Changes to your contract of employment

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.

Your contract can change if:

  • There has been a change in the law, or
  • If you and your employer have agreed to change it. Your employer cannot change your contract without your consent.

Changes introduced by law

You and your employer must comply with the law. For example, in 2021, the law extended an employee’s legal entitlement to parent’s leave.

Changes introduced by agreement

You and your employer can agree to change your contract if the nature of your job changes, and you are now doing a different job than originally set out in your contract.

When you reach an agreement, your employer must give you the details of the change(s) in writing, within one month of the change.

However, if you have to work outside Ireland for over one month and the change will take place while you are away or on your return, then you must get written notification before you leave.

Your employer cannot change your contract without your agreement. Read ‘My employer wants to change my contract – how do I respond?’ below.

The law on changing your contract is set out in Section 5 of the Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994–2014.

My employer wants to change my contract - how do I respond?

If your employer wants to make a significant change to your contract (for example, by reducing your pay), you should:

  1. Ask them for written details of the proposed change, including a review date when the change can be reconsidered.
  2. Respond in writing, saying whether you agree or disagree with the change.

If you agree with the change, you should tell your employer that your acceptance is temporary. Then, at the review date, you can ask to return to the original terms and conditions of your contract.

What if I do not agree to the change?

If you do not agree with your employer’s proposed change to your contract, and you tell them that you want to continue working as before, 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 reducing your working hours or pay, you may decide that 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 make that decision.

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.

My employer changed my terms of employment without telling me

If your employer changes your terms of employment without telling you, you should speak with your employer directly. Or, you can raise the issue with the HR section of your company.

If you are a member of a trade union, you can also discuss the issue with your local representative.

If you still do not get notification of changes to your contract, and you have tried raising this issue with your employer, you can complain to the Workplace Relations Commission – see 'How to make a complaint' below.

The difference between ‘contractual terms’ and ‘work practices’

Your employer cannot change your contract (contractual terms of employment) without your consent, but they can change your work practices. Legally, there is a difference between contractual terms and work practices.

Contractual terms

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

Any changes to contractual terms must be agreed between you and your employer.

Read more about contractual terms in our page on contract of employment.

I’ve been asked to reduce my pay or my hours

If your employer has a downturn in business or there is less work for you to do, they might ask you to take a pay cut or to work fewer hours. You should consider this request very carefully. A drop in business activity may mean that, if you do not accept a reduction in your working hours or pay, you may lose your job due to redundancy.

Work practices

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 consent. 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

If you cannot resolve the problem with your employer, you can complain to the Workplace Relations Commission using their online complaint form.

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.

Workplace Relations Commission - Information and Customer Service

O'Brien Road
Carlow
R93 E920

Opening Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9.30am to 1pm, 2pm to 5pm
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 0818 80 80 90
Page edited: 16 July 2021