Going back to the office without doing a U turn

Whether your employees are returning to the office after working from home, or coming back to work after a period of furlough, it’s likely you are going to make some changes to the way your business works.

If it’s updated health and safety procedures to minimise covid risks, or just new methods of communications, then as the employer you can impose such changes.

But if it’s a permanent change in type of work, break times, working hours or work location, you are going to have to change the contract of employment - which you can’t do without compensation or employee agreement.

After having employees on furlough for over a year, or part time furlough, or even working from home, it’s more than likely they will return to a different kind of work or work environment. Unless you have a flexibility clause in your current contract of employment, you are going to have to change the contract.

This leads to difficulty if some employees will agree to the change in contract and some won’t. You can either end up with staff on different contracts which can cause all sorts of issues now and in the future. Or you try and avoid disruption by backing down on changes that are important to the future of the business.

We would not encourage employers to amend contracts themselves. Even cutting and pasting from legally drafted versions can fail either because: a vital definition or clause that was not thought to be vital has been left out, they are inconsistent with other documents/polices that exist or there is a contradiction in defined term(s) used particularly if you start trying to tailor the precedent to your own circumstances etc. Any inconsistencies are then usually found in the employee’s favour rather than trying to interpret the agreement in a way that was intended.

You may be thinking ‘we would say that wouldn’t we!’ but as a dispute resolution solicitor I see many more disputes as a result of DIY jobs than with those that have been professionally advised. Furthermore, although not exclusively, it is typically the clients that have tried to do things themselves that have the more expensive and unpredictable litigation, and possibly not covered by their insurers. For example, rather than having enforceable documents/contracts etc the litigation then has to involve (more than normal) legal arguments over interpreting what was apparently agreed or is enforceable.

If you are thinking about redeploying staff into other areas of work, changing hours of work, moving to part time or flexible working, introducing hybrid working (some at home and some in the office) or changing the work location entirely, let us help you implement these changes correctly. With the right documentation in place, and using effective consultation processes we can minimise your risks of costly employment tribunal claims.

And if you do need to let people go after furlough ends, you must still follow a fair dismissal process for the redundancy - we can help with that too. At Salehs, our qualified and experienced solicitors and HR advisors will take account of all your circumstances to produce comprehensive and enforceable documents and manageable processes. This will ensure that your business can thrive and you can concentrate on doing what you do best.

Contact Mike Carter on 0161 434 9991 or michael.carter@salehs.co.uk

With Salehs you are in safe hands.


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