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THE QUESTION

My six-month contract ends in one week. I have not been offered a renewal, yet my supervisor is talking about work duties beyond the expiration date as if my employment continues indefinitely. I reminded her recently of the end date. She replied that everyone will soon have a performance review "except for a few employees who are not eligible." Should I just keep working for the same pay after the Friday deadline, with no benefits?

THE FIRST ANSWER

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Chris Jones

Associate, Litigation & Dispute Resolution, McLeod Law LLP

This appears to be a fixed-term employment contract rather than a contract for services as you would see between a company and an independent contractor or consultant. The distinction can be important as the rights of employees and independent contractors are different.

Most employment contracts are for an indefinite term and continue until one side terminates it. Unless an employer has just cause to terminate the contract, the employer will be required to provide advance working notice or pay in lieu of notice.

A fixed-term employment contract lasts for a specified amount of time. When the end point of the fixed term contract is reached, employment is automatically terminated without either the employer or the employee needing to do anything further.

The short answer is that you are not obligated to work after the expiration date. However, it may be in your best interest to continue working. If the employment relationship continues past the expiration date, and there is no agreement on a "new" expiration date, the courts have consistently held that the relationship ceases to be for a fixed term and, instead, continues under an employment contract for an indefinite term. That will be the case whether there is an offer of renewal or not.

Keep in mind that the parties can always agree to change the terms of an employment relationship. It sounds as if your supervisor wants to keep you on as an employee. The upcoming expiration date of the contract could be used as an opportunity to renegotiate employment terms.

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THE SECOND ANSWER

Bruce Sandy

Principal, Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting, Vancouver

Your supervisor is obviously satisfied with your work and wants to keep you in your position. Does your supervisor know that you may not be satisfied with your current compensation and lack of benefits?

Get clear on what you want and how you want to be viewed. Regardless of whether you stay or go, you want to get a positive reference and maintain a positive relationship with this client organization.

You have an implied and continuing contract until either your employer or you choose to end it. If you want to continue to work with this client organization, do not end your contract abruptly unless another client organizaton wants to hire you right away. If this is the case, then you need to let your current employer know.

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If you want either increased compensation or full-time employment status, then continue to work, set up a meeting with your supervisor and indicate that you would like to continue under contract with increased compensation, or as an employee with appropriate compensation and benefits.

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