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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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My company is making me sign a new contract which will

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My company is making me sign a new contract which will triple my working hours and provide zero life stability. I am a mom of two young children and provide their childcare and at the moment homeschooling. I have been with my company 16 years and have a permanent 50% part time contract which they are ripping up. I feel helpless as I will not be able to continue doing the profession I have invested 22 years of my life to while fulfilling my role as a mom. In addition they offered a voluntary redundancy package last week the deadline for which closed before I was told I would be demoted and before I saw the new contract. If I had known this I would have taken the VR option. I really need help as my life has been turned upside down by my company in spite of me having an unblemished record. Pls help!

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 for in the circumstances, so that I can best advise?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I would like to know if changing my contract to triple my working hours is legal? I would also like to know if they can still refuse me VR having not supplied the full details of my contract going forward before the deadline?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I would also like to know if a company can make a mom who has worked 50% part time for 9 years work full time?

OK thank you. Please upload a copy of your existing contract on here

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I have been 50% part time since 2011. I agreed to work full time from Sep2018 to March of this year to get a promotion. So my part time actually dates back to 2011 even though this contract is dated a few months ago.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
This is the letter confirming that my full time was only until March of this year.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The new contract has nothing to do with my promotion and temporary reversion to full time. I would also like to know this: if I do not sign the new contract where does that leave me? The new contract agrees for me to work 900 hours per year whereas my old one was 375. I do not have the new contract yet however I just received my new terms and conditions and they are full of standby duties etc which mean I will have no life stability to plan child care especially with no fixed days off per month.

Thank you. Leave it with me for now, although please note it is extremely busy at present due to the ongoing situation so there may be a delay in replying, but I will get back to you at some point today. Please do not reply in the meantime. Many thanks

Many thanks for your patience. It is a very difficult time for your industry at the moment and I have been in touch with a few others from other airlines who are being affected in similar ways.

My suggestion is to still go back to them to try and negotiate a VR exit on the basis that doing what they are now proposing will likely end up in you having to take things further. What the airline may rely on is that you will not legally challenge them as burning any bridges in the airline industry can have a significant effect on future employment opportunities.

As far as the legal position is concerned, there are occasions when an employer may try and make changes to an employee’s contract of employment. If they wish to do so, there are a few ways, in which they can do it:

· Receive the employee’s consent to the changes.

· Give the employee the required notice to terminate their current contract and re-engage them under a new contract containing the changes.

· Simply force the changes through with no notice or consultation.

The following options are available to employees to challenge these actions:

1. If the employer forces the changes through, the employee can start working on the new terms, then write to the employer making it clear that this is done ‘under protest’. This means that they do not agree with the changes but feel forced to do it as they have no other option. In the meantime, they should try and resolve the issue by raising a formal grievance with the employer. This is only a short-term solution though as the longer someone works under the terms, even under protest, the more likely it is that they will eventually be deemed to have accepted them.

2. If the employer gives notice to terminate the current contract and re-engages the employee under a one, it could potentially amount to unfair dismissal. However, the employer can try and justify their actions if they had a sound business reason for doing so, usually from an urgent financial perspective. If no such reason exists, it is possible to make a claim for unfair dismissal in the employment tribunal, subject to having at least 2 years’ continuous service with that employer. This would be on the grounds that there has technically been a dismissal because the original contract was terminated by the employer.

3. If the changes fundamentally impact the contract, for example changes to pay, duties, place of work, etc., it is also possible to resign and claim constructive dismissal. The employee must accept the changes and immediately resign in response to them. A claim is again dependent on the employee having at least 2 years' continuous service with the employer.

It is worth mentioning that there is a possible alternative solution, where the employer is approached on a 'without prejudice' basis (i.e. off the record) to try and discuss the possibility of leaving under a settlement agreement. Under such an agreement, the employee gets compensated for leaving the company with no fuss and in return promises not to make any claims against the employer in the future. It is essentially a clean break, where both parties move on without the need for going to tribunal. However, it is an entirely voluntary process and the employer does not have to participate in such negotiations or agree to anything. It just means that these discussions cannot be brought up in any subsequent tribunal claim and prejudice either party. So there is nothing to lose by raising this possibility with the employer as the worst outcome is they say no, whereas if successful it can mean being allowed to leave in accordance with any pre-agreed terms, such as with compensation and an agreed reference.

Does this answer your query?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Not really to be honest:What happens if I do not agree to sign the new contract? Am I still then bound by the old one?Can a company insist that a mom with childcare obligations works full time when she has been working part time for 9 years and is opposed to a change in working hours?

As you can see from the options above, if you refuse to sign it, they can just force the contract through and then it is up to you to decide whether to accept it or challenge them, which would have to be through constructive dismissal.

Your status as a mother is something that you have rights under, but only in terms of making a flexible working request to change your working schedule to fit in with your work. So in effect they could potentially force the contract through, then you have to make a flexible working request to see if there are changes possible and if there aren’t, you will have to decide whether to stay or leave and pursue constructive dismissal

Does this clarify things a bit more for you?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
thank you.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Just one last question if I may - what is the average pay out for contructive / discriminatory (as they are making it impossible for me to do my job and be a mom) dismissal ?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I know it will be a ball park figure but would like to know if Much less than a VR payout

I do not see this being discrimination – you cannot say this is sex discrimination because a single father would be in the exact same position as you, so this is not an issue limited to females. On that basis you are looking at constructive dismissal only. That will attract a basic award equivalent to statutory redundancy (https://www.gov.uk/calculate-your-redundancy-pay) in addition to compensation for loss of earnings, based on how long you may reasonably be out of a job (capped at a year’s pay maximum).

Does this clarify things a bit more for you?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
thank you

All the best

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