How can I change some of the basic terms of my contract of employment?

A contract of employment is a legal agreement between the employer and the employee. It contains terms, either express or implied, which cannot be lawfully changed without the agreement of both parties.

If you want to change some of the terms, you should discuss this with your employer, perhaps with the help of a trade union representative. Your employer must listen to and genuinely consider your request.

It is a good idea to think carefully about your employer’s likely response, and to write down the ways in which you would respond, thinking about for example:

  • how your request could be met in practice;
  • what affect it could have on your employer and your colleagues;
  • whether there is a potential upside for your employer you can highlight;
  • if there are disadvantages, and how these could be addressed;
  • whether it will cost your employer anything;
  • when you would like the new arrangement to start if your employer agrees; and
  • what compromises you would be prepared to make to meet your employer halfway if necessary.

Thinking about these in advance helps you make sure you don’t agree to something you later regret.

If a number of you want to ask for the same change, it is sensible to group together to make your case for change, through your union if there is a recognised union at your workplace.

There are also specific laws in place if you want to ask to change your basic terms to work flexibly or to take time off to train.

Remember that any change to your contract terms in response to a request to work flexibly will be a permanent change, unless the parties agree otherwise, so if you want it to be temporary only, or to be reviewed at a particular date, you need to agree this, and record the agreement clearly and in writing.

Disabled workers have additional protection. They are entitled to reasonable adjustments to the way they work, for example, changes to hours and the provision of special equipment, to enable them to do their job.

Employees also have important protections if they need to make temporary changes to the way they work because they are pregnant or breastfeeding. It is unlawful to treat a woman unfavourably because she is pregnant or breastfeeding or because she has a pregnancy-related illness.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding also have important statutory rights, including the right to temporary adjustment of working conditions and/or hours of work, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, where their health and safety or that of their baby might be at risk. There is more information on the Health and Safety Executive web page: New and Expectant Mothers.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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