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When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 22 Aug 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Working Hours Employer Change Shifts

For many people working 9 to 5 is just not a reality. Clearly, businesses need to have staff working at relevant times to meet the demands of their business (e.g. for a restaurant this might be evenings and weekends). These non-traditional working hours are to be expected by those working in some professions. However this doesn't mean that you lose the rights of 9-5 workers.

Check Your Contract

For any issue regarding your employment, it is really important to look at your contract.
  • You should have been provided with a copy of your contract at the point when you first signed it (started your employment).
  • If you were not provided with a copy, ask for one.
  • If you have lost your copy, you are still entitled to see your contract which your employer should hold in your employee file.
  • Be aware that not all employee records will be held "onsite" at your place of work and so such a request may take a few days.
  • If the contract refers to any other procedures (such as disciplinary procedures) or terms and conditions of employment, this forms part of your contract and you are entitled to see these documents too.

Fixed Days vs Shift Work

The main difference you will usually find between fixed day and shift work (such as in restaurants) is that if you have fixed days, your contract will usually specify exactly what days and times you are expected to work; it may even tell you how long you are allowed to take for your lunch break. If you work shifts where your employer puts up a rota to tell you when you are working, your hours/days of work are usually not specified in your contract.

Hours Stated in Your Contract

The first thing to look at is the number of working hours stated in your contract. This is the number of hours that you are expected to work. Your employer must give you at least that number of hours. There is a precedent for employers promising full time employment but only putting a limited number of hours on your contract. Most of the time you will be given more hours as promised. However be aware that this is not a requirement - your employer only has to give you the minimum number stated on your contract. It is important when signing your contract to check that you are happy to only receive the number of hours stated in it, as that is all that you are guaranteed! Note that if you choose to "shift-swap" with another employee and end up with fewer hours than stated in your contract, that is your choice, and your employer is not obliged to give you additional hours to make up the deficit.

I have a contract for 21 hours and my employer has just told us we are having a delivery every day Mon-Sunday for xmas. They have said if we don't work these days we will be disciplined.

I work Monday to Friday and they have told us we have to work Saturday and Sunday night. If we have a contract of 21 hours do we have to work over our contract hours? Can I refuse to work over my contract - I have 3 young children?

  • You cannot be forced to work over the number of hours in your contract and may legally refuse to do so.
  • If you do not work the full number of hours stated in your contract (without good reason such as illness/bereavement etc) then your employer may discipline you.
  • If you object to the number of hours you have been allocated, it is always best to speak to your employer as soon as possible so they can reallocate hours.
  • You cannot simply work Mon-Fri and then say you have done your hours so you are not working at the weekend. Your employer may choose to reduce your hours by reducing your hours during the week, and it is entirely up to them as to which shifts they remove to reduce the hours given to you.

Which Shifts You Work

I've been working for a company for 11 years since it started. I have been working day shifts because they told me that the night shift is too risky for ladies.

Now they said I must work the night shift without any reason or agreement. I haven't worked a night shift before and I have two children who are 5 & 9. My husband works nights so cannot look after them.

  • What times/days you have to work will depend on your contract.
  • If your contract states that you are available to work any time, unfortunately you can be called upon to work on different days/hours than your usual work pattern.
  • If your availability has changed, you need to discuss this with your employer, and a new contract may need to be signed with this change reflected.

I have been working late afternoons and evenings into the night due to the nature of my work. The place I work has very bad public transport connections and absolutely no public transport after my work finishes.

Now my employer has asked me to come in early one day a week because it would suit them better. This would be really difficult for me due to transport problems. Can my employer force me to change my hours and can they give me a warning or fire me if I can't accommodate them?

If your contract limits your working hours/days (for example from 9am to 5pm), your employer can request that you change these hours, but cannot force you to do so. It is always worth discussing any requested changes with your employer as you may be able to agree with your employer a compromise that suits you both better.

I work for a care company and work 6 days and 1 evening, I have 2 children under the age of 16. Today I was told that next week and future weeks I will be doing 4 days and 2 nights but nobody else has had this text.
Can my manager do this? Really worry as I have nobody to watch my kids at nights.

Clearly child care is a major concern in relation to working hours for many people and so if you have any concerns this should be discussed with your employer, as it may be that there is another employee who is more able to work evenings/nights. As explained above however, if your contract states that you can work these times, your employer may rota you to do so and require you to work these times.

Flexible Working

All workers have the right to request flexible working to accommodate other commitments. To have the right to request flexible working you must:
  • a) have worked for the company for at least 26 weeks
  • b) not have made a flexible working request already in the last 12 months

However be aware that your employer does not have to agree to this. They must however give your request serious consideration and give you the reasons (in writing) for any request being denied. In some businesses, this simply isn't feasible, so be reasonable and try to agree times that suit both you and your employer (for example still working some evenings, but perhaps starting at 5:30/6pm so that you can pick up your children from school and take them to a relative/friend's house who will babysit for you.)

Note the flexible working policy has now been extended to all workers and not just carers of children.

Notice of working hours/changes

Your employer must give you reasonable notice of any changes to your working hours, such as cancelling your shifts. They may request last minute changes (such as ringing you that morning to say that they do not require you to work) and you can choose to agree to this change. However if you are not given reasonable notice of your shift being cancelled/shortened, you can politely refuse this reduction in your hours.

How much notice is "reasonable"? There is no law simply defining reasonable. However your contract may state this. In most cases, a minimum of 12 hours notice would be expected as reasonable notice to cancel a shift. It may be reasonable to have more notice of a requirement to work (rather than not work).

My employer normally gives out the next week rota normally on the Thursday. It seems to be getting later and later. It is now Friday and we still haven't had the rota for next week. Can they do that?

It is often a problem with those who rely on a rota for their working days / hours that the rota of when you may be working is often not put up until near the end of the week before, giving you only a few days notice of any early-week shift. Unfortunately again, unless specified in your contract, the only guide is what is "reasonable". If this causes you problems however, ask your employer about this. Often the rota will be in draft form "subject to minor alterations" many weeks in advance. If you will not be in work on days to know when you are working, you can also always ring up to ask. Obviously if rotas are put up last minute across several weeks, you may need to speak to your employer. However if it is a one-off and only a day later, do be reasonable - has your manager been away ill or had another reason to not be able to put up the rota as early as normal that week? If the late notice causes you substantial problems, communicate with your Manager.

Breaches of contract

If your employer is in breach of your employment contract (e.g. not giving you your amount of contracted hours), what can you do?

  1. The first step is always to talk to your employer. It may be a simple mistake which can easily be rectified by amending the rota
  2. If you are unhappy with your manager's response to your complaint, follow your company's complaints procedure. This often requires you to forward your complaint to a more senior manager. If you do not know your employer's complaints procedure, ask to see a copy of it. If your company has an HR Department, they may also be able to provide you with guidance on the procedures. You are often entitled to have a supporter present, such as another employee, which can be reassuring at any meeting.
  3. It is always best to try to resolve matters "in house" with your employer. If you are not able to do so, you can take your employer to an Employment Tribunal. Be aware that whilst you can't be fired for doing so, this may make for an awkward working environment if you are still employed at the firm.

Employment Tribunals

  • An employment tribunal is an independent body that will assess your complaint and may make your employer pay you compensation if they think your rights have been breached.
  • You usually have to apply to the employment tribunal within 3 months of the incident you are complaining about arising (e.g. 3 months after you were unfairly fired).
  • To refer a matter to an employment tribunal, you must download and fill in a form which can be found at www.justice.gov.uk. There are also guidance notes online to assist you with filling in your application. The form can be filled in and submitted online, or printed and returned by post to your local employment tribunal office.
  • If you want help in referring your complaint to an employment tribunal, you can contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau who will provide you with free advice. If you are a member of a trade union, they may also be able to assist you.

Zero Hours Contracts

If you are on a zero hours contract, much of the above may not apply to your circumstances. We have a guide on Zero Hours Contracts here, which we hope you will find useful.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
I am on an 18 hour contract starting at eight until twelve each day .I have been informed my hours dont existt any more and have told me I have to worksix in the morning until ten .I thinkthis is unreasonable as I will have to get up at four thirty .can they do this .I have worked for this company for 20 years
Mr A.Davies - 22-Aug-17 @ 7:23 PM
trissa - Your Question:
My contract states between 7pm-8pm start for 10 hour shift mon-wed and 7pm-8pm 9 hr shift Thursday =39hr week NOW they want 7pm start to 4am finish mon/Thursday and 7pm midnight finish fri, if you get in after 7pm you cannot make up your hours, so changing shift hours and working days with no consultation, nothing in writing or notice, just done it, even to the point of telling one worker to pass this new hour/days news onto us can they do this

Our Response:
If your contract specifically states those days and times, your employer cannot simply add in an extra day, or shorten/extend specific shifts without your consent. There should be a reasonable consultation period first and your consent should be sought. Take a look at our guide to Objecting to changes in your contract
SafeWorkers - 21-Aug-17 @ 10:38 AM
Doris - Your Question:
My employer keeps changing my shifts asking me to come in early and stay late, on the day of my shift. Which I do not have a problem with helping out. But more recently she will change my shifts so I'm working 12 hours when it was previously meant to be 8, and having me close (finish at 11pm) and then come in early to do stock (7:30am) Is this legal? Thanks for any help

Our Response:
Check the terms of your contract. It should say how many hours you work each week. It may state that occasional overtime will be required but this should not form a regular part of your work. Discuss this with your employer, ask what the notice period is for a shift change and what happens with regular over time etc. If you're not happy, raise a formal grievance.
SafeWorkers - 17-Aug-17 @ 2:27 PM
kelly - Your Question:
I work same days same hours each week ,and now we are being told that they are swaping our days and hours to suit them ,do they have to give me any notice of this

Our Response:
This depends on the terms of your contract. If it states that your shifts can be changed then that's what your employer can do unfortunately.
SafeWorkers - 17-Aug-17 @ 11:45 AM
my contract states between 7pm-8pm start for 10 hour shift mon-wed and 7pm-8pm 9 hr shift Thursday =39hr week NOW they want 7pm start to 4am finish mon/Thursday and 7pm midnight finish fri, if you get in after 7pm you cannot make up your hours, so changing shift hours and working days with no consultation, nothing in writing or notice, just done it, even to the point of telling one worker to pass this new hour/days news onto us can they do this
trissa - 17-Aug-17 @ 5:59 AM
My employer keeps changing my shifts asking me to come in early and stay late, on the day of my shift. Which I do not have a problem with helping out. But more recently she will change my shifts so I'm working 12 hours when it was previously meant to be 8, and having me close (finish at 11pm) and then come in early to do stock (7:30am) Is this legal? Thanks for any help
Doris - 16-Aug-17 @ 4:24 PM
bob - Your Question:
I have worked at a company for 13 years on permanent nights , the company is now saying I have to transfer onto the double day shift which I cannot do for personal reasons. my contract does say the company can ask me to work other shifts where do I stand if I refuse to work double days ?

Our Response:
If your contract says you can be asked to, the only thing you can do is to try and negotiate with your employer really. You can apply for flexible hours and your employer has to give it due consideration (but doesn't have to agree)
SafeWorkers - 16-Aug-17 @ 2:44 PM
i work same days same hours each week ,and now we are being told that they are swaping our days and hours to suit them ,do they have to give me any notice of this
kelly - 15-Aug-17 @ 3:35 PM
i have worked at a company for 13 years on permanent nights , the company is now saying i have to transfer onto the double day shift which i cannot do for personal reasons . my contract does say the company can ask me to work other shifts where do i stand if i refuse to work double days ?
bob - 15-Aug-17 @ 8:30 AM
Molly - Your Question:
Can my employer put me on a different shift because I am 70 yrs old and the only one without kids at home? I worked day shift for years.they had cutbacks and now I am being switched to 2nd shift because nobody else will work it

Our Response:
What does your contract say? If it says you can be put on any shift then there's not much you can do, but if you feel you have been discriminated against because of your age, then you should follow the steps in our guide here
SafeWorkers - 10-Aug-17 @ 11:03 AM
Kookie - Your Question:
My employer is changing my hours to part time but said they are not changing my contract, what is the difference? They still have not given anything to me in writing and I'm due back to work Monday 14 th August does this mean I'm still on old contract with full time hours or what? I feel I'm being singled out and it's bordering of victimisation as the other two are not being effected.

Our Response:
Do you want to work part time? If not, your employer cannot make you do so without your consent. An employer can impose lay offs or short time working if there's not enough work. If you're asked to do this for more than four weeks there may be a case for asking for redundancy. If your employer is simply imposing these new conditions on you without your consent for some other reason, take a look at our guide here, for more advice.
SafeWorkers - 9-Aug-17 @ 12:59 PM
Can my employer put me on a different shift because I am 70 yrs old and the only one without kids at home?I worked day shift for years...they had cutbacks and now I am being switched to 2nd shift because nobody else will work it
Molly - 9-Aug-17 @ 3:05 AM
Dand1610 - Your Question:
Hi, I am on a 32 hour a week contract. My employer this week has given me 26.5 hours however has given me 42 hours next week! Are they able to change my hours on a weekly basis to balance it out and make sure I'm still getting the correct payment every month?

Our Response:
Check the wording of your contract. Does is specify days/times each week etc? If so, your employer cannot change this without your consent. See our guide to Obecting to Changes in Your Employment Contract
SafeWorkers - 8-Aug-17 @ 2:43 PM
My employer is changing my hours to part time but said they are not changing my contract, what is the difference? They still have not given anything to me in writing and I'm due back to work Monday 14 th August does this mean I'm still on old contract with full time hours or what? I feel I'm being singled out and it's bordering of victimisation as the other two are not being effected.
Kookie - 7-Aug-17 @ 10:12 PM
Kookie - Your Question:
Hi me employer is dropping me from35 hours which is my contract, to 24. They say they are not giving me a new contract as the terms and conditions are the same only the hours are changing. There are three of us in the dot but I'm the on,y one being changed. I am dropping over three hundred pound a month which I cannot afford to do. Is there anything I can do? I feel that I am being picked on singled out. Any help would be appreciated.

Our Response:
Your employer should not change the terms of your contract without your consent. Please see our guide on Objecting to Changes in Your Employment Contract
SafeWorkers - 7-Aug-17 @ 2:44 PM
Hi, I am on a 32 hour a week contract. My employer this week has given me 26.5 hours however has given me 42 hours next week! Are they able to change my hours on a weekly basis to balance it out and make sure I'm still getting the correct payment every month?
Dand1610 - 7-Aug-17 @ 1:46 PM
Hi me employer is dropping me from35 hours which is my contract, to 24. They say they are not giving me a new contract as the terms and conditions are the same only the hours are changing. There are three of us in the dot but I'm the on,y one being changed. I am dropping over three hundred pound a month which I cannot afford to do. Is there anything I can do? I feel that I am being picked on singled out. Any help would be appreciated .
Kookie - 4-Aug-17 @ 7:10 PM
Connie - Your Question:
Hi. My daughter's employers are insisting she change her hours of work from 9am-1pm to 2pm-6pm which is just ridiculous as she is a single Mum of 3 young boys (7, 3 & 2) and also suffers with MS. The stress of this is really causing her problems as she really can't change to the hours offered. I just wonder how does she stand legally. She has been off work recently and has had an assessment by the Occupational Therapist who has advised her employers that she works 2.hours instead of 4.hours for 2 weeks when she returns to work to see how she goes on as part of the Back to Work programme. Her employers want her to work these 2.hours outside her normal working day which seems completely unfair as they are offering options that she just can't do.

Our Response:
If her hours are specifically stated in her contract, she has to give her consent before they can be changed. If she objects to this she should follow the steps in our guide here. It's also worth noting that MS categorises a person as disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act, so if she feels she is being discriminated against she may be able to take action on that basis.
SafeWorkers - 26-Jul-17 @ 12:36 PM
Nez - Your Question:
Ive worked for the Company Im at for less than a year but recently theres been a change in my hours where they have gradually decreased over the weeks. I asked them about it and they said to me they had over spent so I could have understood that but I noticed on the rota's every week that they have given more hours to some of the people who are younger than I am. Where as (persons) are on less money per hour than I am. Now the question I have is it illegal to pay someone who costs less to pay than someone on a higher NMW

Our Response:
An employer can choose what to pay each employee. However, if youare contracted to work X number of hours for X £pay, then your employer must pay you that amount. To change this is to make a change to your contract without your consent and you can take action (for breach of contract). Take a look at our guide here
SafeWorkers - 26-Jul-17 @ 10:22 AM
my hours change in work all the time so my girlfriend has to keep changing hers. we have a 5yr old and a 3yr old who has autism and it is very hard to get babysitters as they want me to work saturdays now. They have given me a flexible working form to fill in but i can work some saturdays but not every 1. I maybe able to work sone saturdays as can arrange babysitter as my girlfriend works every saturday. my contract states my hrs can be 8am-9pm mon-sat but want to know what I can do and if I can take it unpaid if this is the last option
mega - 21-Jul-17 @ 6:59 PM
Hi. My daughter's employers are insisting she change her hours of work from 9am-1pm to 2pm-6pm which is just ridiculous as she is a single Mum of 3 young boys (7, 3 & 2) and also suffers with MS. The stress of this is really causing her problems as she really can't change to the hours offered. I just wonder how does she stand legally.She has been off work recently and has had an assessment by the Occupational Therapist who has advised her employers that she works 2.hours instead of 4.hours for 2 weeks when she returns to work to see how she goes on as part of the Back to Work programme. Her employers want her to work these 2.hours outside her normal working day which seems completely unfair as they are offering options that she just can't do.
Connie - 19-Jul-17 @ 10:56 PM
Ive worked for the Company Im at for less than a year but recently theres been a change in my hours where they have gradually decreased over the weeks. I asked them about it and they said to me they had over spent so I could have understood that but I noticed on the rota's every week that they have given more hours to some of the people who are younger than I am. Where as (persons) are on less money per hour than I am. Now the question I have is it illegal to pay someone who costs less to pay than someone on a higher NMW
Nez - 19-Jul-17 @ 5:29 PM
i work on a permanent night shift were i work 12 hours 7pm till 7am for the pasy 23 years. i do not get a break and i do not want a break i work 12 hours and get paid 12 hours which i am happy with. now my employer wants me to take a break . but as i have said to them in order for me to take a break it would mean increasing my hours to 12.5 per shift. with half an hour break which i am not happy with. the point i trying to make is because i have done the shifts for so long do they not become contractual in law.
joey - 13-Jul-17 @ 9:40 PM
what is that bradford law?i am a support worker for 4 years and i have 5 days off sick bit not in consecutive,the 3 offsick i have whem my husband not feeling well because his got a plastic disk in his spine and at that time he was not feeling well, then the next i was not feeling well my 2 days, they send me a letter for warning, then my rota they altered it without letting me know, my contract 36.75 hrs every wk, but i work more hrs i work 5 days in a wk, one day they change my shift its my off they call me and i told them i have a eye screening test i had an appointmemt on that day im off but they alter it without telling me, and there reason they cam change anytime because of the doctors appointment of the residence. do we have no right to refuse? which are more important our health or our clients.please help me and give me and advice and let me know what is that bradford law
raz - 13-Jul-17 @ 2:23 PM
what is that bradford law?i am a support worker for 4 years and i have 5 days off sick bit not in consecutive,the 3 offsick i have whem my husband not feeling well because his got a plastic disk in his spine and at that time he was not feeling well, then the next i was not feeling well my 2 days, they send me a letter for warning, then my rota they altered it without letting me know, my contract 36.75 hrs every wk, but i work more hrs i work 5 days in a wk, one day they change my shift its my off they call me and i told them i have a eye screening test i had an appointmemt on that day im off but they alter it without telling me, and there reason they cam change anytime because of the doctors appointment of the residence. do we have no right to refuse? which are more important our health or our clients.
raz - 13-Jul-17 @ 2:19 PM
I work for a fostering agency, I've already got my contracted hrs in for this week but a colleague has phoned in sick and work have told me I'm the only one to cover tonight. They have gave me 3hrs noticed. I can't do this as I have an appointment. I've told my boss and they are basically saying if I do not do this there will be a disiplinary! Can they do this?! I booked the appointment outside of my working hrs so didn't need to give them notice of this. My hours this week are as contracted and nothing in my contract states I have to accept overtime please help!
Loops17 - 12-Jul-17 @ 4:20 PM
I am currently employed 5 days a week bit am on probation period which has been extended for another 3 months. My employer would like me to reduce my hours to 3 days a week . Can this been done as I'm on probation with no notice . Do I have to accept ?
LW - 12-Jul-17 @ 3:40 AM
Hello, I work in the same building as my accommodation is. How much time employer has got to inform about changing rota if contract is on nights? Does he has to inform staff, or is staff obligation to check the rota every day? If night shift is 11h30min is it legal to tell employee that he has to come on training, or staff meeting at the same day when he finished work night, or the same 24h when he works as well (mean before or between shifts). Kind regards.
jane - 10-Jul-17 @ 12:05 AM
I have been employed for 5 years in my current position and have worked 7-3:30 pm. Recently a new supervisor has come on board and wants me to change my hours to 8:30-5 pm for 2 reasons. One is that she is asking 3 other employees to do the same thing and wants to be consistent and then she needs coverage 2 days a week from 3:30-5 pm. While I wouldn't mind this, I do have another job that I must work and need to be there at 4 pm, four to 5 evenings weekly. Can I be forced to change my hours-even if I have another job that I cannot afford to lose? I asked for a raise in pay to offset my loses but this was denied. Thanks!
s - 9-Jul-17 @ 11:47 PM
orchid - Your Question:
I have a contract working 4 9hr night shifts per week working to a 3 monthly Rota fixed pay week or weekends. we work palliative care. if we go to a house and a patient passes away before we have been there 3 hrs we have to work that shift again in the same calendar month. this has happened to me 4 times in 6 weeks. the company now has a hospice which they could relocate us to for the remainder of our shift. can the company legal make us pay back every night?

Our Response:
It's a very unusual situation - can you not negotiate that in the event of this happening, you go at another site/patient for the balance of the shift?
SafeWorkers - 7-Jul-17 @ 12:46 PM
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