COVID-19 has put the nation in a spin and with the current introduction of strong Government advice to stay at home, this has left some employers with considerable decisions to make with regards to employees being able to continue to work in these testing times, not to mention the financial impact this virus is having on the economy as a whole.
There are various options open to employers to try and navigate through these times by offering more flexible ways of working where they can and often one of the most common routes would be to vary employment contracts.
Variation of terms and conditions of a contract of employment is most often achieved by mutual agreement with the employee.
The following options may be achieved through a variation of contract;
- Reduction in hours either on a temporary or permanent basis
- Variation to working patterns, to take into account childcare needs (now that schools have closed)
- Variation to pay – agreement to take a salary reduction given the current financial pressures this pandemic has caused
- Agreement to work from home
- Agreement to ‘Furlough’ workers for a temporary period of time
What Happens If I Cannot Obtain Mutual Agreement to the Variation?
- Unilaterally vary the terms
- Dismissal and re-engage on different terms
However, this could open the employer up to claims of constructive unfair dismissal and unfair dismissal. Therefore, it is important that employers should firstly consider consulting with staff and obtaining their agreement as this is the easiest and safest way to vary terms.
If agreement is reached, employers should ensure that this agreement is documented and recorded to avoid any claims of unlawful deduction from wages or breach of contract claims.
There are numerous options open to employers to seek the flexibility required and we would urge you to give us a call so we can assist you in these uncertain times.