Varying contractual employment terms normally requires the employee’s agreement.
You should treat variation of the contractual terms carefully as some changes may be considered to be a fundamental breach of contract. Any breach of contract would allow an employee to resign and bring an employment tribunal claim.
If you want to alter the terms of an existing employment contract then you have three main options:
- Agree the changes with the employee after consultation. This is the safest course of action.
- Make any changes unilaterally. Even where there is a pressing organisational need to impose the changes, this may be risky. In some circumstances you may assume acceptance if the employee continues to work without objection. However, the employee may choose to continue to work, but do so under protest and bring an action for breach of contract. The employee may also resign and bring a claim for constructive unfair dismissal and/or wrongful dismissal.
- Terminate the employee’s contract by notice and offer them re-engagement on new terms and conditions. You may consider this option where changes cannot be agreed and where it appears too risky to impose the changes unilaterally. You must then offer re-engagement on the new terms immediately. You should be aware that, in legal terms, this may be considered to be a redundancy dismissal. As a result, you should follow any rules around redundancy and consultation. The risk here is that the employee may claim breach of contract or unfair dismissal.
Any variations should be confirmed in writing within one month of the changes taking place.