The easiest way to enforce changes would be by mutual agreement between yourself and the employees. In order to do this, you should speak to all staff concerned on an informal basis, explaining the change you want to make and the reasons for it. You may be able to get them to agree to the change from a certain date.
Offering an incentive to the employees as a counter balance to the changes may facilitate their agreement e.g. a one off payment, or an extra day’s holiday as ultimately this will be the easiest option for your business and eliminate risk for you. If you are able to obtain agreement, get the employees to sign a document to confirm their agreement and ensure that is saved to their personnel file as evidence.
However, if the employees do not agree in the first instance then you will need to draft a business case to support why this change is necessary. There would then be a requirement to formally consult over a series of formal meetings with staff. Mutual agreement is still an option during this process which would mean that you could conclude as above.
However, if this does not happen, your other option is to terminate the employees’ employment on their current terms and conditions, with the relevant notice period, but at the same time offer them new employment on the changed terms and conditions. You should give the employees the right to appeal that dismissal should they disagree with the decision. This is still a dismissal in law as a result of which the employees may be able to claim unfair dismissal. However, if your reasons for the change are sufficiently substantial then the dismissal could be found fair. This dismissal would be labelled a fair dismissal on the ground of ‘some other substantial reason’.
If the business case was not solid enough or the consultation process not meaningful and genuine then it is likely that the dismissal would be deemed unfair.
For more advice on this issue please contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.