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Flowery and other HR bods I think dh needs an employment lawyer

(19 Posts)
nooka Wed 13-Aug-08 02:26:10

I should start by saying that we are in the States, but I think it's a UK advisor we need. Basically we moved to the States in April when dh was transfered by his London based company. Now the company is making cuts, and closing the USA office. So dh was today told that he has to return to London in two weeks time (and to take those two weeks as holiday leave). They will pay for flights but nothing else.

This is seriously bad news as we have leases that we are liable for, a load of furniture to move back to London, and no home to return to (my house has been let for two years). I took a career break, but can't work at my previous job until April next year.

dh didn't manage to get his work to put anything about repatriation into his US contract (protection is minimal here anyway) and they are claiming he is redundant (and have cut him out of the company's IT system) despite being offered a job in the UK.

In these circumstances is there anything he can do to clam back any of his costs in moving? When we moved out here we got legal fees (but not my or the children's visas paid for), flights and a month's accommodation. We are still arguing about them paying for shipping.

dh had a running argument with them as to whether he asked to go to North America. They claim he said he would resign if he wasn't transfered and therefore did him a favour, he says he was offered the post and that he simply said he was looking at jobs in Canada (which we were) and wanted to move there - when he formally asked HR a few months earlier he was told no.

I am sure we are not in a strong legal position, but getting the company to pay for anything would be a huge help - dh sank all his life savings into this move

So any suggestions - I have no idea how to go about finding legal advice, especially as it will all have to be over the phone.


SuperBunnyisUnderRated Wed 13-Aug-08 02:31:57

Is it a UK company?

I think you probably have no right to compensation for repatriation or anything else unless it is specified in a contract. Sorry.

I'd look for a local attorney. But that will cost $$$

SuperBunnyisUnderRated Wed 13-Aug-08 02:33:26

Surely he has a contract? Does it say how much notice he is to be given? And that he can be forced to take time as holiday?

flowerybeanbag Wed 13-Aug-08 09:03:16

nooka my knowledge of employing people internationally is extremely limited I'm afraid. Is he employed on UK terms and conditions and employment rights and seconded, or is he employed locally by the local office? In terms of the redundancy situation, is he being transferred to a different job based here, is that what you are saying? Or is his employment ending?

I know you obviously realise this now and it's not helpful of me to say, but just for the benefit of anyone else reading in a similar position, really don't agree to relocate unless and until these very important issues are ironed out contractually.

I really can't help you legally as I am fairly clueless, and obviously you realise you need proper advice. If he is employed on UK terms and conditions and has just been seconded you do need to have a chat with someone who knows about employment law covering this country probably with a specialism in international assignments.

I don't know anyone along those lines I'm afraid, but the Law Society probably ought to be your first point of call. A chat with a local attorney might also be a good idea, particularly if DH has been transferred to local terms and conditions.

Sorry you are having such a nightmare, I wish I could say something a bit more helpful, but I'm in the dark really.

HappyMummyOfOne Wed 13-Aug-08 09:04:29

I cant see you being entitled to costs either. If the company is closing the US office, it is a genuine redundancy - at least they have offered him another job which is a lot more than some people get in these tough economic times.

If you do not want the expense of moving, can you not seek work out there?

As you have left your job open for return in April, I assume you were planning on coming back to the UK anyway at some point before then.

squiffy Wed 13-Aug-08 09:16:19


I think that as flowery said it is essential that you clarify whether he was seconded or transferred. If seconded then he is probably protected and has some rights for reasonable repatriation costs (especially if they arise due to events outside his control), if transferred, then possibly not.

Also, does he continue to get paid by UK company or by a US subsidiary/sister company? He will have more rights if still employed by UK company.

You will need a good advisor. I will drop a line to someone I know who does expat contracts for an HR organisation to see if she can advise, but possibly a long shot because I am sure she does everything by the book, so she may not know what happens in situations like this. Might take a few days to get hold ofher. Suggest you contact a UK employment lawyer in the meantime (will probably be abel to advise better than a US lawyer - in US they have a fire-at-will policy in many companies so employment lawyers tend to be very specialised over in US). David Green at Charles Russell is very good - expensive but he will probably advise you over the phone for 30 minutes for fre

nooka Wed 13-Aug-08 12:59:01

Thanks all,
Yes I realise we are probably screwed! This was a permanent move for us (the house and my job were for insurance in case we/I didn't like it out there). The visa that we are working on specifies that the only reason we are allowed in the country to work is on the basis of this specific job, so losing the job equals leaving the country. dh has a NY contract, which is minimal to say the least, but is still part of the UK team, paid from and managed through London, he will simply return to that team (and probably pick up the role he was doing before the transfer). The American office is a small subsidiary of a larger UK company, and has we now know been in trouble for some time (dh whistleblew on working practices which breached the company policy, poor management etc to the responsible director and was told that he would be protected and that most of the issues he was reporting were already known about... unfortunately that director has since resigned, and the situation moved on).

Thanks for your help Squiffy - I guess I am just hoping to find some leverage to get a better deal out of the company. dh feels very screwed (it has been a difficult few months, with the boss yelling at him, telling his staff not to talk to him etc) and will probably quite asap to be honest, which leaves us as a family in a bit of a precarious situation.

ilovemydog Wed 13-Aug-08 13:08:10

From purely a practical stance, could DH find a company there in the US? I knew someone who managed to get their L1 sponsorship changed and it wasn't terribly difficult. Some companies are willing to take on relocation issues as part of the package. Could DH use his contacts?

It seems to me that if he is being paid from the UK, despite a NY contract, arguably is on secondment, so the law of England and Wales would prevail.

nooka Wed 13-Aug-08 13:39:27

I don't know how they did that! If dh found a company that was happy to take him on they would have to apply for a different sort of visa for him, and currently these have t be applied for in April for October, and we would have to be out of the country - so no chance of returning until October next year. I wonder if the person you knew have very specialized skills - there are a few ways around the system I think, but very limited.

NorkyButNice Wed 13-Aug-08 13:46:16

That's an awful situation to be in - we moved out to New York with our companies a couple of years ago but on the understanding that we were now fully considered US employees so they wouldn't pay to move us back.

We've been lucky enough that I've been redeployed to a London team who are now going to pick up the bill.

Actually I'm wracking my brains here, as both my company and DH's company are offering to pay for our shipping, but we obviously only need one to pick up the bill - am trying to work out if there's any feasible way we could ship some of your furniture with ours.

We're moving back to the UK first weekend of September so it might be too late for you anyway.

ilovemydog Wed 13-Aug-08 13:46:46

The company concerned arranged the visa. He went to Canada for the weekend and when entering the US, was legal (again).

And yes, it was a specialized job, but the point is that some companies are used to dealing with visa issues, and can absorb you and DH in their machinery rather than you worrying about it all.

nooka Wed 13-Aug-08 13:55:11

Norky that's very sweet of you! We are trying to get at least some extra time allowed at the moment two weeks is going to be incredibly difficult for us - I don't think we will be able to get quotes and shipping organised in that time - I'm sure it took longer coming out. Trouble is that we had about half a container on the way out, and more importantly we have nowhere for it to go in London as our house is on a long term letting.

SuperBunnyisUnderRated Wed 13-Aug-08 15:33:21

If your current visa expires when employment is termintaed, can you revert to a normal 3 month tourist visa? You wouldn't be able to work but it'd give you a bit more time to get things organised.

If you call an immigration attorney, they will probably give you advice over the phone - I spoke to several who helped me without charging for the initial conversation.

What a horrible situation

nooka Wed 13-Aug-08 18:30:54

dh has decided he has had enough. He is going to quit and I can't persuade him to do otherwise. I hope we have some sort of legal case as we will be down five grand to get us home, plus whatever we have to pay to get out of the leases. That's exluding the thousands of pounds it took to get us out here and set up new lives. Bugger

SuperBunnyisUnderRated Wed 13-Aug-08 18:58:36

Sorry, Nooka sad

Overseas moves are very expensive, especially when they don't go according to plan sad

nooka Thu 14-Aug-08 15:36:59

Well we have a little more breathing space now. UK HR have taken over (hurrah) and dh has been moved to gardening leave. We will get a decision as to whether there are any other options on Monday (I think, but I'm not totally sure we may get an option to move to Toronto, which we would probably/possibly be interested in). But in the meantime I'm looking at fixing shipping quotes up. NorkybutNice, have you looked at shippers? Our UK packers were a little disparaging about the standards of their US counterparts, but I have a feeling that they would be cheaper - we spent almost three thousand sterling getting things out here.

flowerybeanbag Thu 14-Aug-08 19:37:01

nooka it sounds a little bit more positive from your last post. It's such a stressful situation but hopefully it sounds as though the outcome might be better than you first thought.

NorkyButNice Fri 15-Aug-08 13:45:07

The company shipping our stuff is called Paramount - I've no idea as to costs, but I assume they are very professional if my company uses them. I had a google but can't find their website - I'll have a look at my forms later.

Sorry that's not much help!

nooka Sat 16-Aug-08 18:45:46

That's OK. Our UK shipping company have sent some contacts, but I like to have a few quotes and personal recommendations before committing. So far we are looking at about $7k (ouch!).

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