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Can your employer change your employment agreement?

3 June 2021 | Brad McDonald
Can your employer change your employment agreement Godfreys Law Christchurch

We spend so much of our lives at work. Most of the time, everything goes along as it should and a copy of your employment agreement just sits in a drawer. But when there are issues at work, it’s important to know what’s in your employment agreement, so you can resolve them.

Two of the most frequently asked questions the Godfreys Law employment lawyers are asked are, “Can my employer change my employment agreement? Also, “Can my employer make me use up my annual leave?”

There are a few reasons why employers may want to change your employment agreement, or ask you to take annual leave. Let’s start with employment agreements.

Can your employer change your employment agreement Godfreys Law Christchurch

What’s an employment agreement?

At the risk of stating the obvious, an employment agreement is an agreement between two parties - The employer and employee. At its most basic, the employee agrees to do a particular job at a particular place, in exchange for an agreed wage or salary.

That’s an oversimplification and there is a lot more that must be in an employment agreement, but the point is that both the employer and employee agreed to certain conditions before the employee started work.

Employment agreements can and should be changed

Employment agreements should be living documents that are updated and changed over time. Minimum wage increases, promotions, a change in hours, extra responsibilities, or added sick leave are all reasons to change your employment agreement.

Most of the time, all that’s needed is to add a page outlining what’s changing, signed and dated by both the employer and employee. That’s the key. Both sides must agree to any changes.

Employment agreements can not be changed without your consent

We know life and business can be unpredictable. An employer may ask you to make temporary changes like reducing hours, reducing pay, or completing duties not normally part of your job so the business can survive a rough patch. If you’re asked in good faith to make some reasonable changes during uncertain times, we encourage you to have that open and honest discussion with your employer.

That being said, an employer can not unilaterally force changes onto an employee. An employer can propose changes to your employment agreement, but both of you must sign that amendment to make that contract legally binding.

Can my employer make me take annual leave?

We all love a holiday. The amount of annual leave you receive should be outlined in your employment agreement. You might be saving your annual leave for a special trip away, or you might be hard at work and not thinking about the leave you're accruing. Then, your employer says you have to use your annual leave right away.

Your employer might ask you to use up your annual leave for a few reasons. If you resign from that job and have accrued a large amount of annual leave, your employer will have to pay you out the lump sum for your holidays. This can cause cash flow issues for the business.

An employer might ask you to take annual leave at a particular time, when they know they can get by with fewer people on site. It’s obviously not ideal for an employer to have everyone go on holiday during their busy season. Coming to an understanding around taking leave should be outlined in your Employment Agreement.

Taking leave requires written notice

Can your employer make you take annual leave? Yes, if they give you 14 days notice in writing. If you’ve had fewer than 14 day’s notice, and not had any communication in writing from your employer, refer them back to your Employment Agreement or the Holidays Act 2003.

Your Christchurch Employment Law Team

At Godfreys Law, we represent both employers and employees to make sure both sides are treated fairly by each other and the law.

If you have any questions about annual leave, or changes being made to your employment agreement, contact the team at Godfreys Law on 03 366 746.

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Article by:

Brad McDonald


Determined to do the best job for his clients, Brad works tirelessly to ensure best outcomes are achieved.

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