I worked at a professional services firm for several years as an analyst. Following leave for bereavement, I was immediately dismissed in a brief letter and was told I was only due statutory redundancy pay. I am therefore struggling to pay my bills. I am certain I am due more compensation but my former employer is not engaging with me. What are my options?
Rachel Phillips, solicitor in the London office of JMW Solicitors, says you can challenge your dismissal if you have worked for your employer for at least two years and believe there was not a genuine redundancy situation, or your employer did not follow a fair redundancy process, which certainly seems like the case here.
You could have a claim for unfair dismissal and seek compensation on this basis. Claims must be brought within three months of the termination of your employment (subject to any extension as a result of the early conciliation process). Employment law is similar no matter where you work in the UK.
Also consider whether there was any element of discrimination behind the decision to dismiss you. If, for example, you struggled with your mental health, you should look at the Equality Act 2010 as employers are prohibited from treating employees unfavourably because of a disability. There is no required minimum period of service for discrimination claims.
Your employer should have paid your notice pay. If they have dismissed you without your full entitlement to notice pay, you may have a claim for wrongful dismissal. Also explore whether there is any other contractual compensation due to you, such as your accrued holiday, any contractual bonus or enhanced redundancy pay. If you believe you are owed compensation in respect of any of these, you can bring a breach of contract claim to the employment tribunal for non-payment of these amounts.
In the first instance, you should check your dismissal letter or any relevant company policy to see if you have a right to submit an appeal directly to your employer against your dismissal. There is no statutory right of appeal with a redundancy dismissal, however it is good practice for employers to offer this.
Alongside this, it is also possible to try to engage in a “without prejudice” discussion with your employer. This in essence means having an off-the-record discussion that neither party could rely on later in an employment tribunal. You can outline the claims you believe you have and the compensation you are seeking. Often, employers are keen to avoid litigation due to the expenses, time and reputational risk involved, so may prefer to reach a financial settlement via this route.
If your employer continues not to engage with you, you should proceed with making the relevant claims at the employment tribunal to seek compensation. You must tell the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service before making a claim. It will then offer you “early conciliation”. You will be appointed an Acas officer to talk to both you and your employer about the dispute. This initial process gives you another chance to come to an agreement without having to go to tribunal.
What is the most tax-efficient way to sell a plot of land near my house?
Our family home includes five acres of land in the English countryside near Burford in the Cotswolds. Some of this is garden but most is lawn and woods. We would like to sell a plot for development, as we no longer need it and could use the extra money. We have not yet decided whether we will continue to live in the existing house. We want to make sure that we are doing this the right way because we have heard that money made from selling land to developers in this way is sometimes taxed at very high rates.
Sarah Wray, senior associate at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, says you are sensible to consider tax planning at an early stage. There are rules that may mean your profits will be taxed as income at rates of up to 45 per cent. Assuming you’ve lived in your home for many years, you are only likely to fall within these rules if you enter into a “slice of the action” contract. This is where you agree to share the ultimate profits with the purchasing developer. Take specialist advice if you would like to pursue this option.
However, it sounds like you intend to make a straightforward sale of the plot, in which case your main concerns are capital gains tax and principal private residence relief. CGT is charged when you sell a capital asset, such as your home, land or shares, and make a gain. PPR can apply to property that you own and occupy as your only, or main, residence. It is the reason people don’t normally pay CGT when they sell their main home.
The rate of CGT depends on whether you are selling residential property (18/28 per cent) or non-residential property (10/20 per cent). You need to take care here because HM Revenue & Customs normally applies a very broad definition to “residential property”. It can include woodlands, orchards and paddocks surrounding a property. If these are included then you may be liable to tax at the higher rates. A lot depends on this, so seek advice and provide clear plans, photographs and evidence of the plot’s use.
If the plot is classed as residential property, the good news is that you may be able to claim PPR. However, be aware that it comes with limits. PPR only applies automatically to up to 1.23 acres, including the house. If the development plot falls outside this area, you will need to demonstrate that it is required for the enjoyment of the house. This might be hard if the land is “surplus to requirement”.
I recommend you take advice on whether PPR is available on your plot before you take action. The plot will only benefit from PPR if it is still being used as your garden or grounds at the time it is sold. Accordingly, don’t partition it off prior to sale, or complete on the sale of your house before exchanging on the development plot, as you may preclude the relief.
The opinions in this column are intended for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. The Financial Times Ltd and the authors are not responsible for any direct or indirect result arising from any reliance placed on replies, including any loss, and exclude liability to the full extent.
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