The conditions of my employment


When can an employer change the conditions of my employment?

Your employment contract is legally binding on both you and your employer and they cannot change it without your agreement. However, many employment contracts contain clauses that allow employers to make certain changes.

These are not necessarily bad though; one of the most common is a clause allowing the employer to increase your wages! If your employer wants to change your contract but there is nothing that entitles them to, then they must get your agreement to any changes.

Is anything unchangeable?

Your employers cannot ask you to waive certain rights, such as the right not to be discriminated against based on your race or to be paid at least the national minimum wage. It is also not possible to for them to waive their liability to you in case of personal injury caused by their negligence.

Until recently, you could not waive your right not to be unfairly dismissed, however under recent changes to the law this is now possible, but you should be compensated with shares in the company.

How far can they go?

Generally, as far as you, or your union representatives, wish to let them. They cannot compel you to accept a change in your contract, unless you have already agreed to it. Changing the terms of your employment without your consent is a breach of the contract.

Be aware though, that refusing to accept a reasonable change could make your employment untenable. For example, if a business is struggling and needs to cut wages to stay afloat, it may be unreasonable not to accept the cut. Similarly, if you have performed poorly in a position, it may be unreasonable to refuse a demotion.

Under these circumstances, your employer may be entitled to terminate your contract.

Could changing the conditions of employment lead to wrongful/constructive dismissal?

Yes it could. If your employer refuses to continue to employ you unless you accept a change, it could be considered a wrongful dismissal. However if you have worked there for less than two years, they may be able to avoid this provided they allowed you to work your notice period under your old terms.

Sometimes you may be able to resign, rather than accept a different contract. This may be considered a constructive dismissal, but every situation is different and you should always seek legal advice before taking action.

We can offer this advice, and put you in touch with a specific employment solicitor. Call us, or fill in a web-form and we will get back to you.

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