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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 49858
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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Currently on a salary, and my employer wants to reduce my salary

Customer Question

Currently on a salary, and my employer wants to reduce my salary and change my contract of work, the reason for this is our union is fighting for a pay rise, therefore they want to split the workforce, cut salarys and change conditions in order to give the other half of the workforce a pay rise, can they do this??
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 4 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is Ben and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. How long have you worked there for?

Ben Jones :

Hello, not sure if you saw my initial query above - how long have you worked there for please?

JACUSTOMER-cicgbcg4- : Been there 13 years in total, on the current contract for 5 years
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.

JACUSTOMER-cicgbcg4- :

Thanks for your quick reply Ben, my employer has stated that they are reducing my salary by 6k as this is a shift allowance and they no longer require me to work on shift however my contract does not state any breakdown as to basic salary and shift allowance it only states my rate of pay as it is at present, also if no one on my side of the workforce takes the wage reduction then they will look to make redundinces yet they are giving a pay increase to the other 38 members of staff, my question is do I have something to fight for?

Ben Jones :

how long have you received this shift allowance for and does your pay slip mention anything about this allowance as it should provide a breakdown of what makes up your pay?

JACUSTOMER-cicgbcg4- :

They say its a shift allowance but on checking my contract there is no mention of a shift allowance, nor is there any breakdown on my payslip, been working on my current contract for 5 years, the company is up for sale if this has any relevance.

Ben Jones :

Whilst they may argue this is a shift allowance, you can tell them the following:

  • Your contract does not mention anything about a shift allowance and this has never been raised with you
  • Your pay slip did not contain a breakdown of any shift allowance even though by law the employer is required to provide information on your pay slip of any variables, such as a shift allowance
  • If such allowances were indeed paid, you have always received them without fail and as such it is most likely these payments had become a contractual term through custom and practice
Ben Jones :

I hope this has answered your query and would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating - your question will not close and I can continue providing further advice if necessary. Thank you