Changes to your employment contract
Can my contract be changed?
All employees in Ireland must get a written statement of their terms of employment, including their pay and hours of work. You can usually find this in your contract of employment.
There are 2 main ways your contract can change:
- Due to a change in the law, or
- By agreement between you and your employer
Your employer cannot change your contract without your agreement.
Changes introduced by law
You and your employer must comply with the law. For example, in 2023, the law extended an employee’s legal entitlement to sick leave.
Changes introduced by agreement
You and your employer can agree to change your contract, for example if your job responsibilities change.
Your employer must give you the details of the change(s) in writing, by or before the day on which the change takes effect.
If you are going to work outside Ireland and the change will take place while you are away or on your return, you must get written notification before you leave.
Responding to proposed changes to your contract
If your employer wants to make a significant change to your contract you should:
- Request written details of the proposed change
- Ask for a review date when the change can be reconsidered
- Respond in writing to say whether you agree or disagree with the change
If you agree with the change, you should tell your employer your acceptance is temporary. At the review date, you can ask to return to your original terms and conditions.
If you disagree
If you disagree with your employer’s proposed change to your contract, and want to continue working on your current terms, your employer may decide to make you redundant.
Your employer must prove there is a genuine need for redundancy and that they have followed fair procedures. Otherwise, you may be able to claim for unfair dismissal.
If your employer insists on cutting your hours or pay, you may decide you have no choice but to leave your job. This is called constructive dismissal, where the decision to leave is yours but the employer’s actions have forced you to resign.
Proving constructive dismissal can be difficult, so you should get professional legal advice. Community Law and Mediation (CLM) offers free legal information, advice and mediation services.
Your contract was changed without telling you
If your employer changes your terms of employment without telling you, speak with your employer directly. You can also raise the issue with the HR section, if you have one.
If you are a member of a trade union, your local representative can provide guidance and support.
If you still don’t get written notification of the changes, and you cannot resolve the issue with your employer, you can complain to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) – see 'How to make a complaint' below.
Changes to work practices
Your employer cannot change your contract without your agreement, but they can change your work practices.
Legally, there is a difference between contractual terms and work practices.
Contractual terms include your pay, hours of work, sick pay and pension scheme.
Many of your contractual terms are in the written statement of your terms and conditions of employment. You may find other contractual terms in your:
- Staff handbook
- Pension scheme booklet
- Collective agreement with your employer
Examples of work practices include breaks and rostering. You can find details of these practices in your staff handbook.
Your employer may change these work practices without your agreement. It is reasonable for an employer to update work practices or processes to save money or increase efficiency.
How to make a complaint
If you have a complaint about a change to your contract, you should speak to your employer. Try to follow the grievance procedure set out in your employee handbook.
Taking your complaint further
You should make your complaint within 6 months of the dispute or complaint taking place. This time limit can be extended for a further 6 months, but only if you have a reasonable cause for not bringing the complaint within the normal time limit.
Legislation covering contract changes
The law on changing your contract is set out in Section 5 of the Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994–2014. The rules were updated by the European Union (Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions) Regulations 2022.