40

I've been dismissed by a company I was due to start a job with, just a few days before the job was meant to start. They have no intention of providing me with any compensation despite the fact I handed in my notice as my previous job, moved to the other end of the country, and signed a lease at a new property to take this job.

For more detail here is a timescale in which I'll use the abbreviation BCE to mean Before Commencement of Employment.

  • 7 weeks BCE received and signed contract of employment with start date.
  • At this time I handed in my notice to my then employer and landlord.
  • I had little contact with the company or agent who hired me until 3 weeks BCE when the agent called me to check that everything was on track with my move.
  • 1 week BCE I managed to secure and sign for a lease on a property in the city the new job was located in. I had to make multiple journeys and incur considerable costs to view properties and find somewhere to live.
  • 3 days (1 working day) BCE the agent called me to inform me that the company would no longer be able to hire me because of financial difficulties.
  • 1 day BCE I received email confirmation from the company they would no longer be able to hire me and that they were not expecting to compensate me.

It may be of note that I am UK based (I moved from the South coast to Scotland for the job) and although there was a probationary period specified in the contract I am under the impression that that would not have started at the point the employment was terminated.

Are there grounds for a breach of contract here?


RESOLUTION:

After giving the company one last chance to compensate me for the notice period (which they refused), I got in contact with my local Citizens Advice Bureau. They recommended I send a Notice of Intent to Sue to the old company, with a detailed breakdown of damages.

In the letter asked the company for reimbursement for my notice period, all moving costs, and first month of rent as damages for the breach of contract. To my relief, they agreed to pay this amount in full, rather than challenging it in court.

  • 4
    Do you know if they've filed for bankruptcy? – pipe May 22 '18 at 7:35
  • 1
    Does your contract specify some kind of "period of notice"? (Sorry, I don't know the English term). That is, if they did hire you and wanted to fire you the first day, would they have had to keep you for a while? – pipe May 22 '18 at 7:38
  • 1
    @Chris I mentioned in my last paragraph that, whilst there is a probationary period specified (for which no notice is necessary), I was under the impression that that would not have started until the employment started. – Luke Stevens May 22 '18 at 10:47
  • 3
    "BCE" is a somewhat confusing choice of abbreviation since it can also mean, "before common era," which is equivalent to BC as in, "before Christ." I'm sure you don't mean that you were terminated over 2000 years ago. =) Is it an existing common abbreviation? – jpmc26 May 22 '18 at 14:59
  • 1
    @JackAidley late reply, but I have added the resolution to the question – Luke Stevens May 2 at 10:25
41

UK: For all I know you cannot be fired unless you are hired. They must hire you. Once a job offer is made and accepted, they must hire you. If they don't, call a lawyer.

I personally know someone who got hired, and when he arrived for his first day's work at the new company, he found that the whole department that he was supposed to join had been laid of. The company had to hire him.

PS. "Financial difficulties" means you call a lawyer urgently. Once they are bankrupt your chances of extracting money are not good.

  • 5
    But, can they hire them, and then lay off immediately without giving a reason, correct? – John Dvorak May 22 '18 at 5:12
  • 1
    @JohnDvorak pretty much, and recent changes in the UK make it much harder to challenge rredundancy if you have less than 2 years employment with the company. – user4210 May 22 '18 at 6:23
  • 1
    @JohnDvorak Although there is no basic right to a notice period or right to a general claim for unfair dismissal during the first month (see worksmart.org.uk/work-rights/basics/when-your-rights-start), it is still wise for them to give a reason as dismissal on some grounds (e.g pregnancy, protected characteristics, whistleblowing) is illegal. – Jack Aidley May 22 '18 at 14:54
  • 1
    You havea typo in "laid of". – Kat May 23 '18 at 1:20
  • I know of a case with temp agencies you sign a contract, turn up and the person hiring had got fired, so they just didn't bother! – Wilf May 23 '18 at 19:53
18

Yes, it is breach of contract but it is unclear whether you can get meaningful compensation

According to UK Government Advice, if the employer withdraws the offer after "[t]he employer has confirmed that the job offer was unconditional, or the applicant has met all conditions" then "[t]he applicant can sue the employer for ‘breach of contract’". However, this advice from the TUC states that "[i]f a court decides that your contract was breached, it can order your employer to pay you damages or compensation. This is usually limited to the wages you would have earned during the contractual notice period" so you may find that while you can sue the available compensation makes this a poor use of your time.

Consult a solicitor specialising in employment law.

You may also wish to consider simply politely contacting the employer with a list of the costs incurred as a result of their failure to honour a good-faith contract and hope they will do the right thing and offer to offset at least some of your costs.

  • 1
    This is silly... if the payment ordered is limited to the wages that would've been paid then isn't it always to the benefit of the company to avoid paying you and make you take them to court? – Mehrdad May 23 '18 at 5:49
  • 2
    @Mehrdad As I understand it, punitive damages are rare outside of the US. Court costs and the time and hassle are reasons not to do what you suggest. – Jack Aidley May 23 '18 at 6:37
  • @JackAidley: Yeah I guess... – Mehrdad May 23 '18 at 7:38
  • 3
    @Mehrdad Note that in the UK (pretty sure this applies to Scotland as well as England&Wales), the loser in a civil case pays both sides' legal costs (except in a small claims case - and even there, there is the court fee to pay). – Martin Bonner May 23 '18 at 15:15
  • 1
    @JackAidley In particular, it doesn't happen in the US. – Martin Bonner May 23 '18 at 19:47
9

Yes, and even if not there are promissory estoppel issues - hire a lawyer.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.