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bluetownbarry

Problem with new employer (reduction of hours)

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Hi CAGers, I'm hoping you can help with a problem my other half is having at work.

 

Background

 

For the last five and a half years, my other half has worked full time (35 hrs per week) in a small privately owned village shop. Credit crunch being what it is, just over a month ago, the owner sold the shop. In that time, she has never had a written contract of employment & never received a wage slip (but did receive yearly P60s). The new owner signed a contract for the sale of the shop - and my other half was referred to stating her wage & hours of work (she has got a copy of this).

 

Problems with the new owner

 

As soon as the new owner took over, he immediatly increased her working week from 35 hours to 40 hours. This was done with no consultation & no increase in wages. The job market being what it is, she didn't really have any choice but to go along with this. Over the last month, the owner has been increasingly unreasonable - sudden changes to the time she has to start work (often with less than 8 or 12 hours notice & putting pressure on her to work late or weekends). On top of this, he is constantly undermining her work, making constant unfounded criticisms etc. It seemed pretty obvious that he doesn't wish to carry on employing her & it looks like he expects her to resign (I've got to admire my other half - I would've walked out ages ago).

 

Latest Bombshell

 

Shortly before finishing her shift yesterday he spoke to her and said that the turnover of the shop isn't what he was expecting and with immediate effect he will reduce her working hours to 20 hours per week. He hasn't given her any new shift pattern or any idea of when he will be expecting her to work (making it impossible to find any other part time work to make up for the reduction in hours.

 

She's pretty much resigned herself to the fact despite previously loving her job she cannot carry on like this & if she can't find alternative work soon she will have to throw the towel in. We've had a good chat about it & have agreed that enough is enough. I need advice as to where she stands from a legal point of view & maybe some suggestions on the best way forward.

 

Any comments/advice/or perhaps if you've been in a similar situation maybe what happened to you. Anything would be appreciated & if you need more information let me know. I've tried to be as concise as possible but I'm bound to have left something out!

Edited by bluetownbarry

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Sounds awful.

 

The most obvious courses of action are these.

 

1. Reject any proposal to reduce hours and state categorically that although the employer may wish her to work reduced hours, she will hold him to her contract and will expect to be paid her normal wage. Any failure to do so will be a breach of contract and will result in a claim for Unlawful deductions from wages under Section 13 of the Employment Rights Act. She also has rights under the Transfer of Undertakings - Protection of Employment Regs 1996. Under TUPE and a relevant transfer of a business, employees enjoy legal protection from changes to employment contracts which result directly from the transfer. The employer may have a getout in that changes MAY be made for economic reasons, however it sounds very much as though he hasn't a clue of his legal obligations.

 

2. Look at a case for Constructive Dismissal. Halving the normal working hours (and wages) without notice would certainly be construed as a fundamental breach of contract so serious that your partner finds it impossible to continue working there, so that part of any claim would be a given. She could possibly then add failure to provide a wageslip and even failure to consult under TUPE during the transfer of the business.

 

IMO - not a good idea to walk out without a fight - she needs to object to the change in contract and breach of the TUPE regulations and watch him panic at the prospect of a very expensive Employment Tribunal case. I would put money on the business not doing as badly as he is making out and he is relying on your partner walking away in order to improve his operating margins - either that, or he genuinely needs to cut costs and doesn't fancy paying out to make her redundant!


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Sounds awful.

 

The most obvious courses of action are these.

 

1. Reject any proposal to reduce hours and state categorically that although the employer may wish her to work reduced hours, she will hold him to her contract and will expect to be paid her normal wage. Any failure to do so will be a breach of contract and will result in a claim for Unlawful deductions from wages under Section 13 of the Employment Rights Act. She also has rights under the Transfer of Undertakings - Protection of Employment Regs 1996. Under TUPE and a relevant transfer of a business, employees enjoy legal protection from changes to employment contracts which result directly from the transfer. The employer may have a getout in that changes MAY be made for economic reasons, however it sounds very much as though he hasn't a clue of his legal obligations.

 

2. Look at a case for Constructive Dismissal. Halving the normal working hours (and wages) without notice would certainly be construed as a fundamental breach of contract so serious that your partner finds it impossible to continue working there, so that part of any claim would be a given. She could possibly then add failure to provide a wageslip and even failure to consult under TUPE during the transfer of the business.

 

IMO - not a good idea to walk out without a fight - she needs to object to the change in contract and breach of the TUPE regulations and watch him panic at the prospect of a very expensive Employment Tribunal case. I would put money on the business not doing as badly as he is making out and he is relying on your partner walking away in order to improve his operating margins - either that, or he genuinely needs to cut costs and doesn't fancy paying out to make her redundant!

 

Many thanks indeed for this. This is exactly what I'm looking for. I think you've hit the nail on the head. He certainly isn't short of money as he has paid cash for the business so I think you are right about the increase profit margins and reluctance of paying redundancy. The first week he was there he tried to persuade her to work cash in hand. Even now he is only part paying her wages as well as making her work a week in hand.

 

I think we will put this in a letter to him (he's very difficult to hold a conversation with).

 

Thanks again for your excellent advice, it's very much appreciated.

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No problem and feel free to come back with any more questions - others will no doubt be able to put more flesh on the bones so to speak.

 

Letters are always best - and provide a far greater means of proving a case should it be needed. I used to work quite a lot with independent shop owners and what you are experiencing is very common - employees are a PITA for shop owners who see rules and regulations as undesirable costs which affect the bottom line. You need to push the wageslip issue too, or at least make enquiries with the tax office to make sure that tax and NI is being paid on your partner's earnings as that could provide it's own set of problems.


Any advice given is done so on the assumption that recipients will also take professional advice where appropriate.

 

PLEASE HELP US TO KEEP THIS SITE RUNNING

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If I have been helpful in any way - please feel free to click on the STAR to the left!

 

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Good advice from SW - the TUPE claim is joint and severable against both the old and new shop owner - and carries an award of up to 90 days gross pay!

 

Please keep an eye on time limits though - you have three months less a day from the date of the transfer, so don't miss the short window to submit a claim!

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