New contract was imposed and consultation process was unfair
A teacher who was offered a new contract of work which called for compulsory unpaid overtime and promised a pay rise was a victim of breach of contract and unfair dismissal, a tribunal has ruled.
The tribunal learned that the claimant’s employer started a process of “harmonisation”, with the aim of moving to a higher proportion of full-time workers and in conducting this exercise, were offering new contracts to existing staff. However, the terms of the new contract were vague and overtime was compulsory and unpaid – unlike the old contract which was voluntary and paid. The contract was also presented as having a 10% pay rise, but in fact when pro-rated and properly calculated, the rise amounted to around 1%>
Staff were told that if they did not sign the new terms they would remain on existing terms. However, the practice of paying overtime came to an end, thus changing the existing terms. The claimant complained about the reduction of his salary with no consultation and reduction in his overtime. As a result of feeling maligned and overworked, he missed a class and as a result was invited to a disciplinary meeting, where he received a final written warning. This was later reduced to a first written warning after an appeal.
Around this time consultation occurred regarding the changes to the contract and in an individual consultation meeting the claimant again complained about the changes, stating that new clause was unfair, and that he would be receiving less money for more work and that the increase only worked out as an extra £14 per month. He was told that the changes would proceed and he submitted a grievance, in which he complained about harassment and lack of meaningful consultation.
He then went off sick and during his sick leave his employer wrote to him with a summary of events, including a notice stating that if he did not sign the new contract his notice would be invoked. He was also told that his grievance could not progress without a meeting and that as he had refused to attend due to his ill health it was not going to be possible to hear it.
The tribunal found “that this added unnecessarily to the pressure that the claimant was experiencing at a time when he was trying to rest and recover”. It suggested that, at the very least, the employer should have arranged an occupational health assessment to try to find a way round the difficulty in meeting to discuss the grievance and contractual changes.
In relation to hours and pay, the employer’s process was ruled as falling “outside of the range of reasonable responses” and stating that clear documentation setting out the basic elements of pay and hours was not provided. He did not receive this.
The judge awarded compensation of £7,551.
When employers make changes to contractual terms, the employer must ensure that it has provided full details of the nature and impact of the changes and conduct full and meaningful consultation. If you would like support with a consultation exercise contact us at email@example.com