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No contract - change in working hours

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I am seeking advice on behalf of my brother in law. He has been employed for just over a year for a family firm, only 6 employees. His job is full time, permanent 40 hours per week, based in Glasgow, working monday to friday. When he joined the company he was advised he would be given a contract, one year on, none of the staff have a contract. His salary is 15k and he is paid monthly.

Last month, on the sunday, he received a phone call from his boss, who advised that with immediate effect, his hours would be changed, from the monday, not even 24 hours notice and as such his working hours would be reduced from 40 to 37 hours per week. At work on the monday, his boss made no further comment on the matter. Today, my brother in law received his wage slip and it was 12 hours less paid than normal for the month. He went to the company accountant , this is the person who makes up all the wages, the accountant advised that this was correct, 3 hours would be deducted every week, my brother in law refused to accept this but was advised as he and his colleagues had no contract, the company could do as they see fit. I would be obliged if anyone could shed some light on this situation as I do not believe that this company has acted correctly, even though my brother in law has no contract, he must have some employment rights. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

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He does have a contract - the written statement you are referring to isn't the contract although people often make this mistake. The contract is formed by making an offer and accepting employment, and includes all manner of policies and written documents. Technically, your brother in law does have some rights here - but no enough to really do much about it. A change to contractual terms should be consulted upon, although there is no requirement for an employer to change their minds as a result of consultation. If employees then refuse to accept the variation the employer may seek to enforce such a change by serving them with notice and then offering them a new contract with the changes to begin from the end of the notice period. If the employee refuses to accept the new contract then they are deemed to have resigned and may claim unfair dismissal. The sticky point comes here - a tribunal will consider whether the change is great enough to warrant such a claim, or whether the employee has been unreasonable in their refusal. In these circumstances, I'd have to say that a tribunal is unlikely to consider that a drop of three hours per week is sufficiently great to be a reasonable cause to effectively resign. Given the current cliamte, tribunals have been accepting cuts in pay of quite substsntial amounts as reasonable, and in effect your brother in law hasn't had a cut in pay because he still gets paid the same amount per hour as he did - he just works slightly fewer hours.

 

All things considered, I feel that he would be best advised to accept this and move on (lliterally if he feels he must, but at least under his own steam and at a time of his own choosing).


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I am a barrister specialising in employment law, and only represent employees. My advice on employment issues is advice - not legal opinion - and is based only on the facts you provide. If you want an accurate assessment of your case and prospects, you should get legal opinion from a lawyer - not a public forum. Anything I tell you is for guidance only, and is based on my experience of the law in the context of what details you provide.

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Hi SareI...Many thanks for your comments. I copied your reply and discussed it with my brother in law tonight. One point we do have, you state

and I quote....."in effect your brother in law hasn't had a cut in pay because he still gets paid the same amount per hour as he did - he just works slightly fewer hours".

You are correct in stating he now works slightly fewer hours...however he does not get the same pay, his boss has reduced his pay by 30 pence per hour, which is shown on his monthly pay slip. So where do we stand legally on this now where rate of pay is reduced per hour?

I look forward to your comments.

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I would imagine that the position would be little different. He could lodge a Grievance about the change in his contract, and ultimately could take the matter to an Employment Tribunal as an Unlawful Deduction from his wages.

 

The question would still be how much trouble he is prepared to cause in order to pursue this in the current economic climate?


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