The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the global economy in more ways than one, and one of the most significant impacts has been the furlough of employees. Furlough, a temporary leave of absence from work, has been a widespread practice adopted by companies to cut costs amidst a reduction in demand or a complete shutdown of operations. While the government has provided support to businesses to cover furlough wages, the uncertainty of the pandemic`s duration has made it challenging for employers to plan their finances and operations.
As companies navigate through the pandemic`s challenges, some have been forced to restructure their businesses to stay afloat. This has led to a situation where employers have had to change employee contracts, including terms and conditions of employment. The question is, can an employer change your contract after furlough?
The answer is yes; an employer can change an employee`s contract after furlough, but it is not as simple as it sounds. Under normal circumstances, an employer cannot change an employee`s contract without their agreement. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges, and employers have been given some flexibility in managing their businesses.
The UK government guidance on furlough states that, “While on furlough, an employee`s rights, including their right to contractual benefits, remain unchanged.” This means that an employee`s entitlement to pay, holidays, and other contractual benefits should not be affected by the furlough period. However, this does not mean that an employer cannot change the terms and conditions of employment after furlough.
If an employer needs to change an employee`s contract after furlough, they must follow a fair process to avoid legal disputes and protect the employee`s rights. The ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures applies to any situation where an employer needs to make changes to an employee`s contract. The code recommends that employers should:
1. Consult with employees about proposed changes and consider their feedback
2. Provide a clear explanation for why changes are necessary
3. Allow employees to raise objections and suggest alternative proposals
4. Give advance notice of changes and timeframe for implementation
5. Provide written confirmation of any agreed changes to the contract
It is essential to note that any changes made to an employee`s contract must be legal and reasonable. Employers must not make changes that adversely affect employees` rights or discriminate against any protected characteristics. Any changes should be proportionate and necessary for the business`s survival or continuity.
In conclusion, while an employer can change an employee`s contract after furlough, they must follow a fair process and ensure that any changes do not adversely affect the employee`s rights. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges, and employers have been given some flexibility in managing their businesses. As employees, it is essential to be aware of our rights and engage with our employers when faced with any proposed changes to our contracts.