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To sign or not to sign: Asda’s controversial contract change

04 November 2019

Harriet Gardner

To sign or not to sign: Asda’s controversial contract change

Thousands of Asda employees face losing their jobs unless they sign a new contract which will change some of their terms and conditions of employment. The new contract means unpaid breaks, changes to night shift payments and being called to work at much shorter notice.

Employees had until Saturday 2nd November to sign the new contract or they could be at risk of losing their job. A spokesperson for Asda has stated that the change was “never easy” and it is important that the company adapts to changes in the market and competition but many question if exerting such pressure and worry onto employees is the best way to proceed. Some employees have commented that they think “the company should be thorough, thoroughly ashamed of themselves. It’s caused a hell of a lot of stress for people”.

As the deadline loomed, Asda has been somewhat softer and stated that it does not want staff to leave. The chief executive, Roger Burnley, has explained that “once the closing date has passed, we will write to them again, offering them the opportunity to sign up”. However, it does seem that Asda will not back down from their decision to enforce the change and it is simply a matter of time.

Changing an employee’s terms of employment

First the employer should consider whether its plans require a change to the contract itself. If it does, it should check if there is a contractual right to change the terms of the contract. If the contract does not allow for the necessary changes to be made, the employer should try to obtain the express agreement of employees. Failing that, the employer may consider changing the contractual terms without the employee’s consent or dismissing the employee and offering them employment on the new terms.

It is vital that employers handle such changes with sensitivity and genuinely try to consult with employees. Failure to handle the change correctly may leave the employer vulnerable to employees making claims for breach of contract or unfair dismissal. In the meantime, employees can work “under protest” and raise a formal grievance.

If your employer is trying to change your contract of employment, please do not hesitate to contact Harriet Gardner, Taylor Bracewell’s Employment Lawyer on 0114 399 0094. Alternatively, drop by one of Taylor Bracewell’s drop in clinics at our Sheffield office on Thursdays between 11am - 3pm.