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The pace of change in business today is relentless, and most large companies are having to adapt to new market pressures on an almost annual basis. What are your rights if you are facing a restructure at work?
Change often means restructure: altering the way different teams and departments work to align with customer demands, financial pressures or new initiatives. And that can be stressful for employees, who feel uncertain about the future of their role.
As a dad this can be a worrying time, as you want to make sure you can continue to bring in a good salary for your family. You’ll also want to maintain the balance between work and home, like any parent.
So what are your rights in a restructure and what should you do if you have any worries?
The first thing to do in a time of uncertainty at work is to have a look at your contract. Employers generally can’t make changes to things stated in your contract – such as your weekly hours, key duties, holiday entitlement, basic pay etc – without consulting with you. You have the right to decline these changes – but you should seek legal advice so that you know where you stand.
If the work you do is still required by the company, but you don’t agree the changes, you can legally be dismissed. You would receive your notice entitlement but this is not a redundancy situation, so you wouldn’t receive a payment.
Employers do usually consult with staff about structural changes. This way they comply with their legal obligations and ensure staff understand the situation properly.
If you’re on parental leave when the restructure takes place, you are legally entitled to return from leave to your original job. If this isn’t reasonably practicable, you can be given another job that is seen to be suitable.
The employer has to be able to give a plausible reason for the change and why the new job will be suitable for your skills. Check the job description carefully before making any decisions. If you decline the new opportunity, the employer can dismiss you. Note, however, that if you can prove they are dismissing you unfairly based on age, sex, faith or disability, then you can claim for unfair dismissal. Again, seek legal advice before deciding what to do.
Sometimes a restructure may not affect your role directly, but the changes within the organisation might affect how you do your job. Often, not every eventuality has been considered.
It helps to be proactive. Talk to your line manager or the HR team to find out the rationale behind the restructure. People are often afraid to ask questions for fear of how they may be perceived, but by taking a positive and proactive approach, you can gain control by being better informed.
Be positive. Bear in mind that the restructure could present you with an opportunity. Are there new responsibilities you want to assume? Can you transfer the skills you already have into new areas of the organisation?
Change is constant at work today, especially in larger organisations. People who are open to new ideas and ways of doing things generally cope better with restructures. Try to see the reason behind the changes and the opportunity that it might deliver, instead of fearing the worst.