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Navigating Employment Contract Changes: A Guide to Avoiding Constructive Dismissal


In the dynamic landscape of employment, businesses often need to adapt their operations, which may involve modifying employment contracts. However, employers and employees alike must tread carefully to avoid unintended consequences, such as constructive dismissal. In this post, we explore the delicate balance between contract adjustments and employee rights.

changing employment contracts
changing employment contracts

Understanding Constructive Dismissal

Constructive dismissal occurs when an employer unilaterally alters a fundamental term of an employment contract, leading the employee to resign. While the change may not be explicitly stated as termination, the impact on the employee’s role, compensation, or working conditions can be substantial. Here are some common scenarios that may trigger constructive dismissal:

  1. Significant Changes: Alterations to key terms, such as salary, job responsibilities, or working hours, without the employee’s consent.

  2. Hostile Work Environment: Changes that create an unbearable or hostile workplace, forcing the employee to leave.

  3. Breach of Trust: Actions that erode trust between employer and employee, such as demotions or unjustified disciplinary measures.

Navigating Employment Contract Changes

1. Communication is Key

  • Transparency: Employers should communicate openly with employees about any proposed changes. Discuss the reasons behind the modifications and seek feedback.

  • Consent: Obtain written consent from employees before implementing significant alterations. This ensures clarity and prevents misunderstandings.

2. Review Existing Contracts

  • Thorough Assessment: Evaluate existing employment contracts to identify any potential pitfalls. Seek legal advice if necessary.

  • Contractual Rights: Understand the rights and obligations outlined in the contract. Avoid breaching fundamental terms.

3. Mitigating Constructive Dismissal Risks

  • Consultation: Involve employees in the decision-making process. Their input matters.

  • Alternative Solutions: Explore alternatives to drastic changes. Can adjustments be made without adversely affecting employees?

  • Offer Consideration: If changes are necessary, provide something in return (e.g., additional benefits, training, or compensation adjustments).

Balancing business needs with employee rights is crucial. Employers must approach contract changes with sensitivity, ensuring fairness and transparency. Employees, on the other hand, should seek legal advice if they believe their rights are compromised. By fostering open communication and respecting contractual obligations, both parties can navigate changes without risking constructive dismissal.


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Can Canko

Employment, Contracts and Commercial Law

  • 17 years of legal experience

  • +500 case litigated (solo) globally

  • 276 appeals

  • 153 mediations

  • +$15bn transactional experience

  • Civil and common law qualifications

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