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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 50157
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor
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My daughter is a student vet nurse. Her contract of employment

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My daughter is a student vet nurse. Her contract of employment expires on 31/08/2014. She gave notice to her employer that she intends to leave as she has a better job offer.
She gave notice at at the start of July. Her contract states she has to give 12 weeks notice.
Her employer has now changed her shift pattern and expects her to work every weekend during August, which she would not have done ordinarily. He has also refused her rest days on days when she needs to enroll in her new vet nurse course (she is to start year 2 of her course). Generally her employer and his manager have been very difficult to work with since she gave notice.
On Monday last my daughter spoke with her employer and said that her contract will expire on 31/08/2014 and that she would not return to work after that date. She did not expect any payment for September. Her employer has already employed 2 replacements, one for my daughter's role and one for another girl who is leaving.
On Monday he stated that he didn't agree with her leaving on 31/08/2014, but would accept it.
Last night my daughter received a letter from him stating that she has to work until 26/09/14 and that if she didn't he would have to find costly replacement cover and would take her to court for damages.
She is now signed off work for a week by the doctor with stress. Her employer is aware that she suffers from depression and is on medication for the ailment.
Can my daughter not return to work after 31/08/14 without being sued? She has 10 days annual leave booked on the middle of September and her employer had no intention of paying for cover while she was off on leave.
We are at our wits end now and really concerned that legal action might follow.
Ben Jones : Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. What does her contract state about her shifts, does the employer reserve the right to give her whatever shifts they want?

HI Ben,


The shifts really aren't the issue. Yes, he can change the shifts.


The real issue is: Can she terminate her employment for him on 31/08/2014 as he agreed, verbally, on Monday? On Tuesday the manager sat down with my daughter and worked out the shift pattern her upto the end of August and stated that she was aware that my daughter was now leaving on 31/08/2014.

Hi, the starting point is that she would be expected to give her full contractual notice period and be prepared to work through it as per contract. However, the employer is able to agree that the employee leaves their job earlier than the full notice period, although this can only happen if they specifically agree to waiver the notice period they would normally expect. If the employer had agreed for this to happen, even verbally, then that could be a binding agreement between them and your daughter. The issue would be if this is challenged and the employer denies this ever happened, as there is no evidence of it.
Generally, if the employee fails to honour this notice period then they will be acting in breach of contract. The employer then has the option of suing the employee to seek compensation for damages resulting from their breach. However, in reality such claims are very rarely made. This is mainly due to the costs and time involved, also the relatively small damages that can be recovered. So whilst there is no way of predicting whether the employer will take this any further or not, chances are that they will not. They will also have to justify any costs incurred and show that they were necessary and inevitable in the circumstances and that the employer had taken all reasonable steps they could to minimise having to incur such costs. A more likely outcome is that the employer refuses to provide a reference in the future or if they do, it could mention that the employee had breached their contract.
So the chances of being sued are rather minimal and even if this happens it would not be easy to claim as they have a lot of justification and evidence to provide to be able to successfully claim.
Hope this answers your query, if you could please update your rating I would be grateful, thanks
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