By Pat Hutchinson, District Manager, Newtownabbey CAB
Q: My employer wants to change my place of work to another branch 30 miles away. What are my rights?
A: You may have a problem at work because your employer wants to change the contract. In effect it is a proposal to change the contract of employment if, for example, your employer wants to:
• change the type of work that you do
• change your place of work
• cut your pay
• change the number of hours you work
In theory, your employer cannot change a term in your contract without you agreeing to the change. In practice, you may be faced with the choice of accepting the change or losing the job. However, you may be able to take some action against the employer if you disagree with the change.
Before you can decide what your rights may be regarding a proposed change to your contract, it is essential to discover what the existing contract says on the issue. You should look carefully at your copy of any written contract and/or the written statement of terms and conditions of employment. If you do not already have one, it may be advisable to ask the employer for a written statement of terms and conditions.
If you have a written contract, check to see if it includes a variation term specific to the change being proposed. A variation term is one that allows an employer to change a term and condition without prior agreement from the employee. For example, it may say “change of normal place of work if the needs of the business require it”.
Even if a contract contains a variation term, you may still be able to challenge the proposed change.
For there to be a change in the contract of employment, you must be deemed to have accepted the change. You do not have to say ‘I accept’, nor do you have to sign anything or put anything in writing. Just continuing to work and not objecting to the change will mean that the change is accepted.
To object to a change, you must take positive steps to do so and make clear to the employer that you object and say why. Preferably do this in writing and keep a copy of the letter. You may also wish to raise a grievance.
You cannot continue indefinitely working under protest. You will also have to consider what further action to take. It is important to remember that taking action against an employer over a change in the contract may mean that you could lose your job.
• Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau - log on to www.adviceguide.org.uk or call at Newtownabbey Citizens Advice Bureau, Dunanney Centre, Rathcoole. Telephone advice is available 9am - 4pm each day on 028 9085 2271 (lunch 1pm - 1:30pm).