Varying an employment contract

31 October 2010
Varying an employment contract

Q: Our staff have contractual pay rises which are unsustainable for our charity. The trustee board has made a decision to remove these. However if we make these revisions and an employee doesn't agree with the revised contract, what are the chances of a staff member successfully bringing a claim at tribunal?

In terms of varying staff contracts, the following information may help:

Unilaterally changing an employee’s contract without their consent can lead to claims of breach of contract, unfair or wrongful dismissal. Likewise, if you choose to follow a redundancy process for those staff who do not agree to the changes (with a view to immediately re-engaging them on the new contracts), this can also lead to similar claims. The awards for unfair dismissal/ breach of contract are substantial (up to £65,300 and £25,000 respectively - due for review again early 2011) so you’re well advised to seek guidance from an employment solicitor to help you understand your best options. Law works and Business In the Community offer legal support on a pro-bono basis to charities.

Consulting with staff early on in a change process can help to gain staff support, understanding and ideas – hopefully minimising the need to deal with problems later on. The Acas guidance on how to manage change and employee communications and consultation may be useful as you structure your consultation.

If you have more than 50 staff, you’ll be required to consult by law (this is discussed in the second Acas booklet above). Acas offers a professional support service – it may be worthwhile to enquire into how they can assist you.

Please note that HRBird by its very nature offers general information. If you're looking for advice specific to your situation, speak to an HR professional or solicitor. Got a question on staff or volunteers? To submit an anonymous query for the HRBird blog, contact us. 

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