Many thanks for your patience, I am pleased to be able to continue assisting with your query now. First of all, I am sorry to hear about the issues you have experienced in your situation.
What has happened appears to be a change to your contract, even if a formal change has not been implemented in writing. 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.
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