Legal aspects of employment change and their implications for management

AuthorPaul Lewis
Date01 March 2001
Published date01 March 2001
Industrial Relations Journal 32:1
ISSN 0019-8692
Legal aspects of employment
change and their
implications for management
Paul Lewis
This paper reports research which aims to identify and class-
ify the legal issues raised on appeal in litigation arising from
the management of employment change. It then considers the
implications for management policy and practice. The most
frequent legal issues were unilateral attempts at contractual
change and unfair dismissal for redundancy.
Significance and objectives of the work
The starting point for the present study is the importance of innovation for national
and organisational success and within this the need to harness the potential of people.
Indeed, the effective management of people is considered as being central to the
UK’s economic performance because it can provide a competitive edge in the market.
(See, for example, Department of Trade and Industry, 1993). The underlying research
problem is the perceived tendency for employment change to give rise to litigation,
with its attendant private and public costs, which delays, restricts or prevents neces-
sary change. The concern is with the legal obstacles to employment change, and their
financial implications, in the context of an attempt to achieve a balance between the
reasonable needs of employers and employees. Employers need quick and cost-effec-
tive solutions to problems of employment change, employees need protection and
The specific objectives of the research were to identify and classify the legal issues
raised in the litigation and to consider the implications of the findings for manage-
ment policy and practice.
Paul Lewis is Director of Teaching Quality and Senior Lecturer in Business Law at Leeds University
Business School.
The writer acknowledges the financial assistance provided by Leeds University Business School,
the University of Leeds Department of Law and the University’s research fund. Thanks are due to
John Hewitt, Susan Butt and Susan Kitching for help with the extraction of data.
The study does not engage in temporal analysis or seek to provide any other explanatory method-
ology. It does not set out to measure the volume of employment litigation or to identify variables
which may be related to it. These are subjects for further research.
Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2001, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main St., Malden, MA 02148, USA.
Legal aspects of employment change 71

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