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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 46156
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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I work for a small family run forklift service and repair business.

Resolved Question:

I work for a small family run forklift service and repair business. I am a mobile service engineer for the company and attend customer sites to respire or service their equipment, however my boss insists that I give 20 minutes at the beginning and end of each day for free to cover travel or collecting parts.
This isn’t asked of us it’s demanded of myself and the other 5 engineers that work for the company, we are simply told we are lucky to have a job if we question it. Our main issue with this is the fact that we are not allowed and don’t declare any personal use of the company vans to HMRC. However my understanding of the rules of what constitutes personal use is any travel that is not business travel.
Therefore surly if we are not being paid for the travel then it can’t be called business travel and would therefore come under the umbrella of personal travel, which would basically mean we are avoiding tax. Is this the case? Also can an employer demand we work for free for 40 minutes every day and threaten disciplinary action if we refuse.
We really wouldn’t mind but we find that the company has a very one sided approach towards its staff, for example if someone needs to attend a hospital appointment, even if over a months’ notice is given quite often they will be told they can’t go or they will have to rearrange the appointment, I don’t know if you have ever had to visit a consultant but their appointments can take months to arrange and you can’t just simply rearrange or miss them.
People have to call in sick to attend a family member’s funeral because if they ask for the time off or a holiday they are told no.
When you do ring in sick you receive various phone calls throughout the day for trivial things and in my case since I live close I end up getting visited at home by the boss again for trivial things such as they want a part from the van. Yet the depot has got plenty of stock in the store, its just simply to check up on you. I recently broke my foot and rang in to say I was in A+E only to be shouted at down the phone because I hadn’t dropped of some parts before I went to the hospital.
Once I had been treated I was told to take the remainder of the week off by the hospital and then I would need to go back to work on reduced duties. When I explained this to my boss I was told they would come and see me to “pick up some paperwork” I got all of the paperwork ready and they didn’t come for 3 days and then just turned up out of the blue and after office hours.
Sorry to go on and on but I wanted to paint the picture of the type of person we are dealing with and really want to know how I stand to refuse to work for free and for refusing to deal with them should they ever show up at my house when I am off sick ( I must add here that I am very rarely off sick ).
I have never agreed to work for free and I have never been given a contract despite being with the company for over 18 months. I have asked for a contract in the past and nothing has ever come of it.
I hope you can help explain what my rights are around these issues and clarify where I stand with the personal use issue as I don’t want to get caught unwittingly committing tax fraud.
Thanks in advance
Mark
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. can you tell me how long ago your employer asked for these changes and has he asked you to sign anything. and have you started giving the 20 minutes travelling time please

Customer:

About a month after I started working for them I was told this was what I should be doing as it was a “rule” they had.

I have never agreed to give the 20 minutes nor have I been doing so, I always book my time as overtime, as yet they have not noticed or questioned this.

I have never signed anything to say I would give 20 mins twice a day nor have I ever been given anything in writing to say this is what I should do. As I said previously I haven’t even been given a contract or even seen one since I started to work for them.

My main reason for asking about this whole issue is that recently they are requesting we call in to the depot “on the way home” to collect parts etc and its expected that this be done in our own time, the 20 minutes has started to be mentioned and pushed again but its now not just to cover travel they are telling us to clean the workshop or do paperwork while we call in to collect parts etc.

They are asking more and more for free and trying to now pile extra work in to the mix.

Ben Jones :

Hi, sorry I was offline yesterday when you replied. Your question overlaps two separate legal categories – employment and tax. You need two separate advisors for each part and whilst I can certainly help with the employment aspect, I can’t really advise you on the tax issue, for which you would need to post a separate query. Based on that would you still like me to go ahead with discussing the employment law parts only?

Customer:

That's fine, any help with the employment law side of things would be a great help.

Ben Jones :

Your employment rights will be governed by your contract of employment, or any other agreement you have reached with the employer. For example if you have a contract which specifically states that you work set hours or your working day starts at a specific time you can refer to this, although in your case this is not available as it was never issued to you. In fact you can remind the employer that under law they have a duty to issue you with a written statement of employment particulars which would contain a summary of your main terms and conditions, including working hours. This must have been issued within 2 months of you starting your job.

So in the absence of a contract, it will come down to what was agreed at the start of the job, for example were there specific hours of work, etc. If you did then the employer’s insistence that you work extra time can amount to a change to your contract (an implied contract would be in place even if there was nothing in writing).

However,. There is one main issue here and that is your length of service. Until you have at least 2 years’ service you are not protected against unfair dismissal, which means that you can be dismissed for more or less any reason. Therefore, if your employer thinks you are being difficult about this matter they could potentially sack you at any point in the next 6 months and you will not be able to challenge it. This is even if you are correct in a sense that they are asking you to do something which was not in your original agreement with them. So be careful how you approach this – you are legally correct that you can refuse to do the extra work if it was not agreed with you, but at the same time the employer can lawfully dismiss you because you do not meet the minimum requirements for protection against unfair dismissal.

Hope this clarifies your position? If you could please let me know that would be great, thank you

Customer:

Thank you for your help, it does seem crazy that until 2yrs have passed they can just sack me with no come back on them but i guess if that's the case then i just have to live with that.

Customer:

Thanks again, i dont have any further questions on this issue

Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 46156
Experience: Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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