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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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If after 17 years of receiving a free private mileage allowance

Resolved Question:

If after 17 years of receiving a free private mileage allowance my company have told me they're stopping it can I refuse to sign.Theyre saying we have to sign and have no choice.I anticipate being worse off by around £160 per month.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Have they provided any reasons for stopping it?

Customer: They are looking to control costs in current market and have offered £300 a year to replace benefit.Even after tax code change I will still be £70-£100 a month worse off I believe.Do I have to accept it and sign as they are saying as I am concerned that if I do it becomes accepted as part of my contract.
Ben Jones :

Is this benefit currently stated in your contract?

Customer: My contract only states I am provided with a car in order to do my job(I'm a UK engineer so do 50k miles a year on business and 15k privately,all of which is paid for by use of a fuel card supplied by the company)They are letting us keep the card but propose to reclaim a cash sum from us monthly to cover private use!
Ben Jones :

ok let me get my response ready please

Ben Jones :

There is a principle in employment law where terms may become implied into an employment contract by ‘custom and practice’. This makes them contractually binding even if they are not written down anywhere. This area of law is rather complex and it is usually only down to the courts to establish with certainty if something had become an implied term. Nevertheless, it does not prevent employees from directly raising this argument with their employers.


 


The basic requirement for implying terms is the presumed intention of the parties, in other words - did the employer and employee intend for the terms in question to be treated as contractual. In general, a practice would need to have been clearly communicated and consistently applied for a substantial period of time before it can be considered an implied contractual term. Therefore, something that is uncertain, not communicated properly, not been applied consistently or has just been around for a few months is unlikely to qualify.


 


If this has been consistently paid for 17 years then there is a good argument that it is a contractual term now so changing it would amount to an amendment to your terms and conditions.


 


There are a few ways in which an employer may try and make changes to an employee’s contract of employment. These are by:



  • Receiving the employee’s express consent to the changes.

  • Forcefully introducing the changes (called 'unilateral change of contract').

  • Giving the employee notice to terminate their current contract and then offer them immediate re-engagement under a new contract that contains the new terms.


 


If the changes are introduced without the employee's consent, then the following options are available:


 


1. Start working on the new terms but making it clear in writing that you are working ‘under protest’. This means that you do not agree with the changes but feel forced to do so. In the meantime you should try and resolve the issue either by informal discussions or by raising a formal grievance.


 


2. If the changes fundamentally impact the contract, for example changes to pay, duties, place of work, etc., you may wish to consider resigning and claiming constructive dismissal. The resignation must be done without unreasonable delay so as not to give the impression that the changes had been accepted. The claim must be submitted in an employment tribunal within 3 months of resigning and is subject to you having at least 2 years' continuous service. You would then seek compensation for loss of earnings resulting from the employer's actions.


 


3. If the employment is terminated and the employer offers re-engagement on the new terms that could potentially amount to unfair dismissal. However, the employer can try and justify the dismissal and the changes if they had a sound business reason for doing so. This could be pressing business needs requiring drastic changes for the company to survive. If no such reason exists, you can make a claim for unfair dismissal in an employment tribunal. The same time limit of 3 months to claim and the requirement to have 2 years' continuous would apply.

Customer: Thanks this helpful as I felt sure that if something had been in use as an accepted practise without it being in contract but where it constituted a "benefit" of long standing it should not be so easily taken.I feel a bit more able to stand my ground now and put together a reasoned,factual argument to try to keep it.I was only given 7 days to reply and it was intended to start on the 1st April so I will be challenging and letting them no I'm not in agreement.
Ben Jones :

just ensure you keep everything in writing to have a paper trail

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