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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Can an employer enforce contract changes eg demand increased

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Can an employer enforce contract changes eg demand increased working hours and a change of location with the only option if not accepted to step down from a long term middle management/professional role. Should redundancy be offered as an option and if these conditions are unattainable could this be classed as constructive dismissal

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX 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.

Customer: 7 years in middle management but 16 years employment with the company
Ben Jones :

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.


It is also worth mentioning that sometimes employment contracts may try to give the employer a general right to make changes to the employee’s contract. As such clauses give the employer carte blanche to change any term, so as to evade the general rule that changes must be mutually agreed, courts will rarely enforce such clauses. Nothing but the clearest language will be sufficient to create such a right. Any attempt to rely on such clauses will still be subject to the requirement of the employer to act reasonably.

Customer: Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX routinely be offered as an option, if the proposed changes are significant, especially given that in the conversation it was made clear that a reduction in the team numbers( currently 7) would work as part of the business plan?
Ben Jones :

No, redundancy would only be an option if there is actually a redundancy situation. The Employment Rights Act 1996 defines a redundancy situation as falling within one of the following circumstances:

  1. Business closure – where the whole of the employer’s business is closed

  2. Workplace closure – closure or relocation of one or more sites

  3. Diminished requirement for employees to carry out work of a particular kind.

Customer: My situation is number 3. What do you advise please?
Ben Jones :

you cannot force an employer to make you redundant even if a redundancy situation exists. If they are refusing to do so, when they should, then you can only resign and claim constructive dismissal and seek additional compensation for redundancy

Customer: Ok many thanks
Ben Jones :

My pleasure. Please take a second to leave a positive rating for the service I have provided you with as that is an important part of our process. Thank you

Customer: Just to clarify will this cost me £28 only or £28 per question?
Ben Jones :

you only pay for the whole conversation, not per question

Customer: Ok just £28?
Ben Jones :

yes, correct

Customer: Thanks Ben
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