a timely and reasoned manner.

What was at play in this case? 

Employee worked at Designer Outlet Roermond. She had a fixed-term employment contract. She requested on 20 June 2023 that her contract be converted to an open-ended employment contract. The employer informed her on 7 July 2023 that her fixed-term contract would expire on 8 August 2023 and would not be renewed. 

The employee invoked Article 2b of the Flexible Work Act. That provision states that employees can request a form of work with more predictable and secure working conditions, and that employers (with 10 or more employees) must respond to such a request in writing, giving reasons, within one month. If the employer does not decide in time, the form of work will be adjusted in accordance with the employee's request. 

The employee therefore believed that, in line with her request, her temporary contract had become a permanent contract with effect from 20 July 2023. The employer argued that the 7 July 2023 notice should be seen as a rejection of her request. 

Verdict of the subdistrict court

The judge ruled that the employer should have responded to the employee's request in writing and with reasons within a month. The notice of 7 July 2023 was insufficient, according to the judge. Because the employer had failed to give a reasoned response within the prescribed period, an employment contract for an indefinite period had automatically come into effect as of 20 July 2023 (one month after the employee's request). 

Although the employment contract had been automatically converted to an open-ended contract, the employer's notice was seen as a (not legally valid) termination. As the employee did not start litigation against that notice in time, the end of employment with effect from 8 August 2023 was nevertheless fixed. 

Important for practice

This ruling shows that it is important to consider an employee's request for more predictable and secure terms and conditions of employment, such as a request for a permanent contract, and to decide on it in a timely and reasoned manner in writing. 

Do you have questions about the Flexible Working Act? If so, please contact one of our specialists.

This is a Legal Update by Lisa Schouten and Roy Zusterzeel.

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