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What to do if your job changes
Can your employer change your job role?

Over time, job roles can naturally change. However, if your employer suddenly and dramatically alters your job, it’s not the same thing. Here's what to do if it happens to you.

As companies and industries change and develop, so too do job roles. As a result, what you do now may be quite different from what you did when you started. This doesn't only happen on promotion; sometimes employees are asked to take on different responsibilities without their job title changing. More often than not, these are small changes over time.

However, there may be some occasions when your employer wants to change your job completely. This could, for example, be because someone else has left the company or is going on maternity leave, or due to the business changing direction. Here are a few of the steps you should take if you find your employer wants to drastically alter what you do in a way you don't like. 

Act quickly

It’s important to take steps before the change occurs if you can, or as soon as possible after that if the change is being imposed. This is because if you don’t object to a change and simply absorb the changes into your day-to-day role and responsibilities, you will be deemed to have agreed and accepted the change, and are unlikely to be able to do anything about it.

Check your contract

Your first step is to check your contract. It may include clauses that state your employer is able to make changes to your duties and other aspects of your job. Even if it is expressly stated, any change your employer makes must be reasonable.

If your contract doesn’t mention an express right for your employer to make the change, it can only be made with your agreement. In order to obtain your agreement, your employer should consult with you, explain the reasons for the change and give you the opportunity to accept or reject the proposal. If you are a member of a trade union they may be able to assist as part of the consultation process.

Find out why your role is being changed

Even if your role is only slightly altered, your employer should explain why this is happening, especially as it may result in changes to the terms of your contract. Whether alterations are due to a change in company direction, staff leaving or fixed-term cover being required, this should be explained fully. They should also discuss exactly what your new duties will entail.

You should also be given time to consider and, if needed, negotiate the changes to your role, especially if they are dramatic enough to require a change in salary, title or job description. If you have not had a consultation with your employer, you should request one in order to gain a full understanding of why your job is changing.

If your employer continues with the changes

If you don’t agree with the changes, your employer may try to impose them. 

They could simply tell you that the change is going to happen anyway and when the change will occur. If they go ahead with the change, your employer is likely to be in breach of your existing contract and you may have the right to bring claims for:

  • constructive dismissal (if you have over two years of service and decide to leave because of it)
  • actual unfair dismissal (even if you decide to stay but the change to your role is significant and fundamentally different, again you will need to have over two years’ service)
  • and/or damages for breach of contract
  • and/or claim unlawful deductions from your wages if you’re financially worse off because of the change.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. This is particularly important since if you do nothing, you may be accepting the new terms by your conduct. It can be a good idea to make it clear to your employer in writing that you’re continuing to work ‘under protest’, to avoid any argument that you’re accepting the new role.

Notice to dismiss

Alternatively, your employer may give you notice to terminate your current employment contract (which counts as a dismissal) and offer you a new contract to start when the old one ends on the terms you've already rejected.

At this point, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to stay at the company or leave. If your employer has not followed a fair dismissal procedure and/or does not have a good business reason, you may have grounds for pursuing an employment tribunal claim, even if you accept the new job.

You have 3 months less one day from the last day of your employment in which to issue a claim in the Employment Tribunal.  Prior to issuing a claim, you need to contact the conciliation service ACAS to commence Early Conciliation (EC). If EC is unsuccessful you will be given a Certificate Number, which you will need to put on the ET claim form you submit to the Tribunal.  The actual deadline to commence a claim in the Tribunal will depend on when you start EC and the date the certificate is issued.

Before starting any legal claim, it’s a good idea to seek advice from an employment lawyer or specialist adviser. For expert employment law advice, contact Which? Legal today. 


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