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My business brought in a large-scale IT software product during the pandemic that I successfully interviewed to be the owner of that service, it was a 12-month secondment to the next pay/responsibility scale as it was a service management position.

Now the 12 months are up they have decided that they don't require a service owner anymore so I am going back down the pay/responsibility grade and back to my old role.

The service will continue to run, and the responsibility will be 'absorbed' into my team, with 2 other service owners who manage different services taking the management role and they said I would become the 'subject matter expert' for the technical side.

These other service owners know nothing of the service and I know all responsibility will come to me still. Is there any law protecting me from carrying the same work for alot less pay? can I refuse to carry out any work on it as the service is not in my job description as such?

I feel I am being taken advantage of by my employer. I am based in the UK.

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    The law stack exchange would be a better fit.
    – Jim Clay
    Oct 4, 2021 at 11:52
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    Law SE won't really be able to help here - it will depend on the exact details of how the secondment was worded. Talk to an employment lawyer or Citizens Advice. Oct 4, 2021 at 12:09
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    Phillip is right, the specifics will depend highly on whatever agreements you've made with your employer. We are not equipped here to review them. Oct 4, 2021 at 12:19
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    You can always refuse to carry out the work. No one can force you. The question is, what will your employer can/will do in return.
    – Hilmar
    Oct 4, 2021 at 12:22
  • what does your contract say? Oct 4, 2021 at 21:32

2 Answers 2

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If the "service owner" role was only ever positioned to you as a 12 month secondment then putting you back into your old role and pay is perfectly legitimate. However it sounds as though you're concerned that you are in effect going to be continuing to do the secondment role but without the associated position and pay, it sounds as though want to have the extra responsibility (i.e. the management aspects) divvied up elsewhere, and this may well be sincere.

Sincerity not withstanding it doesn't mean it's going to play out that way, and I can certainly see why you might be concerned. What I would suggest is that you take those concerns to management. To prepare I'd take all the responsibilities and functions of the service owner role you had and divide them up between what should be the domain of the "new" service owners and what might reasonably be considered to fall under your old job role (it may be that it should all go to the new owners and that's okay). Then, subdivide the "owner" responsibilities into things you think those who are taking over could realistically be taught how to do and those that they can't. Anything on that first list is what you should prepare handover and knowledge transfer for, and once that's been done this is the hard list of stuff you shouldn't touch with a ten foot clown pole in the future. The second list is your gap analysis - and this is what you should take to management and argue for an increase in pay to cover. It might not (and almost certainly won't) be as much as you had in the secondment but it's better than a kick in the teeth.

If they refuse and expect you to pick up those anyway then it's time to pull out the tin of resume polish (making sure to highlight your time spent on the new service and the skills and experience you gained at the higher level of responsibility) and move on. Could there be a legal argument against them having you do the job you aren't being paid for any longer? Possibly, but what's the win condition there? Let's be realistic, taking legal action against your employer to force them to do what they should do reasonably anyway is not going to be conducive to a pleasant working life. They'll hate you, you'll hate them and everyone ends up miserable. You'd likely end up leaving anyway and in the worst case you'll be out a few grand in solicitor's fees to boot.

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    I really think your answer has brought some much-needed clarity to my mind regarding my situation. I will take all the points on board and make a case to my management team to try to leverage a good outcome to this senerio. Thanks again
    – Jamie_lee
    Oct 4, 2021 at 13:08
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Disclaimer. I am not a lawyer. If any of this sounds like legal advice, it is not. Any references I may make to UK laws are just based on my understanding. This answer is provided as guidance to help you make a decision on what to do next. If you decide the next step is to take any legal action, then I suggest you consult an employment lawyer first.


A lot of what you said will come down to your contract. An employer cannot make changes to your contract as and when they want to. So if your contract says you get paid £50k per year, they cannot suddenly decide you will get paid £40k a year instead.

However, that doesn't really do you any favours. The reason is because what an employer can do is to terminate your contract and offer you a new one instead (with any salary they want). Then it falls on you to decide if you want to accept that contract (and keep working for them), or decline it (and become unemployed).

Now, if they did terminate your contract, they would need to give a good reason. Depending on the reason, you may or may not have a legal case... if this happens, consult an employment lawyer.

Unfortunately for you, it sounds like you were given a 12-month contract (which you accepted). This has now expired and they do not need to give you any reason at all why they do not want to renew it. You accepted that contract, and now it is over.

What they have done is to offer you a new contract, with what sounds like the same terms as your old role. Effectively what is happening is your job (12 month) is over, you no longer have a job, they are offering you a new job.

So what happens when someone offers you a job? You decide if you want to take it. You decide if the terms are acceptable to you. And perhaps, you decide if you want to negotiate different terms (including pay). If you have a lot of knowledge about this system they will need, this might give you leverage. Or they may just stand firm and say "take it or leave it".

So in short, you don't have much in the way of protection. You decide if you want the job or not, and you decide if you want to try and negotiate more money or not. Just like you would if you applied for a new job somewhere else.

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  • I didn't read the original post as meaning they'd signed a 12-month contract, but it's not clear. Oct 4, 2021 at 14:22
  • @mattfreake: Possibly not. But if the employer didn't have something in place contract-wise, then OP is likely to still be employed under the original contract, and that just kinds of ends up back at the same place anyway... old job, old pay.
    – musefan
    Oct 4, 2021 at 14:32

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