Changing Terms and Conditions in Difficult Times

For many employers, the government’s announcement that the UK is in the first technical recession for 11 years will come as little surprise. It is undoubtedly a very difficult and uncertain time for many employers and will see them trying to plan for the future of their business as best they can. For some organisations, this will include reviewing the terms and conditions of their employees to consider whether permanent changes are needed. Common areas which are likely to come under scrutiny are pay, benefits and working hours.

If you are considering making changes to employee’s terms and conditions what are some of the key things to be aware of?

  1. Have a good business case and plan ahead

One of the first things to do if you are considering proposing changes to employees’ terms and conditions is to identify what changes you wish to make and why, which employees/groups of employees would be affected and what the impact could be on them. Employers should have good clear business reasons for the proposed change/s as these will be needed when consulting with employees about the proposals and hopefully persuading them to consent to the change/s. It’s important to bear in mind that in most cases, the safest and easiest way of making changes to an employee’s terms and conditions is by obtaining their agreement to it. By considering at an early stage how the changes could affect employees, it can help employers to anticipate whether concerns/objections may be raised and to prepare for this.

As you would expect, it’s important to ensure that any proposed changes are non-discriminatory and don’t otherwise breach the law, such as in relation to National Minimum Wage or Working Time rules.

If you would like a template to use to help you structure a business case for changing terms and conditions,  please contact your Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.

  1. Consult with employees

It will usually be necessary to consult with employees regarding the proposed change/s. In most cases this will involve meeting with them individually to explain the proposals and the reasons for them and considering any points, questions, concerns or objections the employee raises. It may be necessary to meet with employees more than once as part of a fair consultation process and in order to hopefully secure their agreement. For employers who need to consult with employees who are working remotely, alternatives to ‘in-person’ meetings may need to be considered, such as using videoconferencing facilities.

Agreements to change terms and conditions should be made in writing. Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd can help employers with this.

It should be born in mind that employers are under a duty to collectively consult regarding proposed changes to terms and conditions in some circumstances. If this duty is triggered, additional requirements will apply including the obligation to consult with employee representatives.

You should contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd for advice on consultation in your situation.

  1. Be prepared in case agreement can’t be reached

 If, after appropriate consultation, an employer is unable to gain an employee’s agreement to the proposed change/s it may ultimately be necessary to consider dismissing the employee with an offer to re-hire them under a contract which contains the change/s you wished to make. This is often referred to as dismissing and re-engaging. It is not a step to be undertaking lightly, or without following an appropriate process. Remember, if an employee has two years service or more they can complain to an employment tribunal if they have been unfairly dismissed so it is important to get it right. Employers should always seek advice on the facts of their case before taking action if an employee is objecting to proposed changes.

If you would like advice on changing terms and conditions in your organisation or advice on any other employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.

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