Can An Employer Change Your Contract?

emily gordon brown
Emily Gordon BrownLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 15th November 2023

Sometimes, an employer may want to make changes to the terms and conditions of your contract such as working hours, location of work, or pay.

can-an-employer-change-your-contract

If they do want to do this, there is usually a process they have to follow, including asking employees if they agree to the changes.

Can an employer change your employment contract?

An employer can change your contract if you agree to the changes, your contract includes a ‘variation clause’, or changes to the law mean a contract needs to be changed.

There’s also another situation called a TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) transfer.

If you’ve transferred to a new employer because your company is sold or the service you work in moves to an employer, you might have extra protections when it comes to contract changes.

What changes can an employer make to your contract?

Your employer may be able to make changes to your contract including changes to:

  • Working hours or shifts

  • Job role or description

  • Pay rate

  • Enhanced holiday and sick pay

  • Notice period

  • Work location

Any changes of the above should be made following the rules and agreements in your employment contract.

Can contracts be changed under TUPE?

When an employee’s job transfers to a new employer because of TUPE, the new employer can make changes to the contract, but only if there's a good reason.

Contracts can’t be changed under TUPE just because an employer wants to make terms and conditions the same for two groups of employees.

For example, they can’t typically lower your pay just because they pay less to someone else who already works for them in a similar position.

However, some changes to contracts can be made under TUPE if they are covered by a variation clause.

What is a variation clause?

A variation clause is a section of your contract of employment that gives an employer the power to make some changes to your contract under certain conditions.

A variation clause might say something like:

[Company Name] reserves the right to make reasonable changes to the terms and conditions of your employment. You will be notified of minor changes in writing and they will take effect from the date of the notice or other date as specified.

An employer can’t use a variation clause for changes that are unfair or unreasonable, and they must give you proper notice.

What should I do if I don’t agree with a change to my contract?

If your employer makes changes to your contract that you’re not okay with, there are things you can do about it, but it’s important to make sure you get everything in writing, as you might need it later on.

Here’s what you can do if an employer makes changes you don’t agree with:

Work Under Protest

You can tell your employer that you’re working ‘under protest’. This means you are telling your employer that you don’t agree to the change, but you’re willing to talk about the matter and find a solution.

If you do decide to work under protest, you should inform your employer of this as soon as you are made aware of the change. If you don’t and you continue to work as normal, it might be interpreted as you agreeing to the change.

Refuse the Changes

You can tell your employer that you won’t accept the change at all.

If you do this, you should ask why your employer is suggesting or enforcing the change and propose an alternative solution.

If the employer hasn’t given any or appropriate notice of the change or asked you about their thoughts on the change before making it, you should include this in your letter or email, too.

As mentioned above, if you do want to keep working but resist the change, you must make it clear that you are working under protest until you can reach an agreement with your employer.

If you’re not happy with changes to your work contract, it’s important to tell them in writing that you’re not okay with the change. You should also work with your employer to try and find a solution as soon as possible, so it doesn’t look like you’ve agreed to the change by continuing to work.

Can your employer reduce your contracted salary

An employer can only reduce your contracted salary if you agree to it, or the change is allowed by a variation clause.

If your employer does reduce your salary without your consent, you may be able to:

If you don’t agree to a pay cut, your employer might decide to end your current employment by giving you notice, and then offer a new contract of employment with a lower salary. However, even if an employee accepts this new contract, they may still be able to file claims for unfair dismissal.

Further to this, if a group of employees is affected by a proposal of reduced pay, employers must talk to a trade union or employee representative about these changes to avoid compensation claims.

Can I claim constructive dismissal if I resign following a contract change?

Claims of constructive dismissal can be hard to prove if your employer presents ‘good reason’ for the changes.

Therefore, if you are considering legal action because your employer wants to reduce your contracted salary, it is advisable to seek legal advice from an experienced employment solicitor who can provide help based on your specific circumstances.

At Lawhive, our team of expert employment solicitors are on hand to help you understand your options in terms of claiming for constructive dismissal, raising a grievance, negotiating a settlement or taking your employer to a tribunal.

If you are dealing with a workplace dispute, tell us about your case using our easy to use online form and we will give you a quote in 5 minutes and match you with an expert employment solicitor to deal with your matter.

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