/ Contract changes

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mkean - on 26 Nov 2012
I just contacted my agency to check out a few details as I'm planning on quitting my job in the not too distant future and was suprised to discover that they have changed my notice period without telling me:

I've got a copy of my contract which I signed when I took the job, I've got an email from earlier this year confirming my T&Cs were unchanged but apparently they were changed about 2 years ago. I've had my contract extended a couple of times but have not signed a new one as I had been told my T&Cs haven't changed.

Anyone care to comment on the legality of changing someones contract without notice?
off-duty - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean:

In my experience the response to retrospective changes in T and C's and contracts without notice or negotiation should be along the lines of "Man up, everyone's suffering, we're all in this together etc etc "

Not sure that helps much though, sorry.
hokkyokusei - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean:

Contract T&Cs can't be changed like that. You would have to have signed something new. If you didn't then the old contract is in force. In any case notice periods are almost always up for negotiation.
mkean - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to off-duty:
Public sector whinger :-) What you guys got was a disgrace.
mkean - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to hokkyokusei:
Apparently "We don't know why you may or may not have been told but that is how it is" is the new streamlined lean alternative to sticking to contract law!
Scarab9 - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean:

if you've not signed something then they can't do it. Had a similar issue not so long ago that got rather nasty. See if you can negotiate first before bringing up legality with them though as it's always best to try and leave on good terms.
Dave Perry - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean:

"if you've not signed it you can't be bound by it" = wrong! but some explanation. If you;'ve been working under a change of contract details then by employment law you've deemed to have accepted the changes. But of course you must be aware of them and this is probably unlikely as we only leave the employer only once normally.

That said there is absolutely nothing in practice the company can do if you simply tell them you are going without giving them the notice they've asked for. (The legally correct position for the company would be to sue for loss but that's difficult to assess and not worth it for 99.99% of employers and I've never heard of it succeeding.) The only thing to be aware of is how it might affect your reference if they get a bit ...?? tetchy about it. But they cannot force you to work your notice at all.
Mooncat - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Perry:

Spot on, there only has to be a consultation with employees and the change is legal and reasonable (whatever that means).

Why do people on here persist in thinking a contract has to be in writing?
Dave Perry - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Mooncat:

Although its a bit complicated to explain there does not have to be any consultation at all in that if your employer changes the contract in anyway and you continue working (there is no such thing as working under protest), the relevant case law is quite clear. If you continue to work then you have been seen to accepted the changes.

However:-

In general, to achieve a dismissal free detrimental change to employee's contracts (no one objects to positive changes normally!!), then case law expects you to have consulted and tried to reach agreement. If no agreement is forthcoming then you'd normally dismiss for 'Some Other Substantial Reason - SOSR and issue another amended contract. This would normally be the safe and accepted - and of course fair way - of changing the contract.

But from an employee's point of view you still have very little way of doing anything about a negative change unless you are willing to resign and claim you were constructively dismissed (breach of contract) in that the breach was a major one, enough to make you walk out immediately. (and if you stay you will be seen to have accepted the breach) And I doubt in this case that being asked to give extra notice, when, as I said before you cannot be held to this anyway, along with the fact that it would only come into force when you actually left makes the whole affair a non starter.

You are correct of course, all employees have contracts' whether they are written down or not, signed or whatever. The law requires that you are given within six weeks a written statement containing the main terms of the contract. Many employees don;t ever receive one, but non the less they do have a contract. The minute you accept an offer of work a contract of employment is made.

One other very good reason why you cannot be forced to work your contractual notice is that it would mean you are being forced to work when you don't want to. And slavery or forced labour was officially abolished a couple of hundred years ago.

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Fraser on 26 Nov 2012

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