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Are Employers Allowed to Change Their Employees’ Responsibilities?

Employment Law | December 17, 2020

Whether you are an employer hoping to have a member of your staff cover some new responsibilities or an employee being asked to change your duties, it is important to know the degree to which an employee’s position can be changed within a company before legal problems arise. In many situations, employers are allowed to change their employees’ responsibilities, but these allowable changes have limits before the employee can file for constructive dismissal. If you think that your position is being changed beyond what should be expected, make sure to contact an employment lawyer like the ones at Linley Welwood.

What is Constructive Dismissal?

An employee’s job description will detail what they should be able to expect out of their position from the time that they take a job. The job description for a position is a part of that employee’s contract of employment, and changes to that contract need to be agreed to by both parties. Any fundamental unilateral change of an employee’s responsibilities by the employer that the employee does not agree to can be seen as constructive dismissal. Constructive dismissal is most commonly seen in a drastic change of responsibility or day-to-day activity, a change in work location, or a change in hours that the employee had no right to expect based on their job description.

Find out about different types of dismissal from employment.

When Can an Employer Change an Employee’s Responsibilities?

In most cases, a change of responsibility needs to be agreed to by the employee in order for it to be seen as part of their employment contract. If a change to a specific responsibility could be seen as consistent with the employee’s overall position and expected duties, then that change is often permissible. While flexibility can be expected in some circumstances, there is often a limit to just how flexible an employee needs to be before changes to their position qualify them for constructive dismissal. Some employment contracts include language that denotes how flexible a position is, so it is important to inspect that language when taking on new employment.

What to Do if Your Job Responsibilities are Changed

If an employer changes an employee’s responsibilities beyond what can be reasonably expected within their contract of employment, that employee has three choices on how to handle it: they can either accept the changes as they are, renegotiate their employment contract, or they can view their position as terminated. If they choose to see their employment as terminated, this qualifies as a constructive dismissal and they are often entitled to payment in lieu of notice.

If you would like to find out more about how much employers are allowed to change their employees’ responsibilities, or if you would like to learn more about any of our legal services, please contact Linley Welwood at 604-850-6640 to find out more about how to deal with an unsafe workplace or by filling out a contact form on our website.


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