If changes are agreed - Changing your employees' contracts

If changes are agreed

If agreement is reached about contract changes after you've consulted with employees, workers and their representatives, you should:

  • put any changes in writing
  • make sure everyone is clear about the details of changes, such as how and when they will take effect, and whether the change is temporary or permanent
  • monitor how the changes are working for an appropriate period of time

Putting changes in writing

Employees do not have to sign a new contract for changes to take effect.

However, you must put any changes to an employee's main terms of employment in writing. For example you might send them a letter or email.

It's a good idea to put all contract changes in writing. This helps to make sure everyone is clear about what has been agreed so there is less chance of misunderstandings or disagreements.

You can choose to update an employee's written statement of employment particulars but you do not have to.

When you put changes in writing, you should ask the employee to:

  • check that it describes accurately what they have agreed
  • let you know if they have any questions or concerns

If a change only affects one employee, you must write to them individually.

If a change affects a number of employees, you may not need to write to everyone separately. This applies when the change is about something that's in a document everyone can access, for example in a policy. You can put the changes in writing for the whole group at the same time, for example in a group email.

By law, you must put a change in writing within 1 month of the change.

Making sure everyone is clear about the change

You should make sure everyone affected by an agreed change is clear about how the change affects them. You should explain details such as:

  • what the change is
  • why it has been introduced
  • exactly what the change will mean for them
  • when and how it will take effect
  • for how long it will last, if it's a temporary change
  • who employees should talk with if they have any questions or concerns
  • what's expected of them

The best way to communicate with employees about this will depend on the circumstances, for example:

  • how many people are affected by the change
  • if everyone affected works in the same location or across different locations
  • if the change was agreed directly with employees or with employee representatives

If changes affect employees who work in different teams or locations, it can be useful for one person or department to handle all employees' questions. This can reduce the risk of communicating potentially conflicting information about the details of the changes.

If you have agreed changes with employee representatives, such as a recognised trade union, it can sometimes be helpful for you to work together to communicate the changes to the affected employees. This can help provide clarity and reassurance that employee representatives have influenced and support the change.

Monitoring the changes

After changes have been introduced, you should continue to keep open communication with employees for an appropriate period and review:

  • if the changes are working as expected for everyone involved
  • if the changes are being applied consistently and fairly
  • how employees and the whole organisation are adapting
  • any other new information related to the changes

Why it's important to monitor how employees respond to change

Changes to terms and conditions can sometimes affect the way people feel emotionally, mentally and physically.

Employees may go through a range of reactions during periods of change. Depending on the circumstances, they may feel uncertain, anxious or resistant to change.

For example, a period of business reorganisation can affect employees' morale and motivation, as well as levels of commitment and performance.

Giving employees an opportunity to continue to feedback on changes can help an organisation adapt to change in the best way.

How long you should monitor contract changes for

You should decide a time period for monitoring contract changes that is appropriate to the circumstances. For example, you should review changes over a longer period of time, such as one year or more, if:

  • contract changes are significant
  • there has been resistance to change among employees or their representatives

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