Changes to your contract of employment

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What if your employer tells you that they're making some changes and it's going to happen whether you like it or not? Maybe you will be expected to work different hours or even in a different department. It could be new duties, a big change in status or even lower pay.

The employer may say that they would like you to agree but if you don't, it's going to happen anyway.

So, where does that leave you? Can they do it?

The short answer is no.  Like any other contract, the employment contract cannot be altered 
by one side (the employer) unless the other side (the employee) agrees to the change.

If the employer tries to change the contract without agreement then they have committed a breach of contract. At this point the employee has two choices -

  • Either to accept it.
  • Do something about it.

If the employee works to the new arrangements, whatever they are, then they are deemed to have accepted them and the new arrangements become part of the contract.

On the other hand, the employee can object and, as a last resort, resign from their job claiming 'constructive dismissal'. They can then go to an Employment Tribunal and claim they had been unfairly dismissed and seek redress (usually money in compensation). The tribunal would decide whether the change was reasonable or not and whether the employee had indeed been unfairly dismissed.

Anyone contemplating resigning under such circumstances would be well advised to get legal advice before they do so.

NOTE: When you receive a Cost of living rise, increase in holiday entitlement or perhaps a wage
increase from one point level to another, this is also classed as a fundamental change to your
contract of employment. It is hardly likely that you would refuse or object to this! By 
accepting this change, you are in effect, agreeing (to a change to your contractual terms &
conditions of employment. You don't need to say anything nor accept this change in writing.
But the change does occur!

Such protection is all well and good but surely employers are not forced to keep employees on exactly the same contracts come what may? What happens when circumstances change?

  • Technological changes eg., Introduction of a computer based system
  • Changes to the Law or Legislation

Well, employers do need to adapt and they can alter employment contracts without the agreement of the employee but they have to follow the proper procedure like for example, inform you in writing and/or provide training if required.

If an employer has a valid reason for changing the way of working and, after trying to persuade an employee to change, the employer cannot gain consent, then they can say that the contract has been terminated (fairly), after giving statutory notice, and offer the employee a choice.

  • Usually, either the employee accepts the new contract
  • They are made redundant.

If the employee chooses the latter then they will receive their statutory or contractual redundancy payment and their notice.

Where unscrupulous employers try to force through a change in contract they will often deny redundancy payments to those who do not wish to accept the change.

See also;

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--Ssmith 13:42, 7 February 2008 (GMT)