Contracts and Changing Terms and Conditions…
A contract of employment is the basis of the employer-employee relationship; it is the agreement made between the parties and can be verbal or in writing (preferably the latter).
Upon acceptance of an offer of employment, a contract exists between an employee and an employer. Terms of a contract can either be expressly written down, implied or incorporated by way of custom and practice.
Collective agreements (such as with employee representatives or trade unions) could impact on a contract of employment. Generally, these types of agreements are referred to in the body of a contract.
At the very least, an employee is entitled to receive a written statement of the main terms and conditions of employment within 2 months of their employment commencing (this is due to change in 2020!) This will include information such as: employer and employee name, job title, hours of work, rate of pay, holidays, start date and more.
WHAT IF EITHER PARTY NEEDS/WANTS TO CHANGE THE TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT?
An employer can consult with an employee about a change to their terms and conditions, but you will need to obtain the employee’s agreement to the proposed change. Some contracts allow a degree of flexibility to amend a contract but, if the terms to be changed are fundamental to the employee’s working conditions then it is advised you consult with them.
Likewise, an employee can request an amendment to their terms and conditions through a flexible working request, through negotiation or agreement. Again, the employer will need to agree to the change, but this should not be unreasonably withheld. If the request is refused, then it is important to back this up with good business grounds.
Is it important to bear in mind that contractual changes may be required on business grounds but it can create a degree of insecurity and anxiousness for employees if the change is being instigated by you as employer. We have found strong communication/consultation throughout this process eases these concerns and produces more favourable results.
Once a change is agreed, you as employer should confirm in writing within one month of the change taking effect.
WHAT IF ISSUES ARISE?
If an employee raises a dispute regarding a term(s) of their contract, both parties can attempt to rectify it informally, the employee can raise a grievance or, as a last resort, submit a tribunal claim.
A breach of a contractual term can lead to a civil claim for damages; examples of this can be for wrongful dismissal (this can also be claimed in an employment tribunal), breach of a restrictive covenant or a dispute around holiday pay – so generally a matter where it is purely monetary.
If you are thinking of instigating a change to terms or generally need assistance with contracts of employment, then please contact your dedicated advisor. We are able to advise you throughout the whole process.