In normal circumstances, an employer and an employee must agree to any changes in the contract of employment. However, an employee can insist on an amendment if they have a legal right to it.
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If you are an employer
If you are an employer, you must obtain your employee’s consent if you wish to make changes to their employment contract.
You should consider taking the following steps:
- Liaise or negotiate with your employee or their representative (for instance, from a trade union)
- Outline your reasons for the proposed change
- Be receptive to alternative ideas from your employee.
If you agree to the changes with your employee, you must:
- Update the terms of your employees’ written statement of employment conditions
- Write to your employees to advise them of the exact changes (this must take place within a month).
If the change to the terms and conditions are not in the written statement, you should inform your employees where to find information concerning the change. It could be contained in a staff handbook, intranet site or notice board.
If the changes relate to collective agreements with trade unions or staff associations, you must write to employees to notify them of the changes as they may impact them irrespective of whether or not they are members of the union or staff association.
There are two situations in which you have the right to change employees’ terms and conditions:
- A ‘flexibility clause’ in an employment contract gives you the right to alter some conditions of employment, such as relocation. However, any changes must be reasonable
- Disciplinary measures, such as a demotion, can give rise to a change in your employees’ terms and conditions.
If you are an employee
If you are an employee, you will need to explain your reason(s) for wanting to change your employment contract. However, you can demand a change if it is covered by a statutory right – for example, the right not to work on a Sunday.
Making a contractual change without agreement
If your employer makes a change to your contract without your agreement, you have the right to:
- Refuse to work under the new conditions
- State that you are working under protest and treat the change as a breach of contract
- Resign and claim constructive dismissal
- Present a case to an employment tribunal.
If you disagree with the change, but do not explicitly say so, this may be deemed as consent to the change.
Re-employment on new terms and conditions
If your employer terminates your contract and re-employs you on new terms and conditions, you may be able to bring a tribunal action for:
- Breach of contract
- Unfair dismissal.
If you are a member of a trade union, you can seek advice from your trade union representative, Citizens Advice or the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).
You can call the ACAS helpline on 0300 123 1100 on Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm and on Saturday from 9am to 1pm.
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