Q&A Can employer make radical changes to job descriptions at a week’s notice?

Q: My daughter works as a Teaching Assistant supporting young adults with learning disabilities in a mainstream college where all TAs are currently at the same pay level. With just eight days’ notice, they were told their job titles and roles were changing and they must apply for one of the new positions.

Out of the four new levels, only the lowest would exclude them from having to agree to undertake training to provide ‘personal care’ if required. My daughter feels extremely uncomfortable about this as she is not and does not want to be a ‘care worker’, particularly since the new roles could include ‘intimate care’. Apart from anything else, surely this is deliberately blocking job progression. Can they really do this?

A: Whether or not this kind of change can be made can often depend on the contents of the employment contract. Some will have ‘variation’ or ‘flexibility’ clauses which permit certain changes. However, this does seem quite a considerable change and it begs the question as to whether the employer should have sought the agreement of the employees before seeking to unilaterally introduce it. It certainly feels as though there should have been some form of consultation process.

There is no hard and fast rule about a notice period for change (unless the employment contract states otherwise), but it is fair to say that the notice needs to be reasonable, and 8 days feels somewhat unreasonable. Your daughter and her colleagues may therefore wish to lodge a collective grievance in respect of the proposed changes, mentioning the lack of notice and consultation. She is also within her right to ask about the reasons for the changes.

If the changes proceed as planned, your daughter may wish to tell her employer that she is working ‘under protest’ until the problem is resolved. It is important that she does this promptly if they do press on with making the change, otherwise she and her colleagues could just say that they do not accept the change.

This question has been answered by James Denton, a Solicitor with GHP Legal.

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James Denton

James Denton


Solicitor in our Civil Litigation team in the Oswestry and Wrexham offices.