Have you recently been informed that your employment contract has been altered?
This can be quite stressful for many employees. Changes to the terms and conditions of your employment agreements can have a dramatic effect on your working conditions, even if the changes continue to comply with Australian legislation.
The Basic Rule
The basic rule is that an employer cannot change your employment contract without asking you first or providing you with prior notice of the proposed change. This is especially the case if your employer is trying to change fundamental terms in your contract.
What Are Fundamental Terms?
Fundamental changes include your wage, the hours you work, or whether you’re considered full time or casual. These changes are considered to be fundamental because, by altering these terms in your agreement, your employer is essentially creating a new contract of employment with you.
If you think that your employer may have changed a fundamental term in your employment contract, or has proposed to change a fundamental term, you should speak with a contract attorney. A contract attorney can review your employment agreement and provide you with a detailed explanation of the changes that have been made, how these changes will affect you, what you can do if you do not agree to these changes and whether these changes are compliant with Australian legislation.
What About Non-fundamental Terms?
Non-fundamental terms in an employment agreement include provisions relating to performance appraisal methods and ongoing training requirements.
Usually, these non-fundamental terms will be incorporated into the company policy. Your employment agreement will make reference to the company policy and stipulate that a condition of your employment is that you comply with the company policy at all times. This means that if a non-fundamental term is changed within the company policy, you will be required to be aware of this change and comply with it. You should keep in mind that, just because a non-fundamental change has been made, this does not mean the change is not important. You should keep an eye out for changes to your company policy, as your employer will generally direct you to these changes as, and when, they are made. If you are unsure about how these changes will affect you, speak to a contract attorney to find out more.
What Should You Do?
Keep an eye out for changes to your company policy, and any correspondence your employer may give you that provides you with notice regarding proposed changes to your employment agreement. Once you become aware of any potential changes to your employment agreement, or have been asked by your employer to sign off on certain changes, we suggest that you speak with a contract attorney as soon as possible.
Try to ensure that all correspondence going back and forth between you and your employer regarding proposed changes to your employment agreement are made in writing. This way you can keep a record of what was said in case you need to refer to it later.