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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 47881
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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I am facing trouble at work. I have been an employee at a small

Customer Question

I am facing trouble at work. I have been an employee at a small firm for 9 months and it that time I have been an exemplary employee, in fact I have been commended and am ranked as the top consultant from customer sat scores.
That being said, my employer has conducted himself in a untrustworthy manner since inception which has led me to be very wary and although i have continued in my role giving full commitment I have also continued to look for other work as I have been mindful that my job is not secure, it may be worth noting that in the nine months I have been employed I have seen 10 people be dismissed under the guise that there wasn't any work, when in fact the real reason is that my employer simply didn't like them.
My employer has found this out and over night I have gone from being the blue eyed girl to the most untrustworthy, disloyal employee ever in his eyes.
Instead of coming directly to me to address the issue my line manager came to me with a number of 'issues' that were all a smoke screen to the real issue, which is that my employer is unhappy.
This has been blown up into a huge situation where my character is being questioned and it is clear that my employer wants to get rid of me, but as I have been an exemplary employer, doesn't really have any grounds.
My line manager is doing his best to diffuse the situation. I was offered a pay rise a few weeks ago for my performance and also as it was part of my agreement on taking the job (6 months after promise I hasten to add) however I have just now received a new contract and an email stating that I must sign it to get my pay rise.
The terms of this contract raise many issues, there are substantial changes from my last contract. The contract states that my employment will commence from today and that No previous employment counts toward your period of continuous employment with the Practice.
It then goes on to state the usual about probation etc.
There are also questionable clauses regarding disciplinary procedures.
Basically it appears that this new contract is purposely written with the intent of providing a vehicle to dismiss me without repercussion.
I was offered a promotion 2 weeks ago which has now been retracted as punishment. I was also going to get another pay rise next month based on exam results but I have been pulled from this project so cannot get the rise offered, however this rise was actually an initial part of the agreement.
I am extremely upset about the whole situation. I understand why my employer would be upset but I have not looked for work within work ours and in fact I haven't actively applied only posted my CV online.
I have worked above and beyond for this employer, travelled all over the world giving up my weekends and free time and working 80 hours a week some weeks for which I have bot been paid.
I do not want to sign this new contract and also want to resolve this with as little fuss as possible and need advice on how to do so.
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. What are you actually hoping to achieve in this situation?
Customer :

I want to understand my rights, I don't want to be forced out and find it difficult to find other work. I am already in a difficult financial situation, losing my job now would likely force me into involuntary bankruptcy. Due to previous circumstances I am not currently entitled to benefits. If I lose this job without another to go to I literally won't be able to live. I've worked very hard over the past nine months to produce good results for the company and be the top performer, but I've had to give up my life to do so an I do not want that to go to waste and I am now being punished for simply exploring my options which I have done outside of work ours.

Ben Jones :

Hello there, the biggest issue here is that if you have been continuously employed at your place of work for less than 2 years then your employment rights will unfortunately be somewhat limited. Most importantly, you will not be protected against unfair dismissal. This means that your employer can dismiss you for more or less any reason, and without following a fair procedure, as long as their decision is not based on discriminatory grounds (i.e. because of gender, race, religion, age, a disability, sexual orientation, etc.) or because you were trying to assert any of your statutory rights (e.g. requesting maternity/paternity leave, etc.).

If the dismissal had nothing to do with any of the above exceptions then you would not be able to challenge it and your only protection would be if you were not paid your contractual notice period, because unless you were dismissed for gross misconduct, you would be entitled to receive your contractual notice period. If you did not have a written contract in place you would be entitled to the minimum statutory notice period of 1 week. Your employer would either have to allow you to work that notice period and pay you as normal, or they will have to pay you in lieu of notice.

So in your situation that means they could terminate your current contract by giving you the contractual notice period in it, or a week if no such notice exists. Once that contract is terminated they could offer you any new contract they wish, regardless of whether its terms are worse than your previous ones. If you do not accept it then they can just leave your employment as being terminated and that would be the end of the matter. So you are really stuck between a rock and a hard place – you wither accept the new contract, knowing that even though its terms may be worse off you still have a job, or you refuse to accept it at the risk of having your whole employment with this firm terminated – something they can do whether they have a fair reason or not. Remember that they do not have to justify any reason for your dismissal, all they have to do is give you the notice period required, as long as there are no discriminatory grounds.

I hope this clarifies your position? If you could please quickly let me know that would be great, as it is important for us to keep track of customer satisfaction. Thank you

Customer :

OK I understand. I queried the new contract date and they have amended it to reflect my actual starting date of 21st July 2014.

Customer :

I dont understand why they haven't just fire me considering the things that the owner has said. However this all brewed from an incident last sunday where i did exert my statutory rights over working time, they tried to make me get on a plane knowing my connectiong flight had been cancelled and I could be stranded in amsterdam late at night, this was because of bad weather. I refused to go, I told them I was unhappy that they were pushing me to do something i didn't feel was safe and that I was giving up my own time to travel and would get no sleep overnight and still be expected to be at the clients side at 9am and wok a 48 hour week. I said that as a woman ravelling at night alone i did not feel safe an my boss said he had no idea what being female had to do with it. anyway this may in be in some part why they are being so cautious. I want to leave but the new contract stipulates a 12 month clause stopping me from working for another firm in the same vain so I really am stuck now.

Ben Jones :

This is not quite exerting your statutory rights unfortunately. I know there is a maximum 48 hour working week but that is calculated over a 17-week reference period so it only becomes an issue f over 17 weeks you have worked n average more than 48 hours a week. Some weeks you can work more than 48 hours but as long as the average over 17 weeks is less than that then there is no breach. So you are unlikely to be able to rely on that as an example that you tried to exert your statutory rights and make any potential dismissal unfair.

Ben Jones :

As to the restriction that may be unenforceable anyway - they cannot just stop you from working for another company in the industry or for a competitor. They can only do that if you are for example going to use their confidential information in that job, steal clients or employees, etc - simply working for a competitor whilst you do nothing of the sort is unlikely to be enforceable in law so this is just a clause that is used for scaremongering

Ben Jones :

Does this clarify things for you a bit more?

Customer :

Yes ok, its 55 hours averaged over 17 weeks, these extra hours are from international travel so I am not sure if this counts as work?

Ben Jones and other Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
No that is unlikely to amount to working time unfortunately