Acas published an updated 'Advice on changing employment contracts' on 11 November.
This follows its report back in June on the use of "fire and rehire" practices by employers seeking to force contractual changes on their employees. As a result of the report the government asked Acas to produce clearer guidance to help employers explore alternative options when considering making contractual changes.
Acas states that fire and rehire is an extreme step that can damage staff morale, productivity, trust and working relations. It stresses that although it can sometimes feel difficult and time-consuming to reach an agreement, it's important to remember that there will always be benefits for everyone involved if agreement is reached and significant risks if contracts are changed without agreement. If both sides are struggling to reach an agreement, the Acas advice includes tips on keeping discussions constructive, exploring alternative options to reach a compromise, and staying focused on trying to reach consensus.
In terms of keeping discussions constructive, Acas recommends that the employer is transparent about their reasons, and continues to ask questions and listen to answers in order to understand other people's views and to find common ground. Being prepared to consider changes to the original proposal is another thing for employers to consider, as well as trying to agree one change at a time starting with "what" might need to change before moving onto "how" and "when".
Where employees are reluctant to agree to a proposed change Acas suggests that the employer should consider if there's anything it could offer that could make the proposal more attractive. Acas states that a change could be introduced gradually rather than all at once, or could be introduced on a temporary basis only. The guidance strikes a warning note when dealing with trade union negotiations, reminding employers that they must not make direct offers to employees or workers in this situation as an incentive to give up any of their terms that are covered by a collective agreement.
The guidance also reminds employers of the range of Acas services on offer which can help employers reach agreement with employees and employee representatives.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.