Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Change of contract?

People sometimes advance the idea that it is impossible to change a contract without consent. This is not the case, as some university lecturers recently found to their cost (Bampouras v Edge Hill University).

The university imposed a change of pay structure, which had been pending as a result of long-protracted national negotiations. The lecturers claimed that this was a breach of contract and that they had therefore been dismissed.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) did not agree. It quoted a previous judgement that is worth noting if staff make similar claims: "in many cases...to construe (a communication) which puts forward no more than a variation in a contract of employment as amounting to a termination or withdrawal of such a contract would be quite inappropriate and wrong."

The EAT also noted, without comment, that one of the changes complained of actually improved terms and conditions. If faced with an obstructive reaction to change, it is always worth checking with the human resources department whether the proposed change will amount to a fundamental change in conditions.

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