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THE QUESTION

I am currently working for a high-tech engineering company in Ontario on contract (temporary employee). I have had multiple contract extensions totalling almost three years. Is there a limit to how long I can remain on contract before the employer must offer me a permanent position?

THE FIRST ANSWER

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Zuleika Sgro Director of people, Saje Natural Wellness

Depending on the status of the company (union or non-union), there may be limits to how long you can remain a continuous contract employee, especially in union environments. I would advise you to consult your HR department or manager with this question first, as company policies differ. You can also review the terms of contract employment agreement for further insight on any policies relating to conversion of full-time.

In general, many times contract positions are based on funding and budgets for projects, so can only be renewed based on these factors for context. Working contract roles continues to be a rising trend, and I would encourage you to ask yourself and list what pros and cons you see to working contract versus permanent. The perks of being on contract often include higher pay, more flexibility, stronger access to change management and specialized teams/projects. There are certainly perks with being permanent as well, and I am sure stability is one of your main concerns here.

With that said, there is a healthy need for contract positions and work in the market. Often those who succeed at them have an opportunity to learn and have a quicker impact on the business and in turn become more marketable for future roles.

All the best in your career journey.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Daniel Lublin Employment lawyer, Whitten & Lublin, Toronto

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There is no specific time frame requiring an employer to transition your relationship from a contractor to a full-time employee, nor does an employer even have to offer you this opportunity. In Canada, many contractors remain engaged for long periods of time without their employers ever characterizing the relationship as one of "employment." But both sides do this at their peril.

Where the relationship becomes relatively permanent and exclusive (and this can be after one year or many years), the Canada Revenue Agency, the courts and almost all government workplace tribunals, including provincial ministries of labour, will often treat the relationship as one of employment, even if the parties did not describe it that way themselves. Therefore, both the employer and contractor/employee may be responsible for tax and severance liabilities, among other things.

In your case, if you are only working for this company and no others, you may unexpectedly be treated as a full-time employee for legal purposes, without any agreement from your employer even declaring that has occurred.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com

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