Asda employees facing controversial contract changes

Posted on Tuesday October 22, 2019

Donna Martin

Approximately 12,000 Asda workers have been issued with an ultimatum, either accept new terms and conditions by 2 November 2019 or face termination of employment.

The new contracts seek to remove a number of long service benefits, remove paid tea breaks, and put a positive obligation on staff to work Bank Holidays.  They do also increase the hourly rate of pay to £9.

The revised contracts were initially offered in 2017 (in exchange for the pay rise), however, over the summer the changes were made compulsory.

The new terms and conditions are being implemented by a series of one-to-ones with management where, at the final one-to-one, should the individual not wish to sign the new contract it is anticipated that they will be issued with a notice of termination of employment.

Tomorrow, Asda workers are expected to hand over a petition containing 23,000 signatures to the corporate’s head office in Leeds asking for a better deal.

This current situation acts as a timely reminder to employers seeking to update contracts of employment that any changes must be implemented fairly and within employment laws.

Employers should be aware that even where the current contract allows for general changes to be made, it is unlikely that they will be able to rely on such provision to an employee’s detriment, for example, to withdraw an employee’s contractual rights or benefits.  Rather, express written or oral agreement from the employee is required.

Should such agreement not be forthcoming and, as is suggested in the Asda example, the employer proposes termination as a result they need to be aware of the risks they face, for example claims for (where appropriate):

  • Wrongful dismissal;
  • Unfair dismissal; and
  • Failure to collectively consult where 20 or more employees face dismissal.

 

It is therefore imperative that such consultations are planned and carried out meticulously in order to minimise the risk of successful tribunal claims by former employees.

If you would like advice on this or any other employment matters, please contact our Head of Employment, Donna Martin by calling +44 (0) 20 7240 0521 or emailing donna.martin@mackrell.com.