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I work in an office-based Comms / Marketing role within the science / technology sector.

Approximately one month ago I was offered a new job with a different employer, signed a contract with the new employer and handed in my notice with my current employer.

My notice period with my current employer is three months, I am due to start the new job mid-May.

The contract that I signed with my new employer seemed pretty standard - they are a reputable company.

My start date was agreed between me and the new employer's HR department, via email, after the contract had been signed and is thus not part of the contract that I signed - again I think this is pretty standard (but I could be wrong).

With many companies currently asking all employees to work from home (due to covid-19) for the forseeable future, on-boarding of new employees is going to be much more difficult.

In this situation could my new employer unilaterally decide to delay my start date? Or, should my contract somehow protect me from this - even though it doesn't stipulate my actual start date?

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    While we normally do give advice on how to handle standard legal situations that would only require the legal knowledge of an HR worker or professional, this is not a normal situation and requires a real lawyer. – nvoigt Mar 17 at 9:08
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    The answer depends on your new employer. No one can be sure how would they deal with this. They may not even know the answer themselves. – scaaahu Mar 17 at 9:27
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    You should definitely ask your new employer. They might not even have in mind that you're starting, so asking them whether everything will continue as agreed might be a good idea. – Morfildur Mar 17 at 10:32
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Get legal advice.

In the UK you can phone the Citizens Advice Bureau and get free legal advice over the phone.

You will probably need to make an initial appointment to do this.

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    Would this answer not be applicable to all "The Workplace" questions? Helpful yes, an answer no. – scotty3785 Mar 17 at 10:24
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I would think a unilateral change to the start date, preventing you from starting on the day previously agreed, would be a breach of contract. But what can you or are you prepared to do about it?

The problem is that even if the employer is not legally allowed to do that, you may in practice be able to do nothing about it. And if they say they want to postpone, you insist on starting on the agreed date and they acquiesce, they could get rid of you one day into your probationary period.

It's best to just get in touch with them and keep in touch on a regular basis. No-one knows what's going to happen, it's a fast moving situation for which the vast majority of employers were not prepared (and some still aren't).

Try not to worry (easier said than done I know) and good luck to you.

[edit]

Just to clarify my edit. In the UK a contract of employment isn't simply the piece of paper with writing and signatures. The employer and employee might have nothing in writing - nevertheless there is a relationship that exists which is governed by law and the agreements (express or implied or inferred) between the two parties.

I am reasonably sure that a start date agreed by email between the two parties would be seen as part of the contract. But, as I suggested, I think that is academic, for even if you could exert the law it wouldn't benefit you to do so. But that is a judgement call for you to make.

You could call ACAS for free but they currently say there are long queues because of the COVID-19 / coronavirus situation.

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    " a unilateral change to the start date, preventing you from starting on the day previously agreed in a contract, would be a breach of contract" from the question: "My start date was agreed between me and the new employer's HR department, via email, after the contract had been signed and is thus not part of the contract that I signed" so your supposition about 'breach of contract' is not very relevant. You may want to edit your answer – Alex M Mar 19 at 22:32

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