ACAS, the workplace conciliation experts, has published advice for employers warning them against firing and rehiring staff under new terms and conditions of employment.

Although ACAS accepts that an employer may have a genuine reason for making changes to a contract of employment, such as ensuring compliance with new regulations or to better reflect someone’s job role, it warns against using it as a way of driving down terms and conditions.

The ongoing dispute at shoe firm Clarks is a good example of what can go wrong. After the company sought to force its employees to accept a reduction in their hourly wage, sick pay and redundancy pay entitlement, among other things, the workforce went out on strike over five weeks ago.

As Clarks has discovered, rather than improving the company’s bottom line, this sledgehammer approach has caused significant damage to industrial relations.

ACAS points out that, by adopting a “take it or leave it” approach, employers may also end up facing tribunal claims for things like breach of contract, constructive dismissal, or unlawful discrimination.

Other less tangible outcomes may also result, such as a drop in commitment and performance, particularly in circumstances where employees do not support the changes or feel they have not had the opportunity to influence any of the decisions made by the employer.

With this in mind, the emphasis in the advice from ACAS is that employers must consult with all affected staff and their representatives in a genuine and meaningful way.

This should not consist of telling people what has already been decided. Instead, it should include asking for feedback on the proposed changes, responding to concerns, listening to objections, considering other proposals, and potentially making revisions to the original proposals.

To read the advice in full, click here.