Variations to Contracts

A contract is an agreement between two parties enforceable by law.  A contract of employment is a contract of service and comes into being when an employee agrees to work for an employer in return for pay.

Why would employers or employees want to vary a contract?

  • An employer may wish to vary the terms of the contract because of changed economic circumstances or due to a reorganisation of the organisation. Possible areas of change could include hours or days worked, duties or place of work.
  • An employee may seek to vary the contract to bring about improvements in working conditions, for instance by making an application under Flexible Working Policy to change the conditions so that they suit them better, eg: by requesting a change from full-time to part-time working because of domestic responsibilities.

What happens when an employer varies a contract without the agreement of the employee?

  • If an employer imposes changes in contractual terms without the agreement of the employee, it is likely to be a breach of contract.

How can contracts be varied?

  • An existing contract of employment can be varied only with the agreement of both parties. Changes may be agreed on an individual basis or through a collective agreement (i.e. agreement between employer and employee or their representatives).
  • An employer who is proposing to change an employee’s contract of employment  must fully consult with that employee or their representative(s) and explain and discuss any reasons for change. 
  • The agreed and negotiated variation(s) of contract must be confirmed in writing and signed by both parties within a month of the date of agreement. 
  • If an employee finds a variation of contract unsatisfactory but continues to work under the new terms and conditions without making their objections known to the employer, they would  be deemed to have implicitly accepted the new arrangement(s).


Advice must be sought from the District Lay Employment Secretary if there is a need to vary the terms of a contract.


Further information: