My employer wants to change my hours, location or other terms of my contract – what are my rights?
Sometimes your employer may want to make changes to your employment contract, such as changes to your working hours or location that you may not be happy with. This could be because they don’t seem fair or are unfavourable to you – for instance, your employer may be reducing or changing your hours or changing your place of work or reducing your pay.
In this article, we explain your rights and options available to you when your employer tries to change your terms of employment.
We cover issues arising when your employer makes changes the terms of your contract without your agreement (sometimes called ‘imposed changes’). We also cover ‘dismissal and re-engagement or ‘fire and rehire’ tactics which is when your employer gives notice to terminate your existing employment contract and makes an offer of employment on new terms, which may be less favourable to you.
As this is a complicated area of the law, we recommend that you seek legal advice on your options if you find yourself in this situation.
How employers may try to make changes to your contract
There are four main ways an employer can try to make changes to your contract without your agreement:
- Your employer imposes new terms on you without your agreement or consent (sometimes called ‘imposed change’) e.g. tells you your days or hours have changed from your agreed pattern;
- Your employer gives you written notice of the changes under a “variation clause” in your contract;
- Your employer seeks to agree changes but threatens to dismiss employees who don’t agree; or
- Your employer terminates your existing contract and offers you re-employment under a new contract on the changed terms (sometimes called ‘new for old’, ‘dismissal and reengagement’ or ‘fire and re-hire’).
Your rights if your employer changes your contract
Usually your employer needs your agreement to change your contract.
Some changes may be difficult for working parents and carers to agree to because of caring responsibilities. If you are concerned about the changes you should explain clearly the reasons why and give the background to why they may be particularly difficult for you to agree to and how they may affect you e.g. because of childcare responsibility/nursery hours and location; your partners shift pattern; if you are a single parent and have sole responsibility for caring for children; or if you care for an adult. This will help to alert to your employer that there maybe additional considerations under the Equality Act.
You can refuse to accept the change, and your employer normally cannot force you to accept it but there are some exceptions to this and ways employers can impose changes on you.
If you are happy with the change, you can agree to the new terms verbally or in writing – we recommend that you agree the change in writing, and make it clear if the change is only intended to be temporary (or it may become a permanent change).
If you are unhappy with the change, you can usually refuse. But there are some exceptions – for instance, if your contract allows your employer to make the specific change and the change is reasonable.
You need to let your employer know if you are not happy with the change they are trying to make. If you do not tell your employer that you are unhappy with the change and start to work under the new terms and conditions, your employer may take this as your agreement to the change.
Check your contract
The first thing to do is read your employment contract.
Right to written terms
Employers are required by law to provide employees and workers with a written statement of particulars stating the main conditions of employment. If you haven’t got anything in writing about your employment, think about what has been agreed orally between you and your employer and what your job looks like on a day to day basis. This is still a contract. If there has been no formal agreement, but you have worked in a particular way for some time with the permission of your employer, you could argue that your current arrangements are part of your contract. You can also ask your employer for your written contract.
Variation, Flexibility and Mobility Clauses
An employment contract can only be varied if there is agreement or if the terms allow it. You should check your contract for wording that allows your employer to vary certain terms without your agreement, sometimes called a ‘variation’ or ‘flexibility’ clause. The wording must be clear that your employer can make the type of change they want to make. It may explain the process for making changes and any notice you should be given.
If your contract is clear and says that your employer can make the specific change that they want to make e.g. to vary or reduce your hours, then your employer may be able to make the change without your agreement. Although you may still have rights to protest the change.
If your employer wants to change the location of your place of work, they may seek to rely on a ‘mobility’ clause in your contract. To be enforceable, mobility clauses must ordinarily be clear and specific about the potential for your work location to change. Your employer must act reasonably when using a mobility clause, otherwise you may have claims against them (see below).
Even where there is a variation, flexibility or mobility clause, this is generally only allowed to be used for reasonable changes which are minor administrative changes and not detrimental to you.
If the change is unworkable because of your caring responsibilities, you can protest the change (see Working under Protest below) and we recommend that you seek legal advice (see below) in case the change requested could amount to discrimination.
All these factors will affect whether or not your employer can legally change your contract, and any claims you may be able to make against them.
There may also be an exception if you’re in a unionised workplace.
My contract does not accurately describe my hours/location
If your written contract is out of date or does not accurately reflect how you work, it is a good idea to set out your understanding of your employment agreement with your employer and write down anything you have verbally agreed around your working pattern.
Your employment contract can include both terms that are written down and terms that are not. For example, if you have worked a certain pattern or in a particular location for a long time with your employer’s approval and your employer then tried to change this work pattern, then you would seek to argue that this pattern of work is part of your contract through even if it is not in the written contract.
Your contract may also include ‘custom and practice’ terms, which are often unwritten. This type of term could become part of the employment contract, if it is regularly adopted (e.g., a regular practice for a significant period of time) and is customary in your workplace.
For example, an employee could expect to continue working 9am to 5pm, even if their contract says their hours are on a shift basis, if they have been working that way with their employer’s agreement for a significant period of time. However, if you are only working 9am to 5pm temporarily to help you arrange childcare, then it is unlikely that this temporary change would form a permanent term of your contract.
While you can argue that verbal or ‘custom and practice’ terms are part of your contract of employment, it is much easier to avoid a dispute if your contract is up to date and terms are written down. So if your working pattern/location is different to what was originally written in your contract, ask your employer to update it. You can ask for your employer to provide you with updated employment particulars which reflect your current agreement.
I don’t have a written contract
All employers are required to give their employees and workers a document setting out the main conditions of their employment or engagement when they start work. This is known as a ‘written statement of employment particulars’. You can ask your employer for your written particulars. See our employment contract page for more detail on your rights in this area.
If you don’t have anything in writing, think about what has been agreed verbally between you and your employer as it is likely to still be part of your employment contract. If you have worked a certain pattern or in a particular location for a long time with your employer’s approval, then this pattern of work may form part of your contract even if it is not in writing.
My contract has a variation or flexibility clause
If there is a term in your contract which allows your employer to change your terms without your agreement, sometimes called a “variation clause”, this only is generally allowed to be used for reasonable changes of a minor and non-detrimental nature.
The variation or flexibility clause usually must be very specific in order for the employer to use it. For instance, if your employer wants you to work weekends, but you have only previously worked weekdays, the clause should say the employer reserves the right to ask you to work weekends under certain specific circumstances.
Employers are unlikely to be able to rely on broadly written flexibility clauses to make anything other than small administrative changes that are not detrimental to you. For instance, your contract might say broadly that your employer reserves the right to change your hours of work. If that is the case, they may not be able to require you to work weekends if you have never done so before, particularly if that change would be difficult for you (e.g. because of your caring responsibilities).
If your employer is seeking to change your hours or relocate you under a specific clause, whilst this might not appear to the employer to be a big change, it may have a negative impact on you and your family life or it may impact your childcare arrangements and you should alert them to this in writing.
Depending on the nature of the change, and its impact on you, you therefore may still be able to protest the change (see below) and make a claim even if your contract has a variation, mobility or flexibility clause.
If you are unsure, you should seek advice.
My employer wants to end our flexible working agreement
Flexible working agreements made after a statutory flexible working request form a permanent change to your contract, even if this is not written down, unless otherwise agreed e.g. where you and your employer agreed for it to be temporary or on a trial basis. If you work flexibly and you never made a statutory request, the change may also have become a part of your contract through custom and practice. See ‘My contract does not accurately describe my hours/location’ above.
If you have a flexible working agreement in place, your employer can only change your flexible working agreement with your consent. If you do not agree to the change, you can protest and bring claims against your employer (see below).
If you are unsure, you should seek advice.
Changes agreed during COVID-19
Many employers changed terms because of the economic impact and rules in place to protect public health due to COVID-19. Employers may need to make changes to adjust to make workplaces COVID secure or to allow for homeworking, or may have opted to change contracts as an alternative to redundancy where there is a reduced demand for a particular type of work. Many employees were furloughed and returned to work but find that their employer is now offering different hours, work on different days or lower pay. Many people accepted Covid-19 related changes that they understood were on a temporary basis but unless this is clear and in writing, employers may seek to argue that they are or have become permanent. If this applied to you, seek advice. You may also want to keep the changes that have been in place e.g. if your caring responsibilities/childcare arrangements would be impacted and so recommend making a flexible working request if your employer is seeking to return to old ways of working, or requiring you to return to the office. If you are happy with the changes you may seek a more permanent arrangement and expressly request that this becomes permanent – see our flexible working guidance for more information.
Whenever dealing with your employer over employment matters it’s always best to put things in writing, so you can keep a copy of all messages you send and keep a copy of their responses. When you write to your employer, if your employer hasn’t given you any notice about the changes, or hasn’t consulted with you in any way to seek your agreement you should mention this in your letter or email.
Top Tip: Whenever you have any conversation with your employer about your employment, send yourself an email summarising the conversation so you have a note with a time stamp, and also follow up in writing to confirm the agreement if your employer doesn’t do this. It is also sensible to make sure you can access copies of emails that relate to your personal HR arrangements and your employment contract from your own personal email in addition to your work email, but be aware that you are not sharing company confidential information or data in breach of your employers policies when doing this.
Your options if your employer changes your contract
If your terms are changed without your agreement, and there is no clause in your contract allowing your employer to do so, then this is likely to be a breach of contract.
In this case, your options are:
- Do nothing and carry on working the new hours, making no objection. You will most likely be seen to have agreed to the change;
- Negotiate with your employer to seek agreement or compromise;
- Continue working under protest; To do this, you need to let your employer know in writing that you object to the change. We have a sample Letter of Protest – you may also want to consider bringing claims against your employer, depending on the breach;
- Refuse to work the new terms, and continue working under your old agreed terms;
- You may have already resigned from employment and you may seek to claim constructive dismissal. Please note that you should always take legal advice before you resign as constructive dismissal claims are very difficult to bring.
- If you are a member of a union, you can also involve your union to protest to the change on your behalf.
Working under protest
If you are prepared to continue to work but disagree with the change, you should tell your employer and state in writing that you’re working ‘under protest’ until the problem is resolved. This shows that you have not agreed but you are prepared to try and work things out informally with your employer. You should object without delay as soon as you know about the change.
If you carry on working as normal without telling your employer you don’t agree, it may be taken as evidence that you have agreed to the change. There may be an argument that you have not agreed in cases where you try the new working arrangements and then protest once you realise the impact will be so adverse that you cannot accept it.
Your letter should state that you believe your employer has breached your contract of employment and that you are working under protest. You can also include why this is having such a negative impact on you. If you have a union or an employee representative, they can make these protests on your behalf. This template Letter of Protest may help you. You may then continue to negotiate with your employer to seek to resolve the issue.
Refusing to work on the new terms
If you can’t work under protest (under the new terms), you may choose tell your employer that you won’t or can’t accept the change. An example of this may be where you have been told that your shift has changed to a night shift and you don’t have childcare. You should ask your employer why they are making these changes and suggest alternatives that you could do and let them know in writing why you can’t work the new shift pattern.
If you reject the change and refuse to comply with the new terms, you would continue to work in accordance with your existing or original terms of employment. However, you may be putting your employment relationship at risk and your employer may start disciplinary or dismissal proceedings against you.
If you were to be dismissed, depending on the circumstances and the seriousness of the change, you may have a claim for wrongful dismissal, unfair dismissal or even discrimination . You should seek legal advice if you are considering this option and where you are considering bringing a claim against your employer. It may be that a dismissal in these circumstances could be seen by an Employment Tribunal as a fair dismissal, depending on the reason for the change.
If you have already resigned
If the change your employer made was so serious or bad that it is a fundamental breach and you felt you had no choice but to resign you may seek to bring a claim for constructive dismissal (see more below). This is a high-risk option and you should seek legal advice before resigning.
We would not recommend resigning, but rather to continue to work under protest and seek to reach agreement whilst protecting your employment wherever possible. It may be that your employer will dismiss you for your refusal to agree giving you a potential unfair dismissal claim. Whereas in constructive dismissal, it is for you as the employee to prove that your employer’s breach of contract was so serious that it terminated the employment contract. This is a very difficult claim to bring and there is no guarantee the Tribunal will agree with you.
From a financial point of view, as soon as you resign to claim constructive dismissal your employment relationship and your contract is over immediately (as you would not ordinarily give notice) and you would therefore no longer be entitled to pay or benefits. In the short-term, you will lose your income if you don’t have another job lined up to go to.
If your employer tries to force you to accept new terms of employment, or dismisses you and tries to offer you new employment, you may have a number of potential claims against them.
Note that claims in the Employment Tribunal can be complex and take a long time to resolve. There are also strict time limits that apply. You should seek advice before deciding to start a claim, or follow the steps outlined below. We have a number of resources related to Employment Tribunals and the next steps you would need to take.
Breach of contract
If your employer tells you they are changing your terms without your agreement, and there is no variation clause in your contract allowing your employer to do this, then this is a breach of contract. It may still be a breach of contract if you have a variation clause in your contract, but the particular change they are trying to impose is not specifically and clearly referenced and/or the change is unreasonable and detrimental to you.
If you are still employed and working under protest, you would need to bring a claim for breach of contract against your employer in the civil courts if you believe they have not given you the current period of notice required under your contract. This is because the Employment Tribunal is limited to contractual claims that arise or are outstanding on the termination of employment, so the tribunal cannot consider a claim for breach of contract while your contract is still running. Be careful though – claims in the civil courts carry the risk of costs if they fail, and even if you win a breach of contract claim you will most likely only get a small amount of money. If you lose, you may be required to pay your employer’s legal fees for defending the claim.
In practice, it can be hard to bring a claim against your current employer whilst you remain in employment because your relationship is likely to break down. For these reasons, unless it is for a significant amount, it is often not worth bringing a breach of contract claim unless you have left your employment and can combine it with another claim in the Employment Tribunal (i.e. unfair dismissal, discrimination or constructive dismissal).
If your employer tries to force you to accept the change and dismisses you if you do not accept the change, depending on the circumstances you may have a claim for unfair dismissal if you have been employed for more than one year and 51 weeks.
It may also be a dismissal if your employer makes a very substantial change to the terms and conditions of your contract of employment without your agreement (for example significantly downgrading your role), meaning that in legal terms, you have effectively been dismissed and re-employed under a new contract. In this circumstance you may also have a claim for unfair dismissal even where you accept the offer and remain employed on the new terms.
If you claim unfair dismissal in circumstances where you were fired and immediately offered to be rehired on new terms, your employer may be able to argue that you have not suffered any loss e.g. loss of earnings, as you remain employed or that you could have mitigated (lessened) your loss if you had accepted the terms, but this will depend on whether the new terms involve any drop in income for you and the impact on your caring arrangements.
Your employer may be able to justify their actions e.g. if this was an alternative to redundancy. If you are dismissed or forced into accepting new terms of employment, we recommend that seek further advice straight away.
Failure to Inform and Consult
Where your employer proposes to dismiss (and offer to re-hire on new terms) 20 or more employees, the obligation to collectively consult with employees will apply.
As collective consultation requires your employer to meet very specific obligations, if they do not do so, you could have a claim for failure to inform and consult depending on exactly what the failure is. You should take legal advice if your employer has failed to follow these rules, as you may have a claim for a protective award. Failure to comply with the collective consultation obligations may result in the employer being ordered to pay a protective award of up to 90 days’ pay to each affected employee. The employer is also required to notify the Secretary of State and failure to do so can result in a fine and is a criminal offence.
For information on collective consultation, see our page here: Collective Consultation when your employer dismisses over 20 employees. If you believe that your employer has failed to meet these obligations, we recommend that you take legal advice. Strict time limits will apply.
If the contractual change is so serious that it is a fundamental breach and you feel you have no choice but to resign, you may seek to bring a claim for constructive dismissal. This is a high-risk option, and you should seek legal advice first.
We would not recommend resigning, but rather continue to work under protest and seek to reach agreement whilst protecting your employment wherever possible. This is because in constructive dismissal, it is for you to prove that your employer’s breach of contract was so serious that you considered the contract was terminated by your employer. There is no guarantee the Tribunal will agree with you.
If you decide to take this route, you must state that your employers breach of contract was so serious that you have no choice, you can no longer work for your employer and state that you have been forced to resign. You should set out the background to what has happened and why this was such a fundamental breach for you. To prove constructive dismissal, it is not enough to show that your employer behaved unreasonably. You have to show:
- that your employer’s conduct was in fundamental breach of your employment contract; and
- that it was your employer’s actions which caused you to resign – or was the main reason for your resignation (not some other reason, such as being offered another job).
In most circumstances, you can only bring a claim at the Employment Tribunal for constructive dismissal if you have been employed by your employer for at least one year and 51 weeks. There is an exception if you have been discriminated against, or if your employer is imposing a change to your contract because you have exercised a statutory right. In that case, you can bring a claim against your employer regardless of how long you have worked for them, because the dismissal would be ‘automatically unfair’.
Timing is key: If you choose to resign because you really feel you have no choice it is important that you do not delay, or this may be taken as evidence that you have agreed to the breach of contract or it undermines your argument that it is so serious a breach. If you decide this is your only option, when you terminate your contract to claim unfair dismissal, you must make it clear (in writing) that you had to resign and consider the contract to have been terminated immediately because of the employers actions (rather than resigning in accordance with the contract), otherwise you may not be able to claim constructive dismissal.
If you are a woman, you may be able to claim indirect sex discrimination in relation to a change if it is forced upon you and results in your being subjected you to a detriment because of your childcare reasons. Working Families intervened in the case of Dobson in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which confirmed that women bear the greater burden of childcare responsibilities than men and that this can limit their ability to work certain hours and shift patterns. This is called the “childcare disparity”.
If your employer has a good business reason for the change and that their actions are proportionate, then they may have a defence to your claim for discrimination. At the tribunal your employer would have to clearly show that their actions were in legal terms “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. In summary this means:
- That there was a genuine business reason for the change; and
- That it was necessary to change your way of working, even when considering the effect on you personally.
So, even if there is a genuine need for the change your employer would need to look at other ways of organising the work so that you personally do not have to change your terms, for example, employing an additional part-timer to work on certain days instead of requiring you to do it. If there is genuinely no way they could adjust things for you, and it is essential that the change is made, their actions would may be found by an Employment Tribunal to be justifiable.
Unlawful deduction of wages
If the change is a pay cut or results in reduction of pay or change to holidays/benefits, you may have a claim for unlawful deduction from wages which you can pursue in the Employment Tribunal. This is often preferable to a breach of contract claim which would need to be brought in the civil court while your employment is continuing (see above).
What to do next
Keeping in mind the strict time limits for bringing claims in the Employment Tribunal (usually 3 months less a day of the act complained of) we recommend as a first step having discussions with your employer with a view to reach an agreement and compromise to preserve your employment where possible.
You can also consider submitting a statutory flexible working request to request the hours and working pattern that works for you. However, if you put in a flexible working request, there is a risk that this will be taken to mean that you accept the change that they have suggested and that you are now requesting to change the contract again. This will make it difficult or impossible to bring certain types of claims (e.g., constructive dismissal).
If you put in a flexible working request, you should make it clear that you are making the request on the basis that you do not accept the changes made to your contract. You should do this by writing on the front of the application “This application is made on the basis that I object to the change being made and that I do not agree that the change is lawful”. Please see our page for more information on how to make a request here: Flexible working and the right to request – Working Families
Raise a grievance
If the discussions with your employer don’t resolve the issue, or you think your employer has treated you very unfairly and the relationship is breaking down, you can consider raising a grievance.
Raising a grievance is important if you think you might later raise a claim in the Employment Tribunal because failure to follow internal resolution methods can disadvantage your claim and result in a reduction in compensation awarded.
It is often advisable to try and resolve things amicably, as formal processes can damage your relationship with your employer. For legal insight into grievances and tips on how to engage with your employer before it reaches this point, see our article on how grievances do more harm than good.
Make a claim in the Employment Tribunal
If you cannot come to an agreement, if your employer dismisses you or you feel forced to resign, you can consider a claim against your employer in the Employment Tribunal.
If you want to submit an Employment Tribunal claim, there is a strict time limitation to do so – you must bring a claim within three months less a day of the date your change occurred (for breach of contract), the date of your dismissal (for unfair dismissal), or the date of the acts complained of (for discrimination).
In order to start the process of making a claim, you must first contact ACAS to start early conciliation. For further details of the process for bringing an Employment Tribunal claim please see our articles on starting a claim.
The process can be complex, so we strongly recommend seeking legal advice if you choose to do this.
Frequently asked questions
Below are some of the most common questions we receive on our helpline about imposed change.
I can’t agree to the change of hours because of childcare
If your employer tries to make you work different hours or in a different place, and you cannot comply because of your childcare responsibilities, then you may have a claim for indirect sex discrimination if you are a woman. Tribunals recognise that more women than men shoulder the main responsibility for childcare in society in general – this is called the ‘childcare disparity’. If you are a woman, you may be able to argue that your employer is indirectly discriminating against you by insisting you change your hours. See Potential Claims – Discrimination above
Men are unable to claim indirect sex discrimination due to childcare reasons. But they can claim direct sex discrimination if they can prove that the employer treated them less favourably than women. Fathers can make a claim for direct sex discrimination if women in their organisation are being given more flexibility than they are. So if your employer is making a change to working hours but are making an exception for female employees, you could have a claim if they do not do the same for you.
You may also be able to make a claim if you can show that if there was a woman in your situation, she would be treated better. You should seek legal advice before making this argument.
My employer is moving to a new location very far away, what are my rights?
Without a mobility clause in your contract, your employer cannot make you move to a different site so far away. If the new place of work is unreasonably far from the current place of work, you should be offered redundancy. Alternatively, you may also want to explore the option of remote working, and see whether any of your job could be done from home if you did want to stay with the company.
Even if there is a mobility clause in your contract, this can usually only be relied upon for changes that are non-detrimental in nature. The extra distance may also have such an impact on your childcare responsibilities that, if you are a woman, this could be indirect sex discrimination, more information above.
If you are unsure, you should seek advice on your options.
Can my employer dismiss me if I don’t agree to a change in my contract?
Unfortunately, yes. Your employer can dismiss employees who refuse to agree to the changes to their employment contract. They would still need to follow a fair procedure if they are dismissing you.
If you are dismissed because you refused to agree to a change in your contract or you refused to sign a new contract, and you have been employed for two years or more, you may have a claim for unfair dismissal.
An Employment Tribunal would look at all the factors surrounding the change and the decision to dismiss you to decide if the dismissal was unlawful, including:
- the employer’s reasons for the change
- the way in which the dismissal was carried out
A change in the business, or your employer wanting to harmonise terms and conditions can be a fair reason for dismissal. Tribunals give employers a lot of discretion about how best to run their business.
But your dismissal would be unfair if you could show that you were dismissed because of discrimination. If discrimination has occurred, you also don’t need two years’ service to bring a claim. You should seek legal advice if this happens to you.
How far in advance should my employer warn me of any contractual changes?
Your employer should give you advance notice of any changes they want to make to your contract, and should consult with you beforehand. Usually, the required notice period for any change is the length of the notice to terminate the contract. Look at your contract and the clause that says “Notice”. It should give a specific period of time. If they give you this notice, they can potentially avoid a breach of contract claim.
My employer changed a term in my contract a few months ago and I didn’t object
Normally, you should object without delay as soon as you know about the change. If you carry on working as normal without telling your employer you don’t agree, it may be taken as evidence that you have agreed to the change. There may be some allowance where you try the new working arrangements and then protest once you realise the impact will be so adverse that you cannot accept it.
However, in cases where a change to the employment contract did not have an immediate effect on an employee, the courts found that an employee’s failure to object did not mean that they were then bound by the contractual term.
If this happens to you, you should make it clear to your employer as soon as possible that you did not agree to the change, and that you continuing to work was not an agreement to the change. You should also seek legal advice.
How long can I work under protest?
It is difficult to say, because sometimes continuing to work might be seen as you accepting the change. But we think that as long as you make it clear that you do not accept the change even though you are continuing to work, you could protest for a reasonable amount of time. You should make it clear that you do not agree to the change in writing, in a Letter of Protest.
In a case called Rigby v Ferodo, employees managed to protest the change to their employment contracts for a number of months. Every case will be different and there is no strict time limit – the important thing is to protest in writing. It may be wise to re-confirm your protest every few weeks. This is an area of law where the limits are not clear cut. You should seek legal advice if you are in this situation.
What if my trade union has agreed to changes to my contract?
An exception to the principle that you personally must agree to any changes to your contract is when a trade union makes agreements on behalf of all workers.
If your contract says that a union can bargain on behalf of all the workers in a workplace, you may be bound to a change that the union agrees to on your behalf. This is still the case even if you personally don’t agree with the new contract term. You should seek legal advice if this is your situation, because you may still have other claims.
For more information, see our article on the Law when a Collective Bargaining Agreement Changes your Contract
My employer changed my terms, which made it impossible for me to work so I resigned
If your employer made a significant change to your contract without your agreement, and you resigned as a direct result of this change, you may be able to argue that your employer’s insistence on the change effectively ended the contract and left you with no choice except to resign.
In legal terms this is called a constructive dismissal. You may also be able to argue it was a deemed dismissal. If a tribunal is satisfied that your employer’s actions were effectively a dismissal, it will then go on to consider whether the dismissal was unfair. Constructive dismissal and deemed dismissal can be complicated and difficult to prove, so you should always seek legal advice before resigning.
My employer says if I don’t agree to the change, I will be at risk of redundancy. Is that right?
It depends on the circumstances. A redundancy only happens for one of three reasons:
- your place of work closes or moves, either temporarily or permanently;
- the type of work you do will no longer be done at your place of work; or
- fewer employees are needed to do the particular type of work that you do.
If none of these apply, then you should not be made redundant.
If a genuine change in the nature of your employer’s business means that there is less need for employees to do the type of work you do in the place of work where you do it, you should normally be offered redundancy. If your employer changes your place of work and the contract doesn’t allow this, you may be made redundant. New terms are often offered as an alternative to redundancy.
However, redundancy does not apply to where you are being asked to do more hours, or to work at different times.
If there is a redundancy situation, your employer would have to follow the usual fair redundancy procedure, and you would be entitled to a redundancy payment if you have more than two years’ service. If you are singled out for redundancy and you suspect you have been selected instead of others because of your working hours or childcare responsibilities, this could be unfair and discriminatory. Please seek legal advice.
There is more information on our redundancy page. We also have advice on what to do if you are under threat of redundancy.
My employer has tried to fire and re-hire me, should I take the new job?
If a change is of great importance to your employer and it cannot be agreed, your employer may give notice to terminate your old contract and offer you a contract on the new terms. If the employer fails to follow a fair procedure in doing this, it may give rise to unfair dismissal and discrimination claims.
However, the offer of re-employment may mitigate (lessen) your loss which will limit what you can claim in an Employment Tribunal, depending on your circumstances. It may reduce the amount of money you may be awarded if you bring a claim against your employer.
If you are offered re-employment, you should seek advice before deciding whether to accept or reject the offer.
My employer is imposing changes on more than 20 employees
If your employer is proposing to dismiss (and re-engage) 20 or more employees, the collective consultation obligations under section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 will apply.
As collective consultation requires an employer to meet very specific obligations, you should seek advice if your employer has failed to follow these rules, as you may have a claim for a protective award.
This advice applies in England, Wales and Scotland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details. If you are in Northern Ireland you can visit the Labour Relations Agency or call their helpline Workplace Information Service on 03300 555 300.
If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.
The information on the law contained on this site is provided free of charge and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. If you are not a solicitor, you are advised to obtain specific legal advice about your case or matter and not to rely solely on this information. Law and guidance is changing regularly in this area.
We cannot provide advice on employment rights in Northern Ireland as the law is different. You can visit the Labour Relations Agency or call their helpline Workplace Information Service on 03300 555 300.