In an awkward situation at work...

(54 Posts)
Gingersstuff Thu 27-Feb-14 11:05:22

Will try to keep this short. I was/am employed 4 days per week in a very small company. I have had a health issue recently which culminated in surgery and meant a couple of periods of sickness for around 2-3 weeks each time (first period for illness, second for surgery/recovery time). Had a conversation with employers just before surgery in which they informed me they were cutting my hours down to 2.5 days per week (other people were having this done too but not as drastic as me) verbally telling me it was due to my illness. I was a bit hmm about this but looking it up it appeared I couldn't claim discrimination as other people were having their hours cut too. Officially it was because there wasn't enough work around. I was told that this period of reduced hours would be kept to a minimum and reviewed monthly.
So given that I couldn't afford to work 2.5 days/wk I started looking for another job, found one and handed in my notice. Completely overlooked the fact that my notice period was 2 months and could have sworn it was one month (which is industry standard). Yes, big cock-up on my part. I explained to employers that I'd messed up and offered to work out some sort of compromise. Employers have dug their heels in and are not only holding me to every second of the 2 months notice but won't let me take my annual leave which would have effectively cut my notice down to 6 weeks. New employers are withdrawing their offer as they can't wait til end April for me. So now I have no job at the end of April.
The people that have secured me the new job are suggesting that I just tell them I'm leaving at the end of March and that's that. However that would mean breaking the contract.
The final piece of this is that mysteriously enough now that I am back from sick leave and fit for the job again I've been put back up to 4 days per week. Just in case you're wondering, new job was secured in a telephone interview on one of my non-working days.
Any advice please? Am in a quandary as to what to do. Still want new job which I can't go to unless I break my contract. No guarantee that I'll get anouther job when I leave in April which would really leave me up a certain creek. Thanks.

mattsmadmum Thu 27-Feb-14 11:09:10

ACAS? Or are you in a union?

I don't understand how they can refuse to allow you to use up the rest of your holiday time??

ephemeralfairy Thu 27-Feb-14 11:11:56

They are being massive dicks. I am no employment expert but refusing to honour an employee's holiday allowance sounds very dodgy to me.

workingtolive Thu 27-Feb-14 11:12:00

Just leave, statutory notice is 4 wks, anything above that you can't be held to. Check with acas

Gingersstuff Thu 27-Feb-14 11:12:55

No union, and they can apparently refuse leave during a notice period and pay me for it instead. Which is lovely and all, but still leaves me absolutely scuppered sad I've been looking at the CAB website but not much use. Really, I only have today to make a decision and get back to the new employers....angry

Shakirasma Thu 27-Feb-14 11:15:47

Why can't you just leave at the end of March? What will be the consequence of that?

TheScience Thu 27-Feb-14 11:15:54

Leave after a month. How likely is it really that they will take you to court? And even if they do, I think you have a good case to argue that drastically reducing your hours forced you to find another job.

eurochick Thu 27-Feb-14 11:16:03

Just walk. They will have the option of suing you for any financial loss as you have breached your employment contract, but unless your job is very specialist they will struggle to show that they could not mitigate (i.e. give someone else more shifts to cover your work or hire someone new). A good lawyer would most likely tell them it is not worth it.

And if they won't honour your leave, they will have to pay you out for it, so you should get a nice windfall with your last payslip.

judyandthedreamofdonkeys Thu 27-Feb-14 11:17:15

Have the new job already got references for you and can you live without the annual leave pay?

If so Id just write a letter to your manager saying due to unforseeable circunstances i will be leaving on (date)

Also you say you thought your contract was for one month, ask to see a signed copy of your contract if they dont have one then i dont see how they can hold you to it. Does your contract also specify your contracted hours, they should have issued you a new one when they reduced your hours.

littledrummergirl Thu 27-Feb-14 11:18:33

They may be able to charge you the cost of covering your contracted hours for any notice period you dont work. This will be in your contract.
How many hours are you contracted for?
If you are happy with this and the new job is better then leave.
They cant make you stay.

Drquin Thu 27-Feb-14 11:19:36

^^ because annual leave is granted at the discretion of the company, i.e. To be taken at mutually convenient times. Their argument would be it's not a convenient time .....

OP, I think you need professional advice about breaking your contract early. My gut reaction is that current employer, particularly if struggling financially, won't have the time, inclination or money to chase up a breach of contract case on a part-time worker ..... And the worse that'll happen is that you'll get the most basic of references. But, I wouldn't go with my gut reaction on this, let alone recommend someone else did!

If you were sly, and thought you had a case, you might want to suggest a early release in lieu of of not pursuing any action in terms of how your reduction in hours was handled. Bu, without legal advice, again be prepared for this not to be a good idea either .... Sorry!

Gingersstuff Thu 27-Feb-14 11:24:49

Ok, so at the risk of sounding like I'm drip-feeding, I'd already accepted by email the end date and the "back up to 4 days per week" thing...but this was before I was told that the new employer was withdrawing the offer (as I thought the new employer wouldn't be entirely happy about the revised start date, but would reluctantly accept it). Does this make a difference?? They are a tiny company and there is only one of me (though a couple of other people who could do the job but have no time). They could get a replacement from an agency, not sure what they're doing about that though.

Viviennemary Thu 27-Feb-14 11:27:01

If the offer of the new job is absolutely definite just leave. And good idea to ask for copy of your contract. I think I heard it was illegal not to have a contract but can't be sure on that one. And ask for a copy of their terms of employment.

Gingersstuff Thu 27-Feb-14 11:29:50

If I leave before end April, they can potentially sue me for breach of contract.

Gingersstuff Thu 27-Feb-14 11:30:37

I have a copy of the contract, it does say 2 months written notice unfortunately. Though that was my mistake entirely, I could have sworn it was a month.

Viviennemary Thu 27-Feb-14 11:32:06

Have you seen the contract, Two months notice is quite unusual. They won't sue you. And they have hardly handled the change of hours issue in a proper way.

Oldraver Thu 27-Feb-14 11:32:16

I would just leave when you need to go to the new job. your old employers have twatted you around, I wouldn't continue working there if you dont have to

Viviennemary Thu 27-Feb-14 11:33:23

Sorry cross post. But I doubt they'd sue.

Queenofknickers Thu 27-Feb-14 11:36:04

In 20 years of hr I've never seen or heard of anyone being sued for breach of contract for leaving 1 month early. The solicitors fees for them alone would make it not worth while.

TheScience Thu 27-Feb-14 11:36:40

Are they really going to sue you though? That seems massively unlikely.

glasgowsteven Thu 27-Feb-14 11:40:23

You have the job, you dont need a reference..Phone sick

DustyBaubles Thu 27-Feb-14 11:41:58

Do you still have the option of taking up the new job? They haven't already withdrawn it?

If so, just walk.

Gingersstuff Thu 27-Feb-14 11:50:28

The offer expires today really. I need to make a decision, but am unsure about breaking the contract. I'm going back to freelancing in the new post and it's a small world. My reputation is important to me and in over 20 years I've never left a job on bad terms.

CwtchesAndCuddles Thu 27-Feb-14 11:56:27

Do you have any legal cover included with bank account / membership of an organisation / house insurance?

It usually covers employment issues and access to a telephone helpline straight away.

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