Dundee-based publishers D C Thomsons are offering a hat trick of generous rewards for hard-working, dedicated journalists. 

  • a rise…….of two and a half hours in their working week, or
  • a 10% pay cut, and
  • a pay freeze.
The company plans to harmonise workers’ hours to 35 a week, requiring them to work an extra two and a half hours each week for no extra pay.  If they are unable to meet the company’s requirements, they face a 10 per cent pay cut, although their salary would be red-circled, or frozen, at its current level for three years.
D C Thomson has also announced there will be no pay rise in 2010, and under the so-called Reward project, workers earning more than what the company consider is the going rate within the industry will have their pay red-circled or frozen for the next three years.  After that, their pay could also be cut.
The impact of these cuts will be exacerbated by the increased workload on staff covering for colleagues who leave and are not being replaced and the recently introduced Maximising Attendance Policy which means employees can be
disciplined for being too ill to come to work and banned from receiving paid sick leave if their absences exceed prescribed limits.  


KEY POINTS For Guidance Only

  • An increase in working hours or a pay cut can amount to a breach of contact.

  • An employment contract cannot be varied without the consent of both parties to the contract – the employer and the employee.

  • An employer should engage in meaningful consultation before seeking to impose new contracts.

  • If an employee is put under duress, s/he cannot be said to have agreed voluntarily.

  • Consent may be implied if an employee works under the new conditions without protest.

  • Even if the contract allows the employer to make unilateral changes, such changes could be unenforceable if deemed harsh and unreasonable by a court.

  • Workers faced with drastic changes to their employment terms and conditions, such as a cut in pay or increased working hours, may be entitled to take legal action for breach of contract, in court or at an employment tribunal.

  • An employer can terminate the contract by giving the employee the required period of notice and issuing a new contract.  However the employee could still be able to claim unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal.

  • Where it affects more than 20 employees at one establishment the employer should comply with collective redundancy procedures, which means consulting with employee representatives.

  • An employee can accept the new conditions ‘under protest’ and continue to work for the employer but claiming unfair dismissal from the old contract.  It must be made clear to the employer that the employee is not agreeing to the changes.  However the employee may not have to object until the new condition actually takes effect.

  • Employees may also be able to claim for unlawful deduction from wages at an employment tribunal in the event of a pay cut imposed without agreement or breach of contract in the courts where contractual terms are varied substantially.  They must continue to make clear they are not agreeing to the change.

  • In an unfair dismissal claim, the tribunal may have to decide if the new terms are so substantially different as to be an entirely new contract and not a variation of the old one.