A genuine contract for a specified period may terminate by the passing of time at the end of the period rather than by termination at the initiative of the employer.
In order to be a contract for a specified period of time the dates of commencement and completion of the contract must be unambiguous.
If the contract gives either party an unqualified right to terminate the contract on notice, or with payment in lieu of notice, it will not be a contract for a specified time.
A contract giving either party the right to terminate for a breach of the contract may still be a contract for a specified period of time.
A contract may still be a contract for a specified period of time if it allows for review and extension by consent after a specified period of time.
Where there has been a series of fixed-term contracts and renewal is a mere formality the Fair Work Commission may look beyond the terms of the contract to the reality of the employment relationship.
The mere fact that an employer has decided not to offer a new contract of employment at the end of a time-limited contract which represents a genuine agreement by the parties that the employment relationship should come to an end not later than a specified date will not by itself constitute a termination at the initiative of the employer.
However where the employment contract has a defined contractual term but does not exhibit an agreement that the employment relationship will come to an end when the term expires (as in the D’Lima situation of a series of short-term standard-form contracts), a decision by the employer not to offer a further contract may become a relevant consideration as to whether there has been a termination at the initiative of the employer.