The Grimsby Telegraph reports that 17 workers at a car logistics company have won a legal battle over the introduction of a zero hours contract.
Staff at Paragon Automotive in Stallingborough, South Humberside pursued claims of unfair dismissal against the company after it changed their employment contracts to dictate the number of hours they could work. The workers' previous contracts provided for 40 or 45 hour work weeks.
Chris Randall of Bridge McFarland, the law firm representing the workers, said zero hours contracts are condemned because "they provide no certainty for the workers and can provide absolute power to the employer."
All 17 claimants were members of Unite union agreed to sign the new zero hours contracts on the proviso that they would challenge it. Apparently 63 other workers at Paragon, who are not union members, signed the contracts with no formal objection.
Of the 17 who claimed unfair dismissal, 15 reached out-of-court settlements to secure reinstatement of their original contracts of employment; the other two won unspecified compensation at a Leeds employment tribunal.
Mr. Randall told the Grimsby Telegraph: "This case sends a warning to employers that despite difficult times, the state of the economy cannot be used as an excuse to implement measures at will."
Unite union rep Malcolm Hancock added: "These were extremely draconian actions proposed by Paragon. However, with the support of Unite union, our members demonstrated that by standing together they could protect their terms and conditions of employment."
What should I do if my employer varies my contract of employment without my agreement?
If your employer imposes changes in your contract of employment without your agreement you have three options:
- Accept the change and continue to work under the amended contract.
- If the employer imposes a significant change (e.g., reduces your pay or alters your working hours) it may have committed a serious breach of contract. Where this is the case, you may be able to claim constructive dismissal.
- Alternatively, you may agree to work under the amended contract but under written protest, making it clear that you do not accept the new terms and are treat the change as a breach of and dismissal from the original contract. In these circumstances you retain the right to seek compensation and/or a declaration from the courts that your employer must abide by the original contract of employment. Subject to meeting certain length of service requirements, you may also claim unfair dismissal.
** Additional Information & Advice **
Alternatively, you may prefer to speak with an employment law solicitor. You can find a solicitor in your area for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action for your situation and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.