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You are absolutely correct, the new employer cannot change anything within the first 12 months. Even then, he cannot unreasonably change things without the employee’s consent. The applicable legislation is the Transfer of Undertakings Protection for Employment Act (TUPE) which, in a nutshell states that if a business is sold, the new owner has to carry on as before.
If she does walk out because he is making it intolerable for her to work there, she has a claim to make in the employment tribunal for constructive dismissal. Constructive dismissal arises when an employer makes it so difficult for an employee to continue to work for them that the employee feels that they have no alternative but to leave.
Can I clarify any points arising from this?
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He can demand all he likes but if there was no flexibility before, he is not unreasonably allowed to demand it now. If he is asking your wife to do shifts which she simply cannot do because of other commitments, then that is unreasonable.