Changing contracts of employment advice for employers

Employers who are considering changes to contract of employment may need to consider consulting an employment law advisor before doing so.

Usually the employer and employee both need to agree any contract changes and proper consultation should take place to reach agreement on the proposed changes. Consultation or negotiation may take place with the affected employee(s) or their representatives. For example trade union representatives or in some cases employees elected to represent their colleagues in this matter.

Employers should clearly explain the reasons for the changes and listen to alternative ideas from their employee’s. It may also be good practice to talk to individuals about their future plans and any ideas they have for changes to their role, hours or working pattern.

In some cases it is the employee who is requesting a change of contract and in these instances it is important to fully understand the reason behind this request. Some contract changes are protected by statutory right and can be insisted upon. An example of this would be a request to not work on a Sunday. Other requests may covered under flexible working legislation.

Once changes have been agreed the written contract of employment needs to be updated and confirmation of the changes given in writing to the affected employees. Where changes are made that are not included in the written contract of employment, for example to sick pay or disciplinary procedures, then employers need to inform employees where the information can be found. This could be in an employee handbook, on notice boards or intranet site.

If an employer makes a change to a contract without getting agreement employees may have the right to refuse to work under the new conditions and say they are treating the change as a breach of contract. This could result in constructive dismissal claims and employment tribunal cases.

As a last resort employers may end a contract and re-employ someone on new terms and conditions. Where dismissals are to take place the legally required redundancy procedure must be followed and
if an employer does dismiss and re-employ someone, they may be able to take a case to an employment tribunal and claim breach of contract and/or unfair dismissal.

Where employers are considering doing this, advice from an employment law advisor is recommended.