When things change in a company or organization – perhaps because of growth or a change of priorities – there may also be a need for changes in staffing and employee responsibilities.
For example, an employee working in a marketing department who was hired to produce copy and content for social media may suddenly be needed to contribute to the management of third-party events or take on some graphic design projects because the organization can no longer afford an in-house graphic designer.
As an employee, when you are faced with new or changing job duties, you may be excited to try your hand at something new. You may feel exhilarated by the prospect of a shift in your daily responsibilities. Or perhaps you are not so enthused to take on duties that were previously outside the terms of your employment contract. Either way, you may be wondering about your rights when your employer wishes to change your employment duties.
Employee options to changes of employment duties
The 2008 case of Wronko v Western Inventory Services Ltd. set out the options available to employees who are told of changes to their employment. Upon being given notice of a change to their employment relationship or duties, employees have the following options:
- Accept the changes.
- Reject the changes and continue working according to the original terms of their employment (this may lead to termination).
- Reject the changes and sue for constructive dismissal should the employer go ahead with the changes anyways.
Fundamental Changes and Constructive Dismissal
Your options as an employee will partly depend on how your employer handles making changes to your contract and/or duties. If the changes are fundamental and made unilaterally – without your input or consent – you may be able to sue for constructive dismissal. A fundamental change typically involves significant changes to aspects of your job such as salary, hours or place of work, seniority, roles or responsibilities.
Fortunately, many employers have both the courtesy and basic employment law knowledge not to make such sweeping unilateral changes to their workers’ employment.
Takeaway for Employees
If you have been presented with significant, undesired changes to the nature of your work or employment: do not despair. You do not necessarily have to accept these changes. Before taking any action, talk to an employment lawyer. They can work with you to understand your situation and counsel you on your rights and legal options.
KCY at LAW is a well-respected employment law team focused on getting our clients the results they want and deserve.