Changes in Employment?

Know your rights.

The Covid-19 global pandemic has caused a lot of uncertainty amongst workers whose employers are severely impacted by the outbreak.

In response to the national lockdown, and enforced closures of businesses, many employers made fast and drastic decisions to terminate contracts, make employees redundant or place employees on furlough leave. 

The speed in which these decisions were made, and the reasoning for them, could mean that the business has acted unlawfully. Effected employees may be entitled to make a claim for unfair dismissal.

Many employers will have acted within the law and followed the correct procedures for furlough leave, lay off and redundancy. However, there could be some employers who acted quickly and without regard to the legal procedures required.

This article outlines the main areas employers may have fallen short and what your rights are as an employee.

Redundancy

If an employer has made only a part of its workforce redundant, it is essential that a fair selection process was followed. This means that your employer must have reviewed all appropriate roles, had appropriate selection criteria, applied the criteria fairly and have consulted with you throughout the process. The organisation must also have considered alternative employment before making you redundant. 

While employers may be able to justify undertaking these steps in a shorter timescale than they usually would, it is essential that each step is still taken and communication throughout the process is clear. It is highly unlikely that an Employment Tribunal would excuse an employer for failing to follow any process because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Terms and conditions of employment

Employers can ask you reduce your pay or hours of work that are stated in your contract, but this is only a request. You have the legal right to refuse or decline a pay cut or working hours.

Although, it is worth remembering that your employer may be struggling and without everyone pulling together, they may not survive the economic decline.

Any attempt by an employer to unilaterally impose a reduction to an employee’s pay will give grounds to the affected employees to terminate their employment and bring claims for unfair constructive dismissal. 

Lay off and short time working 

Some employee’s contracts will have a ‘lay off’ clause in their standard contracts of employment that means that their employer can ‘lay off’ an employee without pay, or reduce their hours and pay, for an indefinite period (most employers do not have such clauses). 

If you do not have this clause in your employment contract, your employer does not have the contractual right to lay you off without pay or reduce your working hours. By doing so, this will give you the right to terminate your employment and bring a claim for constructive unfair dismissal.

Fair selection for Lay off and short time working

If an employer does have the contractual right to lay off their employees without pay or reduce employees’ hours of work and decides to only to lay off a proportion of their workforce, they must follow a fair selection process.

The process will have similar principles to the redundancy selection process. If your employer has acted with haste and without any consideration to a fair process, they are likely to face claims for unfair dismissal.

Furlough leave

If your employer made the decision to furlough a group of employees, they must have had a fair and valid reason for their selection. Your employer should have consulted with you prior to placing you on furlough leave.

If your employer can’t supply a valid and justifiable reason for placing you on furlough leave or not selecting you for furlough leave, then you may be entitled to make a claim. Furthermore, in most cases your employer cannot unilaterally place you on furlough leave without your consent.

Collective consultation

Your employer must consult with employee representatives if they are proposing make 20 or more employees redundant at any one establishment. These collective consultation rules also apply if an employer wishes to vary their employees’ contracts of employment and there is significant opposition to the proposals throughout the workforce. 

If your employer fails to consult with employee representatives, you may be entitled to compensation (90 days pay for each individual effected). 

Whilst employers may have a defence to such claims if “special circumstances” existed that meant that they could not comply with the appropriate procedures, this does not absolve employers from failing to follow any procedure at all. 

Your options

It is important that if your employer changes your role in any way, whether it’s your remuneration, working hours, placing you on furlough leave or making you redundant, you are communicated and consulted with. If you employer has failed to follow the correct procedures, then you may be entitled to compensation.

The employment law team at Verisona Law are on hand to advise and support you through this time. No matter your question, we are able to offer support and guidance at this uncertain time. Please contact us on connect@verisonalaw.com for confidential, expert advice.

 


  • Unfair dismissal
  • Wrongful dismissal
  • Redundancy
  • Unlawful discrimination
  • Harassment and victimisation
  • Equal pay
  • Unlawful deduction of wages
  • Breaches of contract
  • Protected disclosures (whistle blowing)
  • Transfer of undertaking (TUPE)
  • Settlement agreements

Sports and Football Law

  • Contracts of Employment
  • Service Agreements
  • Contractual Issues
  • Executive Departures

"Over the years, I have developed a great trust in my working relationship with Mike Dyer, Head of Commercial Law at Verisona. One of the things I value most is that he is always at the end of a phone. On the rare occasions he is unavailable, his secretary is always well informed and very helpful. Through Mike, I have met many other members of Verisona and, just like in the recruitment industry, they understand the importance of being treated like an individual. They make me feel valued and important to both them and their business. At Verisona, you always deal with real people who you know and are in a position to help. Most importantly, Verisona delivers. We recently had an urgent situation regarding the restrictive covenants of new members of staff. Employment specialist Susan Ball came in on a day off to listen to us, dissect and analyse the situation, and translate what we wanted to achieve into the best possible legal language and solution. This is just one example of the calm, efficient professionalism I have come to value from Verisona over the years. Verisona has a refreshing approach to the law. They are there when we need them, always easy to talk to, go out of their way to make sure that we understand what they are doing for us and why, and always get the best results".

Stuart Cox

Legally enforcing the tribunal award

To enforce the Tribunal award we applied to the Defendant’s local County Court for it to be registered and for permission to enforce the award.  

The Court granted the application and on the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines.  As a result the Tribunal award would appear as a County Court Judgment which would likely affect the Defendant’s credit rating. 

Time limits for enforcing Tribunal awards

It is worth noting that there is no time restriction for registering or enforcing a Tribunal award. You can enforce one even if it is several years old.  In addition, it is usually possible to claim interest on the amount until you receive payment.

A commercial business

"Thanks for all your help on this - you've been so helpful to me in guiding and explaining everything, so just to say thank you for obviously helping represent my case but also allowing me to understand the process and giving me greater awareness of what I need to be mindful of when signing future contracts".

Former employee of professional football club

Sue was easy to deal with and offered all options available. Jane was in contact beforehand to tell me what information was needed and Sue was prepared for our meeting. I cannot praise Sue and Jane enough and would have absolutely no hesitation in reommending Sue and her team.

Mr B


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