Varying an Employees Terms & Conditions

The year of 2020 has been a strange one, we’ve seen more businesses become home-based, and virtual meetings are now the norm. With this, businesses owners have had to quickly adapt to the wants and needs of their employees, this includes reviewing and varying their Terms and Conditions.

Aside from the Global Pandemic, there are many reasons why an employer may wish to make a variation of employee Terms and Conditions, some are mutually beneficial, and others ensure compliance with new legislation, and not forgetting that changes can be made to keep the company running following a crisis. Here’s a few examples of what those variations could look like:

  • Downturn in work leading to a decision to reduce employee’s hours (permanent or temporary).
  • employer issuing a pay increase (hourly/annually or otherwise) to an employee or a collection of employees.
  • Changing other Terms and Conditions to ensure compliance with new Legislative updates e.g. the inclusion of provisions for paid Parental Bereavement Leave in April 2020.
  • Changing the location of an employee’s place of work
  • Changing when the holiday leave year starts.

Also, something to note – Variation could also come in the form of adding new Terms and Conditions to an employee’s contract, for example, adding a Lay-off or Short Time Working clause. This has been particularly common during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Introduction of a variation

The first step an employer needs to take is to check whether there is a clause within the employee’s contract that grants them the right to make a change to the contract. This is commonly referred to as Flexibility Clause. Next, you need to consider the specific nature of the change to determine whether it is reasonable and within the scope of the current terms, or substantial and significant, which would require more consideration and the mutual consent of both parties.

If there is a flexibility clause within the contract that has been issued and accepted by the employee’s, the employer has greater strength to amend the current contract. Although, even with such a clause, it is always advisable to have a discussion with affected employees about the change including how/why/when the change will be taking effect.

If there is not a flexibility clause within the contract, or the change is fundamental and potentially detrimental to the employee, the employer will require the consent of the employee before amending Terms and Conditions of Employment.

So how can CoLaw help?

At CoLaw, our dedicated specialist consultants provide a comprehensive service tailored to the needs of our clients. Your Consultant will be able to provide information regarding Contract Variation, advising on how to conduct the process as well as providing on-hand advice if needed. Not only will your Consultant be there to advise you, they will also create relevant documents that you may require, from an initial letter outlining the proposal of the variation of Contract to the outcome letter which will sit alongside the employee’s original contract once the process is complete.

Should any complication arise, for example, an employee is not willing to accept a change to their Terms and Conditions, your Consultant will be able to guide you through what could ordinarily be a stressful situation giving you honest, constructive advice and support.

At CoLaw we combine pragmatic and commercial advice to ensure that client is following processes that are legally compliant to minimise their exposure to risks.

Given the numerous considerations and factors that are required when deciding to make a change to Terms and Conditions of employment. By using an external Employment Law & HR company, an employer will have on-hand, specialist, up to date legal and practical advice regarding variation of contract. This ensures that the employer can make the most well-informed decision, with the knowledge of their legal rights and the potential risks of changing their employee’s Terms and Conditions of Employment.

The support of a HR Consultant can provide specific and detailed advice on how to handle conflict in the event of an employee’s resistance or refusal.

We can also help to generate innovation by exploring alternative options which may not otherwise have been considered by drawing on the knowledge and experience of our specialist consultant.

A bespoke service

Although there is nothing to stop you from changing employee Terms and Conditions, there are numerous considerations and complexities involved. It is fundamentally a matter of contract law meaning legal principles apply and specific processes should be followed.

The cost of getting it wrong can be substantial (both financially and ethically) so even something that an employer considers to be the smallest of changes could have a significant impact on an individual, or group of individuals.

So, get in touch and let us give you peace of mind when it comes to varying Terms and Conditions.