I work as a teacher in further education. I’ve worked Monday and Tuesday morning and evening for three years and now they want me to change one of my days to a Thursday because the Tuesday evening class will not run. I don’t want to change my days, although my contract does not specify which days I work, just my hours per week. They also wanted to change the age of students I teach, although I only have experience working with adults. What are my rights, please?
It is difficult to advise at this stage without sight of your contract of employment – firstly to assess what the written terms of your contract are related to your working days and hours, and the scope of your role, and secondly to determine what scope, if any, your employer has to vary the terms of your employment, without your agreement.
Generally the terms of a contract of employment can be formed in a number of ways – in the written contract, by verbal agreement, by implication and by custom and practice, and cannot be varied unilaterally, without giving rise to a breach of contract, which could give rise to a constructive dismissal claim. You do not mention what hours you worked prior to the last three years or how generally any changes in your working arrangements have been dealt with in the past. It would appear that they may have a business reason at this stage to seek to agree with you a variation to your terms and conditions, given the discontinuation of the Tuesday evening class. You will need to explore with them all the alternatives available to you, including what other options they have to enable you to maintain the same working days a week. If there are no options available on a Tuesday and if the nature of the role offered to you is different to that which you were contracted to undertake, then this may give rise to a redundancy situation, subject to certain statutory requirements being satisfied. Your employer may seek to argue that they have offered you suitable alternative employment. Whether it is suitable alternative employment will depend on your individual circumstances.
We suggest that you meet with your employer to ensure that all options have been explored. We would recommend that you take legal advice and provide a copy of your contract and a history of how changes have occurred in your hours of work previously to enable advice to be given.
*Helen Frankland assisted with this answer.