Under normal circumstances, changes to a contract of employment need to be mutually agreed upon by both the employer and the employee before they are made official. If an employer wishes to make any changes to a contract, they are obliged to consult the employee or a relevant representative (e.g. a trade union) and provide a full explanation for the reasons behind the proposed change.
If your employer has asked you to agree to changes to your contract, it is vital that you seek independent advice from a specialist employment solicitor to make sure the changes are fair and that your employment rights are protected.
It is important to note that if you disagree with the new terms being offered to you but do not take any practical action, then this is likely to be regarded as an agreement by the employer.
If your employer has made changes to your contract without your agreement, there are various legal options available to help you defend your rights and get a fair outcome.
Solving a contractual dispute through mediation
Contractual disputes can often be quickly sorted out by bringing in a trained mediator to open up a dialogue between yourself and your employer. The mediator will work to help both parties to identify the issues in the dispute and to reach a mutually beneficial agreement on how to resolve those issues.
Mediation can be used at any stage of a dispute, however, the sooner you try mediation, the more effective it usually is. While mediation can be used for most types of employment disputes, the mediator cannot make a judgement about the legal rights and wrongs of a contract dispute. If you want a definitive answer about your employment rights, you may have to refer the matter to an employment tribunal.
Taking a contractual dispute to an employment tribunal
If you are unable to come to an agreement through mediation, the next step would be to take your contractual dispute to an employment tribunal. Employment tribunals exist to make decisions in legal disputes around employment law. The tribunal will listen to you (the claimant) and your employer (the respondent) before coming to a decision.
Before making an application to an employment tribunal, you must first inform the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) and consider their early conciliation service. This can allow you to achieve a fair outcome faster and without the stress and uncertainty of a formal tribunal hearing.
You will normally need to bring your claim to an employment tribunal within three months of the issue arising. However, if you use Acas early conciliation this deadline can be extended. If early conciliation does not achieve a positive outcome, you will be issued an early conciliation certificate and will have at least one month from this being issued to make a claim to a tribunal.
Claiming Constructive Dismissal
If you believe that you have been, or are being, forced to leave your job against your will as a result of contract change, you may be able to make a claim for constructive dismissal. In simple terms, constructive dismissal means that your employer’s conduct has made your position untenable. This can include reasons such as reducing your salary or changing your hours of employment without your agreement.
A tribunal will decide whether your employer has acted unlawfully with regards to their treatment of your contract. They can then order your employer to pay you compensation or to re-employ you on the terms of your original contract.
If you believe you have a case for constructive dismissal, it is important to consult an employment lawyer immediately about your options. By staying in your job, your employer may argue that you have accepted the conduct or treatment, so it is important to take the right actions as soon as possible to protect your right to claim.
Get expert legal advice on employment law
Contractual disputes can be extremely stressful with the potential to significantly affect your career. It is therefore important that you seek advice as soon as possible to ensure your claim can be dealt with as effectively and efficiently as possible.
At Bird & Co, our employment team have years of experience in all areas of employment law and will be able to provide tailored advice to help you through every step of your dispute.
If you have a contractual dispute you would like to discuss, call us on 01476 404 109 or fill in our simple enquiry form and we will get back to you promptly.