Changing employees’ contracts: Make sure you get the green light
Most employers at some point will want to make changes to their employees’ terms and conditions. There will be changes such as promotions which will then lead to other changes such as an increased salary, possibly hours of work may change, a bonus provision may be added; these changes usually cause no problems because they are generally positive. However, problems arise when the changes imposed have a potentially negative impact for the employees.
How can you enforce a change of terms in a contract of employment?
There are a few ways this can be done which are briefly detailed below:
- The contract permits the change. For example, the place of work is stated as being ‘No.10 Downing Street or within a 20 mile radius’- this provides the employer with flexibility.
- The employees agree to the change– the simplest way of authorising the change.
- The change is made and the employees continue to work to the change. For example, working hours have always been 9-5pm. If the employer states the working hours will change to 7-3pm and there is no complaint from employees and they continue to work to the new hours, there is generally an implied acceptance.
- If none of the above methods work, employers may consider dismissing and instantly re-engaging the employees on the new terms. There is a risk the employees may claim unfair dismissal (which is why employers may consider a compromise agreement) or possibly constructive dismissal. If cases proceed to tribunal as a result of such a dismissal, tribunals will look at what change was being made, why and was it reasonable for the employer to make this change.