My father has worked for the same company since 1974. During this time there have been several buy-outs etc but each time he has been assured that his employment is regarded as continuous.

The last amendment to his contract was in 1989, when he transferred to a subsidiary company but again, it was expressly noted in his contract that his employment was regarded as continuous.

The senior manager of this subsidiary has recently taken voluntary redundancy and his payout is apparently causing the subsidiary to be less profitable. It appears that the new management wish to “stream-line” the work force without paying redundancies. The work force consists of tight knit team of about five, all of whom have worked for the company for over 20 years and all of whom are over 50. One of them has unfortunately been off sick for the last 8 months but this is covered by his current contract.

When the team turned up for work on Monday and were handed forms to sign that stated they were now “contractors”. There has been no consultation prior to this and the only instruction that they are being given is that they have no choice but to sign the forms. Most of the team do not even understand the implications of signing and, understandably, they are all very upset about the way it is being handled. They are feeling trapped and don’t know what their options are(The company is fairly large and has its own HR facility so they’re presuming they have no choice.) It doesn’t help that they are all over 50, as they are worried what their alternatives are if they are “forced out” for not signing the forms.

Are the forms legal and can they just be forced on them? Does what the company is trying to do amount to constructive dismissal? What should they do next?

Your help is most gratefully received.

Many thanks in anticipation of your responses.

Dawn Cooper

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