Hello, my name is Ben and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.
Before proceeding please note that as I am a practising solicitor, I am often in and out of meetings, travelling between clients or even at court when I pick your question up. This may even occur at weekends. Therefore, I apologise in advance but there may be a delay in getting back to you and providing my advice. Please be patient and I will respond as soon as I can. You do not have to wait here and you will receive an email when I have responded. For now please let me know how long you have worked there.
four years. supervisor for a cleaning and maintenance company and a national voice rep.
Hello Michelle, many thanks for your patience. There are several ways in which an employer may try and make changes to an employee’s contract of employment. These are:
1. By receiving the employee’s express consent.
2. By forcefully introducing the changes (called 'unilateral change of contract').
3. By giving the employee notice to terminate their current contract and then offer them immediate re-engagement under a new contract that contains the changes.
If the employee agrees to the changes then that would usually put an end to the matter.
If the changes are introduced forcefully then the following options are open to the employee:
1. Start working on the new terms but making it clear in writing that they are working ‘under protest’. This means that the employee does not agree with the changes but is only working them because they feel they are forced to. In the meantime they should try and resolve the issue either by informal discussions or by raising a formal grievance.
2. If the changes are serious enough (e.g. a change to pay, duties, place of work, etc.) the employee may wish to consider resigning and claiming constructive dismissal. The resignation must be done without undue delay so as not to give the impression that the changes had been accepted. The claim must be submitted in an employment tribunal within 3 months of resigning and is subject to the employee having at least 2 years' continuous service.
3. Finally, if the employment is terminated and the employer offers re-engagement on the new terms that could potentially amount to unfair dismissal. However, the employer can justify the dismissal and the changes if they had a sound business reason for dismissing an employee who refuses to accept the variation in terms. This could be pressing business needs requiring drastic changes for the company to survive. If no such reason exists, the employee can make a claim for unfair dismissal in an employment tribunal. The same time limit of 3 months to claim and the requirement to have 2 years' continuous would apply.
Whether you accept the changes because it is better to be in work rather than unemployed and pursuing a tribunal claim, with no guarantee of success, it is up to you to decide. This is an individual decision and will depend on your circumstances, your personal view on this and what you are willing to do in order to deal with this. But your options are as above and you need to decide which one suits you best.
I hope this has answered your query. Please take a second to leave a positive rating, or if you are unhappy for some reason with the advice - please get back to me and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you very much