Check if your employer can make changes to your contract
If your employer wants to change a term in your contract, this is called a 'variation of contract'.
Your employer should only make a change to your contract if at least one of these applies:
- you agree to the change
- your contract says your employer can make certain changes - this is called a 'variation clause'
- the law is changing - for example if you get the National Minimum Wage and the rate changes
If you get a new employer because the company is sold, or because a service you work in transfers to a new employer, this is called a TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) transfer.
If you’re being transferred under TUPE, you might have more protection.
Changes your employer might make to your contract
Examples of changes your employer might want to make include:
- changing working hours or shift patterns
- changing your job role or job description
- reducing your pay rate
- reducing paid holiday and sick pay that you get on top of your statutory entitlements
- increasing the notice period you have to give them if you leave
- changing your work location
If you get a new employer through a TUPE transfer
You usually have more rights if your employer either:
- sells all or part of the organisation you work in
- transfers the service you work in - for example if you work on a catering service contract and the contract gets awarded to a new organisation
If you’ve been transferred to a new employer, they aren’t usually allowed to make a change to your contract if it’s directly related to the transfer. For example, they can’t usually reduce your pay just because they pay less to someone who already works for them in a similar role.
However, you might have to accept any changes that are covered by a variation clause in your contract.
If your new employer wants to make changes to your contract and it isn't covered by a variation clause, you should talk to an adviser.
Check if your contract has a variation clause
If there's a variation clause in your employment contract, your employer might be able to make some changes to your contract. For example, a variation clause might say your usual place of work can be changed under certain conditions.
Check your contract to see if it has a variation clause.
Your employer should tell you in advance if they want to use a variation clause to make a change to your contract.
They won’t be able to rely on a variation clause if the change is unreasonable, or being introduced without notice.
For example, it might be unreasonable if you have children and your caring responsibilities would become difficult if your contract changed.
Telling your employer you don't agree to a change
If you’re unhappy about a change your employer makes to your contract and don't want to accept it, there are steps you should follow. When you contact your employer it’s always best to put things in writing, so you can keep a copy.
Say you’re working ‘under protest’
You should tell your employer that you’re working ‘under protest’ until the problem is resolved. This shows that you haven’t accepted the change, but you’re willing to try and sort things out.
It’s important that you do this as soon as you know about the change. If you don’t let your employer know straight away and you carry on working as normal, it might mean you’ll be seen as having agreed to it.
Say you won’t accept the change
Make it clear to your employer that you won’t accept the change.
If your employer hasn’t given you any notice about the changes, or hasn’t consulted with you in any way, you should mention this.
You should also ask about the reasons for the change and, if possible, suggest other ways of doing things that could meet your employer's needs without causing a problem for you.
If you want to keep working, say that you’ll keep working under protest until you’ve come to an agreement with your employer.
Try to come to an agreement
You need to try to sort things out as quickly as possible. If it takes a while and you carry on working, legally it could be taken to mean that you've agreed to the change - even if you’re working under protest.
If you think you’ve been discriminated against
Sometimes a change to your contract might be discriminatory, for example if you’re disabled and it causes a problem for you connected to your disability.
If you think you might have been discriminated against, you can check if your problem at work is discrimination. If you're thinking about making a discrimination claim, you should still tell your employer you're working under protest.
If your employer reduces your pay rate
You might be able to make a claim for unauthorised deduction from wages if the contract change isn’t covered by a variation clause. This would mean taking legal action against your employer, so you should talk to an adviser.
If you’re thinking of claiming for unauthorised deduction from wages, you should still tell your employer you’re working under protest.
If your employer says they’ll dismiss you because you won't agree to the change
Your employer might either:
- dismiss you
- dismiss you and then offer you a new job with new terms
If they do dismiss you, you might be able to claim unfair dismissal or take other legal action against them. It depends on your situation and it can be complicated.
It can be difficult to win a legal claim if your employer had a good business reason for making the contract change. If you’re thinking of taking legal action you should talk to an adviser.
If you‘re thinking of resigning because of the change
You should consider if you might be better off putting up with the change while you look for another job.
If you do resign, you might be able to make a constructive dismissal claim afterwards. However, it’s very difficult to prove constructive dismissal, so not many claims win. You can check if you have a constructive dismissal claim.
You might also be able to take other legal action against your employer. It depends on your situation and it can be complicated, so you should talk to an adviser.