Changing terms and conditions

Topic Index
Variation of contract by consent
Imposing contractual changes
Termination and re-engagement on new terms
Flexibility clauses
Discretionary benefits
Union agreement



  • Once terms of a contract of employment have been agreed between the employer and employee, any attempt by one party to vary them without agreement will usually be a breach of contract.
  • As the employment relationship develops, change is inevitable - in this respect an employment contract is unlike a typical legal contract which is set in stone and does not allow for continuing changes.
  • The steps an employer must take to introduce changes will depend on the significance of the proposed changes (particularly their consequences for the affected employees), and the express terms and implied terms of the contract of employment. The employer's reasons for needing to make the changes will also be relevant.
  • It is an implied term of an employee's contract that he or she will obey their employer's reasonable and lawful instructions. This means that an employer can introduce rules regulating the conduct of its employees at work (e.g. by introducing a harassment or no-smoking policy) without breaching contracts of employment.
  • Employees are expected to adapt to new working methods or techniques, but this must not alter the work that the employee is required to do to such an extent that the work involved is no longer of the kind they were employed to do....
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