Making changes to employment contracts – employer responsibilities

If employment contract changes are agreed

If agreement is reached about contract changes after you've consulted with employees 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
  • 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 should always put any agreed contract changes in writing, for example in a letter or email. This helps to make sure everyone is clear about what has been agreed so there is less chance of misunderstandings or disagreements.

You should give employees a copy of the agreed changes in writing and ask them to:

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

When you must update someone’s written terms of employment

If the change relates to what must legally be in someone's written terms ('written statement of employment particulars'), you must update the written terms within one month of any changes taking effect.

For example, you should do this if the change relates to:

  • job title
  • job description
  • job location
  • pay
  • working hours
  • holiday entitlement

If the change affects any terms covered by an agreement with a trade union (a 'collective agreement'), you must update the written terms within 2 months of any changes taking effect.

Written terms provided before 6 April 2020

If you're changing someone's written terms that you provided before 6 April 2020, you must include:

Making sure everyone is clear about the change

You should make sure everyone affected by an agreed change is clear about the details, including:

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

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 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 emotions 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, for example one year or more, if:

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

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