Your contract of employment lays out your rights and duties at work, and those of your employer. Any change to it is important and you should always be consulted.

An employment contract is a legal agreement between an employer and employee, so its terms can’t be changed or varied without the employee’s agreement. Your employer must meet with affected employees, or the union if one is recognised, before changing your contract.

They must outline the reason for the change and clearly explain any effects it could have. Then employees must have a chance to consider the proposal and suggest other ways of achieving the same result. If the change happens, employees must get written notification within four weeks.

If a union is recognised in your workplace, changes should be agreed with the union through a process known as collective bargaining.

Some contract changes are completely normal, and employees will happily agree.

But if you’re not happy with a change, you should make it clear that you’re opposed and quickly decide what action to take. Otherwise there’s a good chance that you’ll be seen to have implicitly accepted the change.

Consider regularly stating your opposition in writing (e.g. every month) and taking a claim to an employment tribunal.

In many cases, a collective approach to this kind of dispute works best – preferably through your union. If you’re a union member you can consider a group tribunal claim, supported by your union. Or employees can collectively protest the change, threaten industrial action, or combine all these approaches.

If you have any concerns about changes to your contract, your first step should be to get advice from your union or a legal advisor. You should act quickly because deadlines in the employment tribunal are very short.

Common
questions
Can my employer change my contract of employment?
A contract of employment is a legal agreement between the employer and the employee. Its terms cannot lawfully be changed or varied by the employer without agreement from the employee (either individually or through a recognised trade union)...
My contract terms say the employer can make changes without my agreement. Does this mean my employer can make any changes they want?
No, although this kind of contract term – which is increasingly common, especially in non-unionised workplaces – is designed to make it much easier for the employer to force through unpopular changes...