During the course of employment, it is crucial to document your agreement in some way, and the easiest way to do this is by having your employer provide you with an employment agreement. This contract defines your rights and duties as an employee and provides legal assurance for your employment position.

Here are the reasons why an employer cannot change the terms of your employment agreement without your consent.

Consent

The short answer is no. To alter employment terms, employers need to obtain your consent or provide you with sufficient notice of any proposed alterations. Employers have an implied duty to disclose any such changes to the contract. This will allow you to consider their effect and whether you wish to accept these alterations. It is encouraged that you assess and propose possible alternatives to achieve the same result.

A unilateral change will result in the breach of the employment contract. However, make sure you are aware of any changes as continuing to work may be viewed as implicitly agreeing to the new terms of the contract. Consequently, this will affect any future rights you have to legally dispute this.

Here are some tips to make sure you stay on top of your employment contract:

  • Be aware of any changes in the company policy with respect to your position;
  • Try to record your communications with your employer, in writing, to maintain a catalogue of proposed changes;
  • Carefully read the employment contract to make sure you understand what you are agreeing to.

A key point to note is to avoid signing an agreement that contains provisions that allow the employer to unilaterally alter fundamental terms of the contract. Allowing this could fundamentally alter your employment position.

Fundamental vs Non-Fundamental Terms

Different terms in the contract hold heavier weight than others. Fundamental terms like your salary, the term of your employment, or confidentiality, are so significant that altering them would result in the formation of a new contract. Conversely, non-fundamental terms regard secondary information such as performance appraisal or unsatisfactory work performance.

However, whatever the alteration, to any term, still requires your employer to obtain your consent or provide you with notice. Even though your employer has a right to propose changes, it’s up to you as to whether you accept them and make them enforceable.

Conclusion

Employers cannot solely change the terms of an employment contract without your agreement as an employee. Learn your rights as an employee, take note of changes in the company policy and read the terms of your employment carefully before signing.

Have more questions? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents, and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest legal marketplace.

Jakub Grzybowski

Jakub is a legal intern at LawPath as part of the content team. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Laws at Macquarie University. His main interest is on the integration of legal and technological services.