Making Changes to your Employment Contract: Advice for Employees

A contract between an employer and an employee or worker is a legally binding agreement.

The terms and conditions of your contract can be agreed:

  • In writing
  • Verbally, for example during a conversation when you’re offered your job

You or your employer can propose changes to your terms and conditions.

Any changes must be agreed by both you and your employer.

In some circumstances, your employer may have an agreement with a trade union which allows the union to negotiate and agree certain contract changes on your behalf.

Where to find your terms and conditions

All employees and workers have a legal right to a ‘written statement of employment particulars’. This is a written document summarising the main terms and conditions of your employment.

You have a legal right to a written statement even if your contract is agreed verbally.

A written statement can be given to you:

  • In a separate document
  • As part of a written employment contract, if you have one

A written employment contract usually includes:

  • Details legally required in your written statement
  • Details about other terms and conditions
  • Information about the employers policies and procedures

Some terms and conditions might be in other places too, for example, in a staff handbook.

Changes to employment contracts can be agreed in different ways, including when

  • A change is proposed by either you or your employer, which you then discuss and agree with your employer
  • Your employer has a ‘collective agreement’ with a trade union and the union agrees changes to your terms and conditions on your behalf
  • You agreed to a term in your contract that allows your employer to make changes to certain terms of your employment in some circumstances – sometimes known as a ‘flexibility clause’ or ‘variation clause’ (but these clauses must still be exercised ‘reasonably’) 
  • A change happens through ‘custom and practice’ – your terms and conditions change over time and everyone’s agreement can be implied

When your employer might propose contract changes

Examples of when your employer may need to consider employment contract changes include:

  • To make sure your contract is up to date with new laws or regulations
  • To better reflect your job role, if it has changed
  • To introduce or change terms and conditions for staff, for example contractual redundancy pay, enhanced maternity or paternity leave, or details of a pension scheme
  • To reflect changes to your employers circumstances, for example if they’re considering moving

If your employer is considering changes that may affect your contract, they must:

  • Explain the change they’re considering and the reasons why
  • Consult with you – this means they must ask for and genuinely consider your views
  • Consult with trade union or other employee representatives, in some circumstances

When you might propose contract changes

In some circumstances, you might want to propose an employment contract change to your employer. For example, if:

Your employer does not have to agree to every change you propose, but they should always listen to you and consider your proposal.

Next steps

Find out more about you or your employer proposing changes to your employment contract in the resources below.

Part of
Last Updated
28 September 2022
First Published
01 April 2022
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Please note that the information contained in this Handbook is provided for guidance purposes only. Every reasonable effort is made to make the information accurate and up to date, but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by Self Directed Support Scotland or any other contributing party.

The information does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal and professional advice from a lawyer about employment law matters, or an accountant/ tax specialist about taxation matters, and from HMRC and your insurers. You should not rely solely on the information in this Handbook. Support organisations listed in this Handbook can help you find appropriate sources of advice.