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Recruiter who refused to accept pay cut awarded £17,000 for unfair dismissal

14 Aug 2018 By Lauren Brown

Slashing pay and hours ‘fundamentally breached’ employment contract, judge rules

A recruiter who resigned after refusing to accept a pay cut has won £17,000 for unfair constructive dismissal at an employment tribunal. 

Liverpool Civil and Family Court heard Mr C Decker had worked for Extra Personnel Logistics, a Merseyside-based driver recruitment agency, since 2008. From 2009 until he left in July 2017, he was involved in the everyday operations of the business, recruiting drivers of heavy and large goods vehicles. 

Decker initially worked 40 hours a week but this was reduced to 32 in 2015. In February 2017, Decker was asked by the company’s managing director, Brad Richardson, if he would reduce his working hours from 32 to 16, blaming the agency’s loss of two contracts and a quiet period in the wider industry. Under the proposed change, Decker would have lost £205 a week. 

Decker replied that, after reviewing his current situation and financial commitments, he felt he was unable to afford any reduction in his current hours. At a meeting on 7 March, Decker said he would be willing to accept a reduction from 32 hours to 24 hours if his day rate was increased from £102.97 to £110.00. 

Richardson emailed in May asking which days would work best for Decker. He replied Monday to Wednesday at the revised day rate and Richardson said he would have “this” for him by the following Monday.

Decker had taken “this” to mean his proposals had been accepted. However, on 1 June 2017, Richardson said the business was currently not in a position to offer a pay rise and offered a different contract, which now had to be signed. 

Decker said he had not agreed to another contract and believed the pay rise was not unreasonable given his eight years at the company. 

The judgment noted that after this exchange, Decker “no longer felt valued as an employee” and that “he was being forced out...for asking for an additional £0.88 per hour”. The recruiter handed in his resignation on 5 June 2017. 

The tribunal ruled “that a reduction of this magnitude was a serious matter for [Decker]” and that his employer “had fundamentally breached” his employment contract. It added the enforced reduction in Decker’s hours and the consequential loss in pay were the reasons he resigned.

It was also held that Richardson had failed to comply with the Acas code of practice. In particular, he failed to adequately treat an email from Decker on 1 June 2017, laying out the issues he had with the company’s actions, as a grievance. The judge ruled his response “fell short”. 

Decker was awarded £16,852.12 for unfair constructive dismissal. This included a basic award of £4,942.92 for his eight years of continuous employment at the company and a compensatory award of £11,882.20, uplifted by 10 per cent for the employer’s breach of the Acas code. 

Andrew Willis, head of legal at CIPD HR-Inform, said the case demonstrated the need to recognise the Acas code as “more than just guidance” and that “failure to correctly follow it can lead to significant financial ramifications”.

He added: “To avoid a successful claim, the employer will need to prove that there was a fair reason for the employee to be dismissed, which the court concluded was not present here. The level of the compensation awarded is a key point because it takes into account earnings lost alongside the employer’s failure to correctly comply with the Acas code of practice by not holding a meeting to discuss the employee’s grievance without delay.” 

Both Extra Personnel Logistics and Decker have been contacted from comment. 

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