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Work wants to end job contract

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Posted

Hi Guys,

 

I've just been dropped a bombshell by my work and wondered if I could get some advice.

 

I worked for two years as a designer employed by the same company before having to move across the country. I have a decent relationship with

my boss and talked to him about this and suggested I could still be available to do freelance work. He suggested instead that I stay on my current

contract (40 hours a week, fixed salary + holidays, etc) but work full time from home. I spoke with some people and they told me I would be

mad to pass up the offer, so I accepted.

 

Now it's been about two months and the quality of my work has not deteriorated and I have not received any complaints but I was just told

that they would like to end my contract after christmas (charming..). I was in a bit of shock and could only ask why - apparently the long distance

relationship wasn't work despite them agreeing my work wasn't unsatisfactory. Now they want me to sign a mutual agreement to end the contract.

I will simply cease to have a job after christmas unless, that is, I choose to move back, which isn't possible.

 

I'm afraid they have me somewhat cornered on the place of work point. I understand they can't simply fire me, so asking me to sign a mutual

agreement infers that I could still make some demands now. Does anyone know what I should do?

 

Thanks in advance!

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Posted

You have rights. You need a lawyer to tell you what those rights are. Speak to the Verwaltungsrat of your company. If you do not agree to sign the piece of paper they are pushing at you - and you do not have to sign anything, remember - they will have to find a reason to fire you.

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Posted

Did you have the remote/home office clause put into your contract? Only a lawyer can tell you if this is required or helps you but mine did so I had it put it my contract. As always, DO NOT SIGN that document and get yourself a lawyer for Arbeitsrecht straight away.

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Posted

 

Speak to the Verwaltungsrat

 

?? You are probably thinking of the Betriebsrat. A Verwaltungsrat is something quite different.

 

They will of course find a reason to get rid of you - it will be easy enough for them to find grounds in "Wegfall des Arbeitsplatzes" with your wanting to do the job from home, and a different location. Just because they agreed to it in the first place doesn't mean they will have to stick to that, if they can somehow justify the home-office situation not working for them. However, yes, you will have associated rights, such as 3-months notification period, and maybe a redundancy package.

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Posted

They probably can find a reason to get rid of you if they look hard enough. I wouldn't have thought that they could use home working as a reason to fire you as if I've understood correctly it was their suggestion - not your request. In any case, firing someone is a hassle that most employers want to avoid so you probably do have some room for negotiations. They would probably prefer an amicable separation, even if they have to pay out a little to achieve it, then an acrimonious divorce that ends up in court. They can change their mind of course, but in that case they should give you notice - as per the terms of the contract. From what you say it doesn't sound as if they're doing this.

 

Having said that, there are limits and you don't want to be unreasonable. I would argue that they should pay notice - how much depends on the contract, but three months is usually a starting point for negotiation.

 

Or, just a thought, as they're happy with your work, is it worth suggesting that you continue to do some work for them on a freelance basis? That way they don't have the hassle of managing a homeworker (which may be what's at the bottom of this) and you continue to get at least some income from them. Might be worth a try.

 

Warning - I'm not a lawyer. Whatever you do, you should consult a lawyer for advice.

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Posted

 

DO NOT SIGN that document and get yourself a lawyer for Arbeitsrecht straight away.

 

Sound advice - they have decided to get rid of you, so now you have to make sure you get a reasonable separation from them (IE more than statutary notice since they are not getting rid of you for misconduct or on the grounds that they are reducing headcount).

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Posted

Lyra, I read the OP's post that is was his personal decision to move, not the company's. They have already said they will keep him on "if (he) moves back". That's why, despite their having initially suggested he could work from home, they could easily now say that isn't working out for them. And he had already offered to work for them freelance and had this rejected (wouldn't be a viable legal option anyway, as it would end up as a Scheinselbständigkeit if he was doing the same job as before).

 

Changing the location of a job is always a possibility for a company - if employees refuse, they can give them an "Änderungskündigung".

 

I agree not to sign anything, though. Since the OP can't move back to the company location and they don't want to keep him on, working from home, he'll have to negotiate the conditions of leaving.

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Posted

f the Op signs a mutual agreement then he will also get a 3 month ban on his unemployment benefit.If you need a goos lawyer do a google on Gneiting and Gneiting.The guy is a specialist

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Posted

Hi everyone, thanks to all for the advice, it's really appreciated. Certainly the consensus seems to be that I should get onto a lawyer and not sign anything just yet, and that's exactly what I'll do.

 

Some additional details: My contract wasn't changed at all when I moved to working from home. This was most likely an error on my part, if I had requested that change it clearly would have been much more difficult to claim the change of place of work as the reason for ending the contract! As has been pointed out though, and I do believe, they would have found a reason anyway. The company itself is small enough, but is an offshoot of a much larger company with an assumedly healthy legal department. As I believe the reason for letting me go is a steady decline in suitable projects and not to do with the quality of my work, I am expecting that they will choose to make my position redundant. Does that sound correct? I will ask a lawyer if I am entitled to severance pay.

 

It is an interesting point from Mik Dikinson about the 3 month ban on unemployment benefits. While I, like most people, would rather get a job than claim benefits, it's not always so easy in the current environment, and I might have to end up doing that. I assume that if I refuse a mutual agreement then I am forcing the company to make a Kündigung, and then they would need a substantial reason, correct? Again, questions for the lawyer.

 

One additional thing that is interesting is that they told me this on the phone just today (30 nov) and I have not and will not receive any written notice as of the beginning of december. So although they wish for the contract to end on dec 31st, the notice period in my contract is one month to the end of the month, meaning by the time I receive legally recognised written notice they will have missed the deadline for a month and I'll have to work until the end of January! I don't think I need a lawyer to figure out that they've made a mistake there! Either that or they are playing me for a fool. The company has pulled something similar on another non-german worker in the past. Although he was unfortunately not quite competent, he was somehow given a full time contract after his six month probation before his work started to stand out. Instead of finding a reason to fire him, they called him in and asked him to sign a mutual agreement offering one months pay if he did not come back the next day. The poor guy had weak german and didn't know his rights. He signed on the spot and ended up having to leave germany. I always thought that the company took a risk and got quite lucky. Does this sound unethical or extraordinary?

 

Thanks to everyone for the help - I wish I didn't have to be getting involved with lawyers now when I was hoping to wind down for xmas, but sure that's life!

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Posted

 

If the Op signs a mutual agreement then he will also get a 3 month ban on his unemployment benefit.

 

As I seem to post on all these threads, the ban is discretionary and depends on the employee "actively working to create his unmeployment", ie. resigning without a follow-on job. If he can convincingly argue that he would have been fired anyway, and signing a mutual agreement was just a way to make a bad situation slightly better, they wont necessarily impose a ban (I've signed one of these in taht exact situation twice and never experienced a ban).

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Posted

They are clearly trying to screw you in every possible way, likely breaching the law in a way that a lawyer could screw them deeply. I would suggest taping your future phone calls and-or requiring that every communication should be in written form, from now on.

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Posted

 

Some additional details: My contract wasn't changed at all when I moved to working from home. This was most likely an error on my part,

 

It probably was, but:

 

 

As I believe the reason for letting me go is a steady decline in suitable projects and not to do with the quality of my work, I am expecting that they will choose to make my position redundant.

 

If they can reasonably argue that the sort of contract suitable for you working from home has dried up, and any future contracts will depend on you being back at the office, its probably irrelevant whether your workplace is defined as at home or at the office.

 

 

Does that sound correct? I will ask a lawyer if I am entitled to severance pay.

 

Entitled? Almost certainly not, You can try and shame them into paying some anyway (or make the mutual agreement conditional on getting some) but with only two years service and one moths notice period you probably aren't looking at much more than a month pay anyway, and if they really do have a reason to can you, you may be on a hiding to nothing taking it to court.

 

 

I assume that if I refuse a mutual agreement then I am forcing the company to make a Kündigung, and then they would need a substantial reason, correct? Again, questions for the lawyer.

 

Not having any more suitable contracts form you and downsizing "your work at home" position, be it contractual or just a "gentlemans agreement" IS a substantial reason, especially if they offer to keep your job for you, but only if you move back. That would be difficult to fight witha written contract, nearly impossible with a verbal one.

 

 

Does this sound unethical or extraordinary?

 

Extraordinary? No. Unethical? Well, perhaps not squeaky clean, but any adult who signs anything without having read what they are signing, especially without having been ABLE to read what they are signing is at least 50% "selber schuld" and earns little sympathy in my book.

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Posted

 

They are clearly trying to screw you in every possible way, likely breaching the law in a way that a lawyer could screw them deeply. I would suggest taping your future phone calls and-or requiring that every communication should be in written form, from now on.

 

You are clearly either very naive or very inexperienced in the workplace. "Screw you in every possible way" is a long long way away from this and it is very unlikely that a lawyer, however weaselly, would find ways to "screw them deeply". Or indeed at all.

 

He has a special workplace, they no longer have any (/enough) work for that workplace, position gets downsized. Thats business. Note that in America, he would probably already be on the street. Legally.

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Posted

Obviously they have every reason to do what they are doing, but the way they are doing it is completely at odds with standard german procedures (a freelance position could be terminated that way, not a standard "Unbefristet" contract). Therefore, she is very likely to get away with a relatively good package if she manages to fight back. We are not in America, for better or worse, so your point is moot.

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Posted

They will be able to make up a reason to get rid of the OP. That's a fact of life in many sectors here. The OP is not some "factory grunt" (no offence meant) in VW with a huge union behind them.

 

Once they can make up a reason, nothing else matters and the most the OP can realistically hope for is a month's pay IMO.

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Posted

The one advantage is probably (and maybe counterintuitively) the big legal department of the parent company. Lawyer up, then maybe offer to settle this amicably (in your financial favour), so that big legal department will kick and advise to take the settlement rather than protacted, possibly public, legal dispute. Main point, lawyer up

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