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I'm coming to the end of my employment at an online bike retailer, the relationship has completely broken down.

My job title is lead developer. For my last two weeks, they've asked me to work in the warehouse, picking stock. This is just the latest in a list of petty malicious things.

My contract says that they can only ask me to do work that is commensurate to my job title. Also, I have a neurological pain condition that means I'm in constant pain, it's usually manageable but excessive physical exertion is something that can trigger it into flaring up to be much worse.

7 developers have left since December, none of them were asked to do anything similar.

Am I within my rights to refuse?

UPDATE

I took my contract to HR pointed out that warehouse picking wasn't commensurate with my job title. They had to contact HR at the parent company and they agreed with me so management have backed down.

Now they just have me sitting at a desk doing nothing 😂🤷‍♂️

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    What are you asking? As this stands, there is no question here. – GreenMatt Jun 17 '19 at 15:48
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    An employer did that to me once - put me in the parts department and made to count stock (1000's of needle bearings...) I stayed and they paid... :) But the manager had done that to other who left early, so saving him from paying them... – Solar Mike Jun 17 '19 at 16:01
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    I don't see how this is off topic: "I'm in my last to weeks as an X and am being told to do Y. Can I refuse?" I can see scope for usefully answering this, as it's country specific. – Justin Jun 17 '19 at 17:50
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    Technically your always within your rights to refuse. And then they are in their rights to fire you for refusing to do your work. If you want the dirty answer, go on disability leave and cite the new physical labour has caused your disability. Your doctor will likely approve of this. – Trevor Jun 17 '19 at 21:22
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    I myself can be quite clumsy at times. So I might purely accidentally drop some items on the floor, and they might break. Can't blame me for that, my job is software developer, not warehouse picker. – gnasher729 Jun 17 '19 at 22:34
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My job title is lead developer. For my last two weeks, they've asked me to work in the warehouse, picking stock

You HAVE to refuse. To work in a warehouse you need to go through different Health and Safety training. Not to mention training in using warehouse machinery.

Here is an excerpt from the HSE Warehouse and Storage guide:

Employees also have health and safety responsibilities for themselves and colleagues. They must:

  • work in accordance with the training and instruction given by their employer;
  • report situations they believe to be unsafe; and
  • not do anything that could endanger themselves or other people. (bolding mine).

Not to mention the same guide advises NOT to use manual labour but to use machinery (on which special training is needed).

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Let's answer the implicit question of "what you do about this?". As others have said, they can't make you do this, but they can do other stuff that makes your work life unpleasant. You are near the end of your contract. The logical conclusion is that they have run out of useful stuff for you to do and want you gone. Here is how to deal with it.

You go to your boss and say "Judging from the work you are giving me you have run out of work for me and want me gone. Is that the case?" If they don't deny it you say "Then let's do a deal. I've got a month left. You pay me for half that and I'll be gone tomorrow. You don't waste money paying the most expensive shelf stacker ever, and I get to start looking for a new job."

Obviously the numbers are up for negotiation. But seems like a win win. The company gets to save money. The OP gets to NOT do boring manual work, and gets two weeks of effectively paid time off, which they can use to look for another job, play with their kids, or whatever.

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    I dont really see it as a win win. OP ends up with no pay for half a month which he may need. – ayrton clark Jun 18 '19 at 9:14
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    telling an employer you are leaving before you start looking for work is a bad idea. Look for work, sign a contract with the new employer, give notice. In that order. – user10399 Jun 18 '19 at 10:02
  • @KeithLoughnane he is on a fixed term contract everyone knew the date he was leaving from the day he started. You can't look for contracts in the uk if you have more than 2 weeks left on your existing contract as they want you to start almost tomorrow – WendyG Jun 18 '19 at 12:43
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    @aytron But, OP is also free to attend lots of interviews during two paid weeks, and if an offer comes up he can start immediately. A lot depends on how likely that scenario is to happen. – Julia Hayward Jun 18 '19 at 12:44
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    I already have a new job, I start a few days after I leave this one. Unfortunately I wasn't able to bring my start date forward. – user1450877 Jun 18 '19 at 14:43
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If it is in your contract that you can only be asked to perform duties commensurate to your title then you could ask, in writing, how picking stock relates to "lead developer".

But be prepared, it will not end good. If they have decided to wrap the project up then they can find something mind numbing that is development related and ask you to do that hoping you'll get the hint. Instead of stock picking, for example, they could literally ask you something like count the number of times the letter 'a' appears before the letter 'b' in the codebase for some "secret managerial project" and you won't be able to refuse.

This sort of thing happened to me a long time ago, one of my first jobs, the boss asked me not to park in the staff carpark anymore without giving a reason. I knew the project was being wrapped up so I took the hint. It isn't a nice thing to have to go through but some bosses are just jerks.

Probably a good idea that you're looking for greener pastures elsewhere.

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  • Yep, comments still apply. They can still make it worse for him. – solarflare Jun 18 '19 at 3:08
  • Thanks, fixed it – solarflare Jun 18 '19 at 3:18
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    Sorry, I misunderstood that order, and I removed every letter a that appeared before a letter b in the codebase. That happened exactly 23,719 times. – gnasher729 Jun 18 '19 at 8:21
  • It might be mind-numbing, but at least it won't cause OP physical pain like their current assignment. – Erik Jun 18 '19 at 8:24
  • @gnasher729 sorry did I forget to say "not allowed to use a script"? Please redo this task by EOB. – solarflare Jun 18 '19 at 22:40
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Start documenting everything, take copies of emails and written instructions and make notes of any verbal instructions given.

You have an excellent case for constructive dismissal here - so long as you get your documentation correct, you should take this to tribunal.

Note that I'm taking your comments about "I'm coming to the end of my employment" as meaning that you are about to quit because of this - if you are an independent contractor you may have other avenues such as breach of contract, but under normal employment in the UK this is constructive dismissal and you should take legal action.

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