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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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I have a question about employment law. I work as

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I have a question about employment law.
I work as a Project Co-ordinator for the UK arm of an American company, which itself is part of a Worldwide group.
I was invited to a 1-2-1 ‘discussion’ meeting with our Vice President yesterday morning where I was told that my position is “under threat of redundancy”. This came as a complete shock. When I arrived for the meeting there were two women from HR also present.
It was explained that the UK division needs to make further cost savings and, as such, an (unspecified) number of positions within the office are now to be placed under consultation. I will have an opportunity to present my case for keeping my job in seven days’ time, with a final decision announced seven days’ after that.
The company I work for serves the oil and gas exploration industry and, due to the current depressed oil price, the UK division is losing money. I became aware of this situation soon after I started working there, and cost saving initiatives feature regularly in meeting agendas.
I feel particularly aggrieved because I only started working for the company in December last year. I am four and a half months into an eleven month fixed-term contract (maternity cover) although at interview it was openly suggested that if my temporary contract went well there may be the possibility of a permanent position in the future. With hindsight, I wonder why was I taken on at all if saving money was such a priority?
I gave up a secure, permanent position of three years to take up this new job. Admittedly my last job had no prospects and I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but I should not have made the move at all if I thought my new role might be jeopardized so quickly.
I am curious to know that since I am covering maternity leave, will the colleague I am standing in for also be threatened with redundancy when she is due to return in November? Somehow I doubt it.
Also, I am sure I once read somewhere that employees on fixed term contracts are treated differently when it comes to redundancy. Is that true?
I am aged 51 years and the main income earner in our household if that makes any difference. I have received no complaints about my work and have had no unplanned absence since joining the company in December.
Any advice you can provide, or points I should be aware of, would be welcome. Thank you.
Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Does the contract have the option of early termination?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

A good point, Mr. Jones. And thank you for your prompt response. I shall check my contract when I return home this evening and get back to you.


***** *****.

No problem, thank you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hello again Mr. Jones. I have now had the opportunity to read through my contract and 20.1 is the only clause which I can see which might apply:


20.1 Unless this agreement is terminated early in accordance with this Clause 20.1, Clauses 1.3 or 20.2, your employment will end on November 8, 2015 without the need for further notice. This agreement may be previously terminated by either party giving to the other not less than 1 week during probation / 1 month thereafter months notice in writing

20.3 The Company reserves the right to require you not to attend at work and/or not to undertake all or any of your duties of employment during any period of notice (whether given by you or the Company), provided always that the Company shall continue to pay your salary and contractual benefits whilst you remain employed by the Company.

1.3 You will be required to complete a probationary period of 3 months from the Commencement Date. The purpose of the probationary period is to allow both you and the organization to be sure that the role is the right fit. During this probationary period your performance and conduct will be monitored. The Company may terminate your employment at any time during the probationary period upon a 1 week during probation / 1 month thereafter notice or by payment of basic salary in lieu of notice. In the absence of such termination, your probationary employment will become permanent employment.


***** *****.

Hello John, the starting point 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.). In the event that the reason for dismissal fell within these categories, then the dismissal will either be automatically unfair, or there will be a potential discrimination claim.
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. This is 1 month in your case.
It is true that fixed term employees have some additional rights but these are only linked to if they are being treated detrimentally as a result of their fixed term status. So for example if you are being selected for dismissal over a permanent employee because you are a fixed term employee then it could be unfair but you will need to show that was the reason. The only other thing is if there was no early termination clause in the contract ending it early can amount to breach of contract but that is not an issue here as such a clause is in place.
Thank you for your response, which I will now review. I will get back to you as soon as possible. Please do not respond to this message as it will just push your question to the back of the queue and you may experience unnecessary delays. Thank you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you for your response, Mr. Jones. I am entirely satisfied with your answer and am happy to pay the £28 fee.

However I do still wonder whether I might have grounds for a discrimination claim if the permanently-employed lady who I am now covering for whilst she is on maternity leave is allowed to keep her job when she returns in November, yet I am being considered for redundancy now whilst performing the same role.

Also, I see (permanently employed) colleagues who are also now facing consultation have been given a letter, and written details explaining the process, which I have not. In all, I understand17 employees from a total of 80 in our office are to now undergo consultation ahead of threat of redundancy, but I am the only employee on a fixed term contract presently working for the firm.

Again, thanks for your advice.



Hello John, I am afraid you do not really have a leg to stand on when comparing yourself to an employee who is off on maternity leave. When someone goes off on maternity leave they have rather strong employment rights and cannot be treated detrimentally because of their maternity leave. They usually have the right to return to their job once their leave ends. So this is not really discriminating, it is how things usually develop in these circumstances. The employer would have a much clearer and stronger case against them by the employee on maternity leave if you were chosen in preference to them for this job.
As to the redundancy process, the fact you have not been given a letter explaining the process is certainly not idea but not really strong enough to create a claim in this case. There could e various reasons for tis so it would be best to approach the employer and ask that you are included in the process in the same way as others. As long as the employer fixes this, which they should then that would resolve this issue.
Hope this clarifies things a bit more, even though I understand they may not necessarily be what you were hoping for but I do obviously have to be honest.
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