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Law: Changing the employment contract without agreement

Lawgistics has always recommended the safest route to changing terms in an employment contract is to get signed agreement from the employee(s).

However, it is not always possible to get such an agreement and for various reasons a change has to be implemented unilaterally by the employer.

The first point is that you should ensure there is a clause in your contracts to allow changes and explain how they will take place in terms of timescales etc.

The four choices an employee has when faced with such a change from the employer are

1. Let the change happen and start working under the new terms (acquiescing)

2. Resign and claim constructive dismissal

3. Refuse to work under the new terms. The employer then has to decide what steps it considers appropriate.

4. Work under protest and seek compensation for breach of contract/unfair dismissal (stand and sue)

In a recent case (Robinson v Texan Corporation) the employee agreed to the changes under protest (option 4) above but then refused to work as agreed (option 3 above).

The employer dismissed the employee and the appeal tribunal held the decision was fair since the employee had reneged on his agreement ie refusal to obey lawful, reasonable instructions.

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