A question we are asked a lot is “can I change my employees terms and conditions?”. We always begin by looking at what a change to terms and conditions is – fundamentally this means you are changing anything that is specified in their contract of employment.
If this is a positive change, i.e. a pay rise or flexible working arrangements, this change is almost certainly going to be agreed by the employee, and not challenged in any way.
However, some changes are not necessarily beneficial to the employee, and these are the ones that often cause the worry when implementing them.
What areas might you change?
Examples of areas that you could need to change include:
- Changes to working hours (perhaps you are extending your opening hours)
- Changes to working days (including weekend working for example)
- Changes to the number or pattern of hours the employee works
- Changes to working location
- Changes to pay
Change is usually driven by one of the following reasons:
- Changes to the financial situation of the company
- Increased or decreased volumes of work
- The needs of the business have changed and you need contracts to reflect this
- Harmonising contracts across the business
How do you implement changes?
There is a statutory process which you must follow before you implement changes. When changes have been agreed, these should be confirmed in writing as an amendment to the contract.
Enforcing changes without consultation and/or agreement could constitute a breach of contract. It is essential to meet with the employees at the earlies opportunity (and this may need to include unions or employee representatives) to explain the proposals. The employee should then be given time to consider the proposals and come back with any suggestions or feedback. During this period staff are likely to fully consider and understand the changes, which may make them more receptive.
There may be occasions where despite consultation and attempting to compromise, the employee refuses to accept the change. In this occasion, there are options available to you where you could implement the change without consent. There are risks to this process, and you should therefore seek advice and make sure you minimise risk as much as possible throughout the process. The key factors in defending any claims are ensuring there was a fair procedure and a fair reason to dismiss.
Adopting an open-minded and innovative approach to changes can result in you identifying different working patterns and practices which could bring benefits for employees and the organisation. Please contact us if you would like any advice regarding changing terms and conditions, or any other aspect of HR.