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Lessons to be learnt from the Doctor’s strike when trying to change contracts of employment

The row between junior doctors and the government is over a new contract. Ministers offered doctors an 11% rise in basic pay last year, but that was offset by curbs to other elements of the pay package, including payments for unsociable hours.

The difficult negotiations between the Government and the unions highlight an all too common problem faced by employers who want to change their employee’s terms and conditions but the employee’s refuse.

Simply forcing the new terms without agreement could result in claims for constructive dismissal or breach of contract.

Another option could be to dismiss the employees and re-employ them on the new terms. The risk associated with this option is that they could resign and bring a claim for constructive unfair dismissal if they don't accept the new terms.

The best solution is to have a well drafted contract, with the right to change terms clearly stated, from the start of their employment. If changes are later sought, employers should embark upon a fair and open consultation with their employees, outlining a clear plan why they feel the changes are required, which will usually be to accommodate the needs of the business. Fully explaining the reasons and adopting a give and take approach will hopefully keep employees on your side.

If you need any help or assistance in dealing with proposed changes to contracts CONTACT US before you start consulting with your employees.

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