Employment Contract Law

Saturday, September 26th, 2009 - career management, Employment, Legal


Employment Contract Law

OMGWTF... weighing in at 800 lbs. ...

Sue asks: In May 2008, I joined my present employer and signed a regular Contract of Employment. The hours were scheduled Monday to Friday, 9-6. In March 2009, they asked me to work shifts, promising that soon a new position would have been made available for me, that suited more my personality and skills and that would bring me back to my original working hours. Nothing was never been put into writing, and we are now almost in October 2009. I ahve asked on numerous occasions when this new job will appear, and am always told long “soon”! I feel incredibly frustrated, but fear in the current economic climate putting my CV on the market. This company makes me hanging out by a hope thread for months, without any security, and it is damaging me immensely on many levels. Moreover, I needed in the past to ask them to pay for my only day of sickness; and on another occasion had to battle not to be alone in the office during weekends, as it was a breach of local Health and Safety. What can I do about my working shift, and do I have rights to appeal? The agreement does not contain any clause that says working hours and working bank holidays can be changed, and is signed by the director and myself. I need to go back to my normal hours, and to feel protected by the company I work for. But presently, I feel they are just playing with me.

In answer:
In the UK, all contracts must be capable of being changed, even if there is no clause in them to say this.

Employment Contract

The fact that you agreed to amended work shifts, that you have turned up to and actually worked, legally constitutes an acceptance of change in your contract. If you now wish to change the contract, you have to make a formal request to do so, nominally in writing. If your employer does not agree, you would need to follow your company’s grievance procedure – which ultimately might mean that you don’t get what you want especially if the employer can show there are good operational reasons for you being required to work the shift pattern which you do.

My thought here now is: how do you resolve this? In the present rising unemployment economy, I think most formats of approach would result in some form of “well, if it doesn’t suit you, resign” response.

Termination of Employment Contract

You say that it is “damaging me immensely on many levels” – have you talked to your doctor about this? My thought is, if you could get support from your doctor that returning to more normal 9-5 hours/shifts, then your health and productivity would improve. Employers are very wary of challenging doctors, and medical evidence in a legal case is quite defining.

Companies don’t need to presently “protect” employees beyond national legal and Health & Safety requirements: long doll queues means easy replacement, often at lower wages/higher skill levels. The question therefore is, do you want to work for this company? And in all honesty, the answer sounds like a very loud NO – but you don’t seem to have the confidence to say this to yourself.

I suggest, whatever option you take, that you do have a look around. You have been there 18months+, which is a good time to turn over your career. Yes, there is a chance of being in a worse position, but you are in a morally in a stronger position to negotiate T&C’s as a new employee over changing them as an existing employee. You can hide your details on most of the large job boards, and just be very choosy about what/where you apply.

There are lots of ways of answering legal questions, but at the end of the day, if you don’t want to work there: move on.

Good Luck!

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