I recently started with a large MNC. When I joined they sent me a contract which had been signed by their CEO, I signed it and returned it. A couple of weeks later my new colleagues were chatting over lunch and mentioned a particular condition which apparently applied to everyone, which I had not seen. I checked my contract and it was not there. So I queried with HR and they said they had sent me the wrong contract, they would have to send me another one to sign. Can they do this? What if I don't want the change? Is this a red flag, even if it's a relatively minor point?

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    You can refuse to sign - the whole point of contracts is that they are entered into freely and can only be amended freely. Of course, within your probation, they can fire you for any reason. Whether they would very much depends on how important the term is for the company. Hiring is expensive, and firing is not done lightly. – Joe Stevens May 26 '19 at 17:05
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    Next time you find a mistake in your favour... keep quiet :-) – Philip Kendall May 26 '19 at 18:03

Can they do this?

Yes, of course. Why not ?

What if I don't want the change?

You can refuse to sign. Your employer can either accept your refusal, negotiate, or terminate you. If there is a real disadvantage in the change you can ask for reasonable compensation, accommodation, or adjustment so that its equivalent to the original contract that you signed. In general this will not be good for your career, so you should only pick a fight if the change is important to you.

Is this a red flag, even if it's a relatively minor point?

No, at least not if it's a one-off. Paperwork mistakes are (unfortunately) fairly common. Often, the people who process the paperwork don't understand the document but are just handling the "administrative side" of it.

  • True; I guess the OP is in a bind if it's not significant enough to fight over now at risk of being fired, but might have made different choices at the time of first signing (eg. when holding a rival job offer). – Julia Hayward May 27 '19 at 6:50
  • Termination for refusing to sign an unilateral change to a contract? That wouldn't be legal in some (civilized) parts of the world. Check whether this is true where you live. – Jeffrey May 28 '19 at 15:08
  • @Jeffrey: Unless they are extremely stupid they wouldn't phase it as "we'll fire you because you didn't sign the contract", although in the US that would actually be perfectly legal (for at-will employment). But there are always ways to manage an undesired employee out the door, unless the employee is in a strongly protected class – Hilmar May 29 '19 at 16:56
  • @Jeffrey, I had this about 20 years ago, when the European Working Time Directive was introduced here (in the UK). A senior manager went round with a waiver to be signed by everyone, and stood over them while they signed it. There were no employee copies and they refused to allow their copies out of the building (eg for review by legal advisor). 6 weeks later, anyone who didn't sign was gone - for a miscellany of unrelated reasons. There were other examples of similar unilateral changes (e.g. "we're cancelling all unused or accrued vacation, unless you respond within 7 days"). – Justin Jun 4 '19 at 10:22

HR apparently keep a version of the contract without this clause. They wouldn't do that if it truly applied to everyone.

You know your situation better than us, but I would push back a little (at least until the first hint of resistance) to see what gives.

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