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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 77892
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor
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Is it likely to prove the demotion based on the title change

Customer Question

Is it likely to prove the demotion based on the title change from Accounts Assistant to Site Administrator? Generally the average pay for Accounts Assistant is higher and there is a need for qualification as opposite the new role. Would that suffice to prove the change in the status? The job description and salary remain the same.
I have been working there for 4 years.
It was done by letter posted to me with no prior meeting or agreement on that. There is no clause in the contract allowing them to do so.
I have raised it to the line manager (on the same day - Saturday) and had a follow-up meeting on Monday with no agreement on whether it is a demotion.
Then I raised a grievance against t the company and it took them 15 days to have a first hearing which happened yesterday.
We disagreed on whether it was a demotion.
I have made it clear from the start that I do not agree with the change and I am working under a protest.
Submitted: 17 days ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 17 days ago.
Hello, I’m Ben, an employment solicitor, and it’s my pleasure to assist you. I may ask for some information first to determine the legal position.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 17 days ago.

I understand you are wanting to know whether the change in job title, in your particular case, is a demotion. Is your employer carrying out a company wide restructure?

Customer: replied 17 days ago.
not that I am aware of. They have mentioned yesterday that they have made a similar change to other employee few months ago on another site. but my role itself does not change, so would that be a restructure?
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 17 days ago.
OK so just to clarify, you are the only employee effected by this? and how many employees are there please?
Customer: replied 17 days ago.
It is an international corporation with several sites across the UK. I am the only person affected on the site where I am working in.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 17 days ago.

OK I understand and thank you for providing this information. Please do not worry and leave it with me for now. I will get back to you with my full reply on here; usually the same day. The system will notify you when this happens. Many thanks.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 17 days ago.

Many thanks for your patience, it is appreciated. I am now pleased to be able to provide further assistance with your query. First of all, I am sorry to hear about the issues brought up by this. It must be a frustrating situation to be going through.

From what I understand the only thing that has changed is your title, rather than anything else that goes with it. So your duties, responsibilities, pay, etc have all remained the same? Another important aspect would be whether future career progression opportunities will clearly be limited due to this new title and if it places you on a path where such progression may be more difficult within the company.

If it was just a title change and your other terms remain the same and there is no clear career progression detriment, then it is unlikely this will be seen as a serious enough change to warrant it to be seen as a demotion. On the other hand, if these factors applied in the opposite way and there were other term changes and a clear detriment to career progression then you could argue it is akin to a demotion and basically applies to a more serious contractual change.

There are occasions when an employer may try to make changes to an employee’s contract of employment. If they wish to do so, there are a few ways in which they can do it:

- They can ask for the employee to give their consent to the changes.

- They can rely on a flexibility clause in the contract, allowing for certain changes to be made

- They can give the employee the required notice to terminate their current contract and re-engage them under a new contract, which contains the desired changes.

- They can ignore all of the above and simply force the changes through with no notice or consultation.

Assuming consent is given, the changes can be implemented with a simple variation to the contract or a separate addendum. If the changes are not agreed, based on which method the employer adopts to implement them, the following options are available to employees to challenge such actions:

1. If there is a flexibility clause, it must be precise and allow the specific changes that are proposed. Clear language in the drafting of the clause will be required to allow such a right. Any attempt to rely on such clauses will also be subject to the requirement of the employer to act fairly and reasonably and be able to show that it was necessary to apply the required changes and that there was no other way to resolve the situation. Consultation is key in these circumstances.

2. If the employer gives the employee notice to terminate their current contract and re-engages them under a new one, it could potentially amount to unfair dismissal. However, the employer can try and justify their actions if they had a solid business reason for doing so, most commonly due urgent financial needs. If no such reasons exist and it appears to have been an opportunistic approach by the employer to implement changes, it is possible to make a claim for unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal, subject to having at least 2 years’ continuous service with that employer. This would be on the grounds that there has technically been a dismissal because the original contract was terminated by the employer.

3. If the employer forces the changes through, without any notice or consultation, the employee can start working on the new terms, then immediately write to the employer to make it clear that this is done ‘under protest’. This means that they do not agree with the changes but feel forced to work under them as they have no other option. In the meantime, they should try and resolve the issue by raising a formal grievance with the employer. This is only a short-term solution though as the longer someone works under the terms, even under protest, the more likely it is that they will eventually be deemed to have accepted them. Also, if the changes fundamentally impact the contract, for example changes to pay, duties, place of work, etc., it is also possible to consider resigning and making a claim constructive dismissal in the Employment Tribunal. The employee must accept the changes and immediately resign in response to them. A claim is again dependent on the employee having at least 2 years' continuous service with that employer.

Please see here for further information about this topic

https://www.gov.uk/your-employment-contract-how-it-can-be-changed

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 17 days ago.

Hopefully, I have answered your query in a way that is simple and easy to understand. If anything remains unclear, I will be more than happy to clarify it for you. In the meantime, thank you once again for using our services.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 17 days ago.

I trust that everything has now been dealt with to your satisfaction and your original question has been resolved. If you have any further queries about it, please do not hesitate to get back to me on here. In the meantime, I wish you all the best.