You and the Law – 1st December 2009

Hunger strikes

Before I started my new job they sent me a letter stating that my hours were 9am to 5.30pm with an hour for lunch.  The trouble is no one actually gets a dinner hour and we’re just expected to work through. 

I asked the others about getting a contract of employment but they just laughed.  I don’t want to ask too many questions since I might lose my job.  WR

You’re in a difficult but not uncommon situation.  The law will protect you up to a point.  If you were to insist on taking your hour for lunch, for example, and were sacked as a result you could take the firm to court for breach of contract.  The letter you received forms part of your contract.

Alternatively you could claim unfair dismissal, even though you have worked for your employer for less than 12 months: you are entitled to a 20-minute break every six hours under the Working Time Regulations, and if you’re sacked for taking it your dismissal would be automatically unfair.

Having said all that, compensation would be likely to be minimal and you could find yourself without a job.

Different names

Although I have been divorced 20 years I still use my married name. However, my son was born before I was married and uses my maiden name. I have a small amount of money in the bank: will he have any trouble sorting this out after I die because we have different names? 

I made a simple Will out years ago on a form you get from newsagents, but my witnesses have both died now.  GC

This shouldn’t present any difficulties.  If you have less than £5,000 in the bank it may well be prepared to release the money without your son having to apply for probate.  He will probably just have to produce a death certificate and complete the bank’s own procedures, which will include checking his identity. 

For this purpose your marriage certificate and his birth certificate will come in handy.  I don’t recommend home-made Wills, however.  They can cause more problems than they solve.

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