During the pandemic, over a fifth of employers have made changes to employee contracts.

This is according to new research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which analysed changes to employees’ terms and conditions of employment during this period.

The most common changes that occurred included altering the location of work (49 per cent), hours of work (47 per cent) and pay levels (44 per cent).

Other adjustments were made to redundancy pay, which over a fifth of employers (22 per cent) revised in addition to access to enhanced contractual entitlements (20 per cent).

Despite the challenging period of the crisis, not all changes to terms and conditions were negative.

Among firms that did change pay levels, half (50 per cent) improved pay. Similarly, almost half (44 per cent) of employers reduced working hours during the pandemic as opposed to a quarter of companies who chose to increase them.

However, around 42,960 employers – or 3 per cent – chose to change employee contracts on a “fire and rehire” basis, dismissing staff before re-engaging them on new contracts which had changed conditions.

According to TUC research published earlier this year, one in 10 employees (9 per cent) were subject to these policies which proved largely unfavourable among the public.

People from Black or minority ethnic backgrounds were twice as likely to be asked to re-apply for their jobs on worse conditions compared to white workers. People from low socio-economic backgrounds and younger workers were also found to be vulnerable to this practice.

As part of a New Deal for Workers, the Labour Party recently pledged that it would ban fire and rehire practices with Keir Starmer previously dubbing this “wrong” and “against British values”.

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said:

The mass shift to home and hybrid working homeworking, as well as business uncertainty and upheaval, in the last year means it’s not surprising so many employers made contractual changes to employees’ terms and conditions of employment.

A large majority of changes to workers’ contractual terms and conditions were achieved through consultation and agreement, however a minority of organisations did resort to using ‘fire and rehire’ practices.

While our research shows this is not a widespread tactic, more progress can still be made in avoiding this practice which creates a high risk of legal claims, reputational damage and an adverse effect on employee relations. ‘Fire and rehire’ should only be undertaken after extensive consultation and all other alternatives have been considered.

New guidance from the CIPD advises employers to always consult and seek voluntary agreement with employees and take all steps to avoid so-called ‘fire and rehire’ practices, except in exceptional circumstances.