I've worked for few years for an IT company as software developer, the new management wants to amend all our contracts to introduce an on call clause.
In other words it means that all developers are supposed to be part of a rota and hopefully, not more often than once a month, each developer is going to spend a weekend on call where in 48 hours he/she is expected to acknowledge alerts within 15 minutes. (And work to fix them.)
I understand the idea behind it, if you do bad software and something goes wrong at weekends, you have to fix it.
I get anxious very easily, I have a family to look after, and my hobbies as well, my weekends aren't on sale. Even if I was interested, with this contract change they are offering a salary increase of £2000 per annum.
I'm not a lazy person, I always try to understand, to help and be known as an individual with an high degree of professionalism.
But this time I really can't do it.
Once you have signed the new contract you really don't know where you may end up in few months/years time, you can stay in a team with no alerts, or may end up in a team that is flooded by alerts.
Also, the more pressure the business will do in the future for releasing new features quickly, the more chances of buggy software will be. (Pressure and support all on developers shoulders)

Can I reject this coming change in my employment contract? (I'm based in UK)

Now it turns out that people are on call 24/7 for a whole week every 4/5 weeks. Teams where people talk each other managed to push it back, other teams where people don't talk, panicked and accepted. No negotiation and nor representation has happened.

  • 2
    If you want to refuse then you should do so in writing. To carry on working can be taken as implicit acceptance. Specifically you can say that you are working under protest until the dispute is resolved. gov.uk/your-employment-contract-how-it-can-be-changed/…
    – Qwerky
    Jun 13, 2019 at 9:55
  • "I understand the idea behind it, if you do bad software and something goes wrong at weekends, you have to fix it." As a software developer, if something goes wrong at weekends, you come in on Monday morning, prioritise the problem, and if it is more important than anything else, you fix it. Common sense is that you push changes out on Monday morning and not Friday afternoon.
    – gnasher729
    Nov 24, 2019 at 20:45
  • If your API or website sells something and it stops to work the company makes a loss and has to be fixed asap. Even if you deploy on Wednesday, a change in traffic volume or a particular sequence of events can lead to an incident few days later.
    – donuts
    Dec 6, 2019 at 15:17

3 Answers 3


Contracts cannot change unilaterally, or they are not contracts. This is why they ask for your signature, because they need it.

You are perfectly within your bounds to reject the change, or negotiate it in a way that would make it worth to you. Every contract change is a negotiation, and every negotiation can fail.

That takes care of can, now for the should. We don't know if there's gonna be an aftermath or not. You don't seem very worried about it, at least you didn't mention anything in the post. Although unlikely, it's still possible that the company might do something petulant, so I would keep my ear to the ground if I were in your shoes, just in case.

  • 3
    Ask for something that makes you worth it. increase of 20,000 / year, only weekdays, etc. whatever. If they refuse, you don't have to sign anything. Jun 12, 2019 at 11:54
  • 1
    This is bad advice. It is common in the UK to sign away the statutory maximum number of working hours per week as well. Of course, they tell you that it isn't compulsory. How long do you think you will be staying in employment if you don't sign it? How many people do you think will actually use their right to negotiate? They will find a reason to have you sacked.
    – justinpc
    Nov 25, 2019 at 18:49
  • @justinpc The answer assumes good faith. If we're up against a bad faith actor, all the advice in the world apart from "run away" is invalid.
    – rath
    Nov 26, 2019 at 12:12
  • @rath The thing is that we're not here to moralise. We're here to provide practicable advice.
    – justinpc
    Nov 26, 2019 at 15:07
  • @justinpc Fair point
    – rath
    Nov 26, 2019 at 15:09

They have valued your spare time at £2000, what do you value it as?

If money is not the issue, maybe ask them for some extra annual leave instead or to leave early on fridays.

They have opened up negotiations with this new contract offer, you don't have to accept the first offer.

If you really feel you cannot do it then talk to your boss and explain your reasons, some of the other staff might be willing to give up more of their time for more money so you don't have to be on call

  • 3
    Important: There is payment for being "on call" which means you can't travel far away, you can't be away from your mobile phone, you can't drink alcohol, you might have to leave your guests at your barbecue, and there is the overtime payment for actual work. £2,000 may cover the former, but I wouldn't consider that as payment for actually having to work.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 12, 2019 at 22:52
  • 4
    The £2000/annum includes everything, standby and work on call
    – donuts
    Jun 13, 2019 at 20:38
  • 1
    @donuts - €2,000 raise doesn’t sound like very much. You should negotiate a better deal.
    – Donald
    Nov 24, 2019 at 17:38

After your edit the answer is clear: In your particular case, you could reject the change to your contract. And many of your colleagues did. Or you could give in, accept the change, get actually much worse conditions than were announced, and kick yourself for not speaking up. Which the rest of your colleagues did.

Lesson to be learned: Stand up for yourself, or you lose. Standing together united with your colleagues works even better than just standing up for yourself. And if you lose, you only have yourself to blame.

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