Trying to change terms of contract - 3.5 months prior to mat leave

(9 Posts)
LittlePickleHead Mon 10-Dec-12 16:28:52

Really upset so I hope this isn't too garbled. I will also consult with a lawyer but I was hoping to get some advise on how to handle myself in the meantime.

I'm 20 weeks pregnant so will be going on mat leave at beginning of April. I have already spoken to work but not yet had my smp form as yet. (Can't remember what it's called).

I joined my current job at the end of February, working three days a week for £30k. The company was very small, 2 directors and 4 staff (including me) but was in the process of being acquired by a larger, US owned company, which I was aware about. I was role my contract would remain the same under the new company.

The acquisition went through in April, and since then my job has expanded, and I do extra work outside the original remit, which I'm happy with. I do answer emails/sometimes work from computer at home when is needed, and have only received praise and no negative feedback at all.

Today I was taken out for lunch by my directors. I have a good relationship with them and I know they are happy with me. However they told me they have been place under pressure by directors in the US abouty role. They now feel that I am paid too much for what I do (they are focussing on admin which is only part of my remit) and that they need someone for 5 days. Essentially they want me to work two extra days for no more money (which in real terms would leave me around £500 worse off a month due to childcare and extra travel).

Now I know they cannot force me to do this. The US are asking my directors to 'sort it' but the only way I can see they could do this would be to make my redundant, but as they would be hiring someone directly to do what I do I'm not sure this is legal? I do all work in the time I have an nothing is left, so not sure of the case for needing an extra two days.

I was asked if I would consider working an extra day with a non pro rise to purely cover costs (around 3.5k). I don't really want to change my contract at all before mat leave as I'm worried this puts me in a more vulnerable position.

I am speaking to the company lawyer tomorrow in a conference call (we don't even have a uk hr department). I know my director back me up but I feel really vulnerable and know my future with the company is not looking great.

Is there any advise in advance of my call tomorrow? They say its nothing to do with my pregnancy, but the timing seems suspect. They have been told to resolve it all by January. I am thinking I stick to my guns and if they really want to take it that far then they will have to either pay me off or make me redundant sad

Help!

Ps sorry for any phone relate typos

flowerytaleofNewYork Mon 10-Dec-12 18:37:39

"I understand my consent is required to change my terms and conditions and unfortunately I am not prepared to consent to this change."

Repeat to fade.

That's what I'd do. All sorts might happen while you're off, but as long as you firmly resist now, it would be a bit foolhardy for them to try to force through a change so shortly before your maternity leave.

LittlePickleHead Mon 10-Dec-12 18:45:57

Thank you flowery. I'm just worried that they are foolhardy (the US don't particularly seem to care about their employees) and I still have 5 weeks to qualify for smp. They have asked my bosses to sort it out by January - that is unrealistic in any circumstance though isn't it?

Is the law on my side? Do you have any idea what they could do in order to get what they want (ie a lower level person in my role for less money and more hours) before I go off?

Just feel so gutted as I love this job sad

flowerytaleofNewYork Mon 10-Dec-12 19:04:36

Yes January is unrealistic. I have several clients in the UK who have US parent companies, and I'm used to similar situations. In the US they would be able to 'sort it' by January, but in the UK employees have much more in terms of employment rights.

I've just seen that you've only been there since February though is that right? In which case you don't have a lot in terms of employment rights either really.

Changing your terms and conditions without consent would be a breach of contract, but that's a very weak claim really, as without a year's service they can just dismiss you without even giving a reason.

If your dismissal (or change to terms and conditions) is because of your pregnancy, you are protected, but it's not going to be easy to prove that.

I still think your best bet is to stick rigidly to the line I gave you in my earlier post, and resist strongly any change. Keep a record of what has been said and when, especially anything that may help demonstrate that your pregnancy has influenced this decision, as you may need it if they dismiss you.

ChunkyPickle Mon 10-Dec-12 19:16:55

I don't believe they can force this without a very good reason - I suspect that the US company doesn't know how strong our protections are in this country, and are hoping that you will just give in.

I would record the call (this is largely speaking legal in the UK for your own use: www.ofcom.org.uk/static/archive/oftel/consumer/advice/faqs/prvfaq3.htm) and make sure that they put everything in writing after the call (or you put everything in writing and get them to acknowledge that that is what was said)

If you're covering all the work, in the time, and your directors were happy to hire you at that salary, and are happy with your work, then you are in a pretty secure place, unless they start being underhanded, at which point you have to decide if you want to go through the hassle of mediation/taking them to court/whatever for discrimination/constructive dismissal type things.

ChunkyPickle Mon 10-Dec-12 19:19:17

flowery's advice is much more informed than mine..

LittlePickleHead Mon 10-Dec-12 19:52:47

I didn't realise I have no rights for being there less than a year. They sill have to give me notice though right (ie seeing as I have done nothing wrong they can't ask me to leave tomorrow?). With notice (providing nothing drastic happens before Christmas which, as my bosses are on my side, is unlikely) then at least I'm into the qualifying period for mat leave.

I will stick to the line suggested. The stupid thing is they really rely on me, I do above and beyond my duty, and it's going to take at least a month to fully train someone to replace me, so if I do end up leaking before I planned they are leaving my department in the shit sad

Just as an aside - before I officially told the company about my pregnancy - I told my directors and one of them was very worried about the company's reaction about it, which obviously worried me. I sent an email to a friend at the time relating the conversation and I have kept it. The initial reaction when i told the company officially was fine (it was even reiterated to me they couldnt make me redundant and my job would be there when i return) but to me it seems suspect that they have now decided with such haste that things need to change. Would the email in any way be useful to show that I had concerns over the company's reaction to my pregnancy?

I hate this.

flowerytaleofNewYork Mon 10-Dec-12 21:16:55

Well, not no rights, but not many. Yes, your are entitled to whatever notice is in your contract and because you are entitled not to receive unfavourable treatment because of pregnancy, and because dismissal because of pregnancy is automatically unfair even if you've been there 5 minutes, you are not without protection. It would be foolhardy of any employer to dismiss someone who is pregnant without excellent reason and solid justification that proved the pregnancy was completely irrelevant.

Yes your email may be useful, so hang on to it, and make a note of every conversation as well, just in case.

LittlePickleHead Fri 14-Dec-12 13:19:11

Hi, I just wanted to update and get a little bit more advice if possible!

So I still haven't managed to get a proper meeting, although I've gleaned a little more from my boss. The meeting was supposed to be Wednesday, then at the very end of the day just before I had to leave I was told by the head of UK that the meeting would instead be on Monday and we would come to a compromise (the meeting has now already been moved to Wednesday so I'm not sure it won't move again until after Christmas). My boss did indicate that the compromise may involve me accepting something I think is unfair.

I have taken legal advice and I think the main points are that four weeks since I announced I was pregnant, they not only want to remove my flexible working agreement (i.e. to be full time like all other employees) and also to give me a pay cut. As I am the only employee this affects (there is not a pay review across the company) and they are basically saying it's because they want the job to be at a lower level than the job I initially agreed (even though I have been workign at this level for 9 months) could this be construed as a demotion? If so I'm not sure how they can justify a pay cut as I have had positive praise, no indication that my duties need to switch to a lower level. Surely they have to have a good justification for, what is essence, equates to a £20k pay cut? I am relying on the fact that, as I am pregnant, they have to give written reasons for any decision affecting my contract.

Anyway, I suppose the advice I need is whether to play my cards close to my chest on Wednesday by not letting on I've had advice - to listen to what they say and buy myself time by not agreeing to anything there and then. Or whether to assert myself, make it clear I've sought advice and basically reiterate what I've said above. I am worried that if I do this is will escalate more quickly, but at the same time I am not in a position to accept the changes they want to make (i.e. demotion when my role isn't changing, or working extra days when I have no childcare arrangement for the extra two days).

How far would it be wise for me to compromise? The advice I was given was that I have a fairly strong sex discrimination case as the timing is so close to my pregnancy announcement, and also indirect sex discrimination as the changes they want to make (i.e. insistance on full time working) adversly affects me as a mother with childcare responsiblities.

I was thinking a compromise would be to suggest we hire my maternity cover as soon as possible so I can train them up and we have them in the office on my days off from the start, on the understanding that when I return it would be on a job share basis. This to me seems a reasonable solution to needing someone 5 days.

I am not sure what my response should be to the pay cut?

After the meeting I am going to send an email to everyone in attendance summarising what was said and relating next steps (if agreed). Is this a good idea? I am trying to get everything documented where possible.

As an aside, I am finding this really stressful and my physical reaction to this is worrying me (I can't sleep, I'm having a racing heart and palpitations and sometimes short of breath, a knot in my stomach that can be quite painful). THe advice I received yesterday was that I could also be signed off with pregnancy related stress, but I don't really want to do that. Would it be worth mentioning to work that this situation is affecting my health?

Sorry for the essay, I'm just trying to get it all sorted in my head before the meeting so that I can be strong and let them know I'm not some silly girl who can be pressured into accepting discriminatory changes.

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