Employment law advice in a hurry
February 23, 2012 2:46 PM   Subscribe

My wife finds herself quite unexpectedly facing termination from her job and needs legal/employment advice quickly. Some details after the link.

To keep things brief: there has been a rapid deterioration of relations between my wife and her employers. Almost out of the blue, they have now told her that she has until Monday to decide between disciplinary action & investigation leading to termination, or a "compromise deal" of a quick end to the job, no investigation, but still described in the document as a termination.

We are in the UK.

She has not been happy in her job for a while and does not want to fight them or stay in position, but we need to make sure she is not screwed in the job market for her next step. How will it look to future employers if she accepts the compromise, how will the end of this employment be recorded - that's the area of doubt.

It's not necessary to go into the rights and wrong of the termination as far as either party is concerned, but I will say that there is no suggestion of criminality. Just a sad story of mismanagement and personality clashes that has become unsustainable.

So, this is the question - I know you are not her lawyers, so where can she find impartial legal/employment advice in a hurry? I'm aware of the CAB as an option, and that's so far the only option we can think of. She's not a member of a union; are there helplines of any kind we could try. We are not wealthy but we can pay for advice if needed. Time is at this moment more important than money. The compromise is obviously what everyone wants - we just want to make sure she's not getting unnecessarily screwed for the future.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There's the ACAS helpline.
posted by grouse at 2:52 PM on February 23, 2012

If the "compromise deal" doesn't include any kind of severance, I think she should just quit.
posted by infinityjinx at 3:01 PM on February 23, 2012 [8 favorites]

I would resign before termination unless they are paying me enough to make it worth while to be terminated.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:52 PM on February 23, 2012

Demand severance and no note of termination, or tell them she'll take the investigation, the most onerous of options for the employer. This seems weird to be out of the blue, so I'm assuming there's room for negotiation if they're leaving it up to her. As far as future employment goes, I'm not big on UK emplaw, but t doesn't sound like it could get much worse. Once the investigation is started, she quits. I don't see dignity in any other option.
posted by rhizome at 4:19 PM on February 23, 2012

If this was the US, I'd say it was a bluff to get her to quit so their unemployment insurance doesn't go up. But I have no idea how it works in the UK. Is there anything different, from the employer's perspective, between someone quitting or getting fired?
posted by gjc at 4:56 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

If they aren't even offering the fig leaf of "we'll call it a mutually agreed-upon resignation so you don't have to say 'I was fired'", what advantages are there to not insisting on the investigation?

Personally, I would be unlikely to let them skip the investigation unless I felt I really had done something bad enough to warrant being fired over (and even then I would try to get a reality check from somebody I trusted, because I know I have a tendency to slide to "it's all my fault"). If it really is a matter of "mismanagement and personality clashes that has become unsustainable" and they can't show that your wife did anything unethical or wrong, I'm having trouble imagining why she should make it easier for them by resigning.
posted by Lexica at 6:34 PM on February 23, 2012

This happened to my friend. She took the investigation and lasted about a week before handing in her notice. I think they expected her to sign off sick for the duration of her notice period (several others in the same position had done s). They were somewhat surprised when she turned up at work chipper and smiling to work her notice period. That gave her great satisfaction, and made her feel more in control of the situation.

Anyway, your wife can always resign today. Or tomorrow. Or at any point whilst being investigated. What might be fun, is waiting until shortly before they give her the results of their investigation.

As for help, if the company has a third-party employee advice service, this might be useful.

Note that either resigning, or being sacked, will probably affect eligibility for job seekers allowance (for up to 6 months). I think the other alternative - redundancy - might mean that they can't employ someone else to do the same job.
posted by plonkee at 3:21 AM on February 24, 2012

Future employers will want a reference. But some of my previous employers are only prepared to confirm my start and end dates, some others will also answer a "would you be prepared to employ them again" question too. Of course some people will give out much more detailed information too. It's worth seeing if you can find out what type of reference the employer will give before your wife has to make this decision.

But Plonkee is completely correct - nothing to stop your wife resigning now.

It might also be worth looking at if there's a difference in pay and notice period between resigning/termination - and which your wife would prefer.

From the information given, I'd certainly be tempted to go through the investigation, while looking for a new job of course. It could be that the investigation ends up recommending training or something similar. If you go this route I'd second grouse's suggestion of speaking to ACAS.
posted by SuckPoppet at 6:35 AM on February 24, 2012

You could also say that the employer doesn't do references but find people inside the company she works with who WILL give her a good reference.
posted by stormpooper at 8:12 AM on February 24, 2012

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