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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 68130
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor
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I have a query about a contract of employment, No, it's a

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Hi I have a query about a contract of employment
JA: Have you discussed this with a manager or HR? Or with a lawyer?
Customer: No, it's a bit of an odd situation, because I have a contract of employment (and the offer of employment is unconditional), however I was unable to take up the role due to the Covid lockdown. I have heard nothing from them since this began, other than through my recruitment consultant. She advised me last week that they 'didn't know what was happening with the division in which I'm supposed to be working, and I should start to look for another job'. Now, as I'm in contract, do they not need to formally terminate my employment? And pay me my notice period?
JA: What is your employment status? Are you an employee, freelancer, consultant or contractor? Do you belong to a union?
Customer: This is why I am contacting you! I have a signed contract, and I was due to start on March 30th. They called me Tuesday 24 March
JA: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: No, I don't think so!
Customer: replied 9 days ago.
Posted by JustAnswer at customer's request) Hello. I would like to request the following Expert Service(s) from you: Live Phone Call.
Customer: replied 9 days ago.
Let me know if you need more information, or send me the service offer(s) so we can proceed.
Customer: replied 9 days ago.
File attached (T4P4PZS)

Hello, I’m Ben, a UK lawyer and will be dealing with your case today. I may also need to ask some questions to determine the legal position.

What are you ideally hoping to achieve in the circumstances, please? Please note this is not always an instant service and I may not be able to reply immediately. However, rest assured that I am dealing with your question and will get back to you today. Thanks

Customer: replied 9 days ago.
Thank you for your response. Ideally, I'd like the job, however I am getting no clarification from the company either way. They have been asked directly what the position is, and have not told me if the job is there, or if they are terminating my employment, so I am currently in limbo. I am seeking to understand what my position is, legally, so that if they do advise me that they are terminating my employment (which I understand they have to do formally, as I am in contract?) then they have to do so in writing, and pay me the appropriate notice period (again, I understand this is a month from what is in the contract).
Customer: replied 9 days ago.
I have done a little research myself on this, and although I *think* I understand the following:I an in a formal contract now - I sent back my signed contract to them. They had references which were satisfactory, therefore the offer was unconditional.As I am in a formal contract, they have to either give me a new start date, or formally terminate my contract in writing.If they terminate my contract, they have to pay me the appropriate notice period (one month, according to the contract).
Customer: replied 9 days ago.
But as I am not a legal expert, hence I am seeking clarification of the situation.

Thanks, ***** ***** starting date was not officially deferred?

Customer: replied 9 days ago.
No, the start date on the contract still states March 30
Customer: replied 9 days ago.
I have had no official deferrment

So what about payment for the last 3 months?

Customer: replied 9 days ago.
I haven't had any salary from them at all.
Customer: replied 9 days ago.
They told me that they couldn't allow me to start work as the other people in my division were being furloughed.
Customer: replied 9 days ago.
Therefore, there would be nobody in the office.
Customer: replied 9 days ago.
To onboard me, etc.

ok thanks. Either way, you should be seeking pay for the notice period. If you had started employment with them, then the position is simple – you are their employee and if the want to terminate your contract then they must service you with notice of termination as per contract and honour that period, including pay.

If they argue that the start date was deferred and the contract did not actually begin, the following applies:

If an employer has made an unconditional offer, which was subsequently accepted, then it is arguable that a legally binding contract was formed. This therefore places certain obligations on both parties – the worker would be expected to commit to the job and start it as agreed and the employer would be expected to take the worker on as promised.

If the employer does not want to proceed with the offer and subsequently withdraws it, then the argument is that they have acted in breach of contract. No one can force them to still take the worker on, but the worker could consider pursuing the employer for damages incurred as a result of that breach. These would usually be loss of earnings resulting from the worker not having a job to go to as promised.

One thing to note though is that until someone has worked for a company for at least 2 years they have no unfair dismissal protection. So what could have happened is that they honoured your offer and employed you as normal, then on day one of your job they dismissed you immediately. This would be legal and the dismissal could not have been challenged. All you can claim then is the notice period you would be due on termination. This is either the notice stated in the contract, or a week’s notice which is the minimum applicable by law (the latter only applies after a month of employment but it could be argued that it is fair they at least give that).

In summary, if a contract was issued before starting, you need to check what notice period was due in the event of termination and push for pay for that period. In the absence of such, it may be as little as a week’s pay to reflect the minimum statutory period.

Does this answer your query?

Customer: replied 9 days ago.
Thank you. The notice period (as per the contract) is one month. I know we are all sailing in uncharted water at the moment, but what obligations am I under? Should I be pushing for either a new start date or my notice period now, or is it better to wait it out and see what happens then go for the payment a bit further down the line?
Customer: replied 9 days ago.
If I am offered, and accept, a new permanent role elsewhere, does that affect my claim for my notice period?
Customer: replied 9 days ago.
the situation is that I can ask them to pay my notice period, of one months salary, and terminate my employment? If they chose not to do that, then what happens next?

Depends if you still want to give them a chance to allow you to work for them – in that case you can agree you will just wait for a new start date and perhaps look elsewhere in the meantime. If you do not believe this will go anywhere anytime soon you van just say you will request a month’s pay and walk away. The only thing with accepting employment elsewhere is that this company may ask you to work your notice period to pay you for it so you should be available for that

Does this clarify things a bit more for you?

Customer: replied 9 days ago.
it does. I guess, however, that as there is nobody there to actually work for, as everyone is furloughed, then there is I wouldn't be able to actually do any work because if I could work, they should have taken me on?

You would assume that, I agree, I was just covering the possible scenarios as things could still change at any time potentially

Customer: replied 9 days ago.
Okay, yes, I appreciate that. Thank you for your help today!

All the best

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