Working on an expired contract?
June 7, 2016 11:11 AM   Subscribe

My temporary employment contract expired a couple of weeks ago. HR told me that I am clear to continue working and they would issue me a new contract by the end of last week. I'm still waiting and HR is not responsive to my requests for follow-up. How best do I proceed? I'm in the UK, working full-time, and hopefully being paid for it! Details below the fold.

I moved to the UK a few months ago as a trailing spouse. I was issued a temporary job contract pending renewal of my initial entry visa, which expired in May. I was given a letter by the Home Office endorsing my right to work whilst my residence application is pending. HR initially said they would give me a contract upon receipt of my residence card, and I then informed them (per the HO letter) that it could take an additional six months. They agreed to give me another temporary/indefinite contract last week, which I confirmed by email with the HR supervisor at my job, but I've heard nothing since.

I'm concerned because I'm new in the UK, and while I have the legal right to live here and to work here, I don't have any documentation supporting that I am, in fact, employed. It also seems that the bureaucratic systems in the UK are massive and rigid, and I'm wanting to be especially careful about not breaking any rules, backing things up with paperwork, etc., so working without a contract seems a bit fishy to me. I am also concerned that I won't be paid for my hours working, or that this will affect my statutory rights (sick leave, vacation time, maternity leave, etc.). I am working for the NHS, but I don't know what recourse I would have if something comes up and they, say, decide not to pay me, or count me as not employed for these weeks I'm working on an expired contract.

How should I best handle this? Any other general advice and/or tips for working through this sort of bureaucracy are welcome, too!
posted by stillmoving to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I should add that my original (expired) contract was as a full-time employee, not as a contractor or zero-hours person.
posted by stillmoving at 11:13 AM on June 7, 2016

It's very common in the UK for employers not to issue contracts for a long, long time. I've worked for a year without one in the past, and the reason is almost certainly admin just taking too long to get it done, rather than something untoward. In every case I've been paid and had my rights honoured. This is even stronger when working for the NHS: they're not trying to do you out of something, they're just not quick.

If your manager is on your side, remind them that having a paper contract is important for you. Ask them to follow it up, or get agreement from them that it's okay for you to follow it up with HR. If your manager is cool with that, go down to HR in person and ask for your contract there and then. Say you're happy to wait while they print it out. They'll think you're 'pushy' but it doesn't matter if your get what you need.
posted by Emma May Smith at 11:37 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am not in the UK, but I would be extremely uncomfortable working without having a legal agreement saying that I am employed, especially if I were working outside of my home country where my residency was contingent on having gainful employment. I would be bothering HR on the daily about this, and screw them if they thought I was being pushy. It's not pushy to want someone to do their damn job, especially when their not doing so puts you in jeopardy like this. Fuck that noise, get on them to make you a contract.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:56 AM on June 7, 2016


What does your expired contract say happens after it expires? Has your "initial entry visa" been renewed? or are you in a different status now?

The specific wording of the contract, combined with what you have in writing right now from HR may be enough to cover you (especially if it says something like "the terms of this contract terminate will terminate upon OP's loss of right to work in the UK or on 5/31/2016, whichever is earlier. This contract may be renewed upon the agreement of both parties.") But may be not.

I would actually take the fact that they are blowing you off now as a possible good sign -- they don't think it is a big deal (and they certainly would think it was if there was a chance of you not being paid for work you are doing). That being said, I would try one last round with HR (on the phone or in person) where you make you again state your (entirely valid) concerns about pay, vacation, benefits, etc. After that conversation, if they say something that sounds good to you, follow up in email summarizing what they have promised (e.g. a backdated contract by 6/15).

If HR can't offer you what you need to hear, I would bring your manager into it. Again, start with in person then follow up in writing to say that you don't feel comfortable working without a contract, and absent action from HR you will be forced to leave as of, say, 6/15. Regardless of how HR feels about it, your manager will not want to have to deal with losing you, and should light the fires necessary to get you what you need.

The reason why I suggest starting with non-written communication is that sometimes, it helps to be able to see/hear where the person is coming from. Also, HR types may be wary of promising too much in email, but in a casual conversation might be willing to say something like: "oh yeah, we are usually kind of delayed with these contract renewals, standard policy is just to backdate everything."

Afterwards though, document, document, document. And if they deny that what you documented is true -- well, then you know how much to trust these particular employers.

All of the above is assuming that there's nothing in your current visa that requires you to be employed in order to stay in the country. If that is the case, you should pretty much go stage a sit-in at HR immediately.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:19 PM on June 7, 2016

Thank you for the replies. Sparklemotion, I did go the phone first, email confirmation later route, and will soon step up my queries to my manager. Emma may smith, I have only ever worked in settings where an absence of contract is unheard of, so I appreciate your reassurance. I'll try to remember to update once this issue is solved.
posted by stillmoving at 12:40 PM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

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