I have a 12-month contract with the UK branch of a multinational to fulfil certain tasks at intervals throughout the year for a fixed annual fee, to be paid in twelve equal monthly payments. The company announced closure of the UK operation. What are my contract rights?
'Contract rights' depend on the contractual terms. The contract should govern whether your contract can be terminated early or whether you are entitled to be paid out for the remainder of the 12 month term. You will need to review the written contract and if necessary seek legal advice on it and your entitlements under it.
You have not explained the nature of your contract with the UK branch. Are you an employee working under an employment contract? Are you a consultant? Or do you have your own business and a contract to provide certain business services to the UK branch? The nature of your status will impact on the statutory rights, if any, that you have.
Employees have certain statutory rights in addition to any contractual terms. These include statutory minimum notice and the right not to be unfairly dismissed. Closure of the UK operation would be a potential redundancy situation, but the company must consult with employees and follow a proper dismissal process. If 20 or more employees are to be made redundant then a statutory period of consultation will apply otherwise the affected employees can each be eligible for a ‘protective award’ of up to ninety days' gross pay.
Even if you are not an employee you may still be a ‘worker’, a hybrid category for those who perform services personally but do not qualify as employees. Workers have some statutory rights such as the right to statutory minimum holiday. As a worker you may have outstanding entitlements which can be pursued.
The time limit for most employment tribunal claims is three months from the date of dismissal or the act complained of. It is therefore important to seek legal advice at an early stage. Your first steps should be to review your written contract; assess whether you have outstanding contractual rights; consider your status; seek legal advice.