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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: UK Employment Law
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Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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Hi, I am currently a Sales Office Manager reporting to the

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Hi, I am currently a Sales Office Manager reporting to the Sales Director with two administrators reporting to me. In Feb 2013 the Company Secretary returned to have a more active role in the Sales Office, and employed a Contract Manager in March 2013 to report solely to him and bring new business into the company. This created two reporting structures in one office. I was told last week by the HR Director and the new Contract Manager in a meeting that the business have decided that there are too many "chiefs", and having two reporting structures does not work, therefore they want to phase out the Sales Office Manager role, and I will report to the Contract Manager. They told me my salary would stay the same, my title would change to "Senior Administrator", however they want to discuss how this impacts my role and responsibilities next week with me. Do I have to accept this change in title and whom I report to? It feels like a demotion. Should they further tell me about the changes in my responsibilities they want, do I have to accept those aswell? I am unsure of my rights.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. For now please let me know how long you have worked there.

Customer:

Since 2008, but current role just over a year

Apologies for the slight delay, I experienced some temporary connection issues last night. What the employer appears to be trying to do is amend your terms and conditions. There are several ways in which an employer may try and make changes to an employee’s contract of employment. These are:

1. By receiving the employee’s express consent.
2. By forcefully introducing the changes (called 'unilateral change of contract').
3. By giving the employee notice to terminate their current contract and then offer them immediate re-engagement under a new contract that contains the changes.

If the employee agrees to the changes then that would usually put an end to the matter.

If the changes are introduced forcefully then the following options are open to the employee:

1. Start working on the new terms but making it clear in writing that they are working ‘under protest’. This means that the employee does not agree with the changes but is only working them because they feel they are forced to. In the meantime they should try and resolve the issue either by informal discussions or by raising a formal grievance.

2. If the changes are serious enough (e.g. a change to pay, duties, place of work, etc.) the employee may wish to consider resigning and claiming constructive dismissal. The resignation must be done without undue delay so as not to give the impression that the changes had been accepted. The claim must be submitted in an employment tribunal within 3 months of resigning and is subject to the employee having at least 2 years' continuous service.

3. Finally, if the employment is terminated and the employer offers re-engagement on the new terms that could potentially amount to unfair dismissal. However, the employer can justify the dismissal and the changes if they had a sound business reason for dismissing an employee who refuses to accept the variation in terms. This could be pressing business needs requiring drastic changes for the company to survive. If no such reason exists, the employee can make a claim for unfair dismissal in an employment tribunal. The same time limit of 3 months to claim and the requirement to have 2 years' continuous would apply.

It is also worth mentioning that sometimes employment contracts may try to give the employer a general right to make changes to the employee’s contract. As such clauses give the employer carte blanche to change any term, so as to evade the general rule that changes must be mutually agreed, courts will rarely enforce such clauses. Nothing but the clearest language will be sufficient to create such a right. Any attempt to rely on such clauses will still be subject to the requirement of the employer to act reasonably.

I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating. Your question will not close and I can continue providing further advice if necessary. Thank you
Ben Jones and 2 other UK Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for your reply. The only contract I have in writing is the "Statement of Terms of Employment" from August 2008 when I was a Sales Administrator. It does not lay out any responsibilities, when I did maternity cover, I asked for new contract, and received a letter stating job title and salary, and still no new job description/responsibilities. I wanted to make sure that these, as you say, "changes to my terms of employment" doesn't automatically favour my employer because I have no up to date written terms?

Whilst your terms and conditions may not have been confirmed in writing when you changed jobs, it does not mean that the old conditions would still apply. There is a principle in law known as 'custom and practice' where if something has been in place for a sufficient period of time and the circumstances show that it was intended for it to be permanent, it would become an implied contractual term and replace the existing terms that were in writing. This means that if the changes that occurred a year ago were due to be permanent (i.e. you were not told that you were simply being placed in that job on a temporary basis), you can certainly argue that they had resulted in an implied change to your contract and became your permanent terms.

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