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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 50148
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor
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I am a UK citizen employed in the UK by a subsidiary (500 UK

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I am a UK citizen employed in the UK by a subsidiary (500 UK employees) of a US business. Our financial year ends 30 September. The business is profitable but is unlikely to make its end of year plan. The expectation is that all employees (US and UK) are going to be asked to accept a salary furlough for 2-3 weeks between now and the end of September. This may be common practice in the US; but, what is the situation under UK employment law? My contract has no mention of the company's right to do this. What if I refuse?
Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. How long have you worked there for?


4 years 4 months

Ben Jones :

So are they proposing to completely stop paying you for that period?


Yes. They also leave it optional if the employee continues to come to the office.

Ben Jones :

ok thanks let me get my response ready please

Ben Jones :

As an alternative to dismissal (most commonly because of redundancy), an employer may wish to deal with an unexpected downturn in business by laying off employees (asking them not to come into work) or putting them on short-time working (reducing their working hours/days). The legal definitions of the two options are:

  • Laid off - if an employee has been told to go home for at least one full working day.

  • Placed on short-time working - if an employee's pay for the week is less than half a normal week's pay.

It is only possible to lay off employees or put them on short-time working when an express or implied contractual right to do so exists. If such a right does not exist the employer will be acting in breach of contract. In fact there are only 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.


OK. Thanks, ***** ***** me a good understanding of the situation.

Ben Jones :

You are welcome, glad it has clarified things for you


Thanks. Bye!

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