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When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 15 Apr 2021 | 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. If your employer is proposing changes to your contract and you don't agree, read our guide to Objecting to Changes in your Employment Contract
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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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I have work for 16 years at my job when I was hired as low guy i was given night shift 12 hours 6pm to 6am 4 on 4 off after 8 years a day shift opened up and i was given it now 8 years later they have come to me and said they are going to put me to rotating day night shifts can they do this
rcounty11 - 31-Jan-21 @ 4:26 PM
My emplyoter changed the location of the store I was working at without telling me. I work full time at leeds and without telling me they changed my rota to Wakefield instead. The only reason I found out was due to notifications from the rota website but they planned on telling me the day before that I was scheduled for a shift at another store. None of my co workers have had this happen to them I’ve talked to them and they won’t change it what can I do?
Risa - 27-Jan-21 @ 10:57 PM
i have been working for a retail company since march 2020. i am i college student and when i started, they asked me the hours that i was available to work. i am still getting the same hours every week (12) but they keep changing my recovery shift to later times. it used to be while 22:00, then they changed it to 22:30, and now they are considering forcing us to work while midnight. i cannot do so as i have college and i rely on my parents to take me to and from work. i dont know how to discuss it with my manager in a productive way. can they force me to work such late hours due to my circumstances? what can i do, legal wise?
Nat - 20-Jan-21 @ 6:10 PM
I work for a care company and 2years ago i was re-deployed to another service and given set days and shifts and i have it in writing. My employer is now saying that they cannot accommodate me any longer in this service as one of the people we support passed away, and want to move me to another service with the same days and hours. They are asking me to travel a longer distance and cost to me on public transport is much greater. I have care commitments outside work (family) and the extra time they are asking me to travel Co-incides with my other care duties which are unpaid. I am having financial dificulties also and cannot afford to pay the extra money on public transport. I am now on sick leave due to the stress of this. I told my manager i don't want to move but she say's it is the only option available to her. Am i within my rights to ask for Redundancy?
Gram - 1-Jan-21 @ 1:08 PM
Hello, my agency booking my Start time. They send me 9pm oclock i need to come on the next day 6 oclock in the morning. Or sometimes send me 9pm i nedd to start 5am oclock . 8h before the starting time this is a legal? What a gap should be between SENDING starting time for next day? How manny hours before they need to send me, manny thanks
Besto - 25-Nov-20 @ 7:00 PM
I have been working 12.00 till 22.00 for over a year now Monday to Thursday & now they want me to work 14.15 to 22.15 Monday to Friday. I have to catch 2 buses there & 2 buses home which takes 1 1/2 hours each trip & the last bus is 22.15. I have been given no valid reason for the change so have refused to do it how do I stand if they sack me
Geordie - 24-Nov-20 @ 12:15 AM
My company has today stated that we are not required to work Sunday 27th December 2020 (which is part of my 3 x 12 night shift ) due to the firm shutting down for that day , they have said I can take a days holiday from next year’s entitlement or bank the hours to be worked at another time I really don’t agree and have said that due to my availability to work and not my fault how do I stand by law
Colonel - 12-Nov-20 @ 7:34 PM
I've been working for this company for nearly 8 years now and only done Wednesday, Thursday and fridays. However recently I come back from furlough and got told by my boss that shifts might change I informed him I cannot work any other days expect the ones I've been doing for 8 years due to commitments. A week later the new shift pattern goes up on the board and he puts me on a Tuesday (which I cant do) and take the Thursday off me. I questioned this and got told theres no movement even though I had already informed him. Now weve been in constant conversation regarding my new shift me stating I cannot do it due to commitments and being told my commitments arnt good enough to be able to change to shifts around. I got a disciplinary for not turning up one Tuesday and now looking at another one.
Icn - 10-Nov-20 @ 2:01 PM
Can an employer take all shift allowance of if they change your hours for 2 months to work only 6am -2:00 pm ?
Mott - 30-Oct-20 @ 8:52 AM
I was working 8.30 to 4.30 for nearly 20 years. Last year we were told we had to change to shift work 8am to 6pm and if we didn't we would be moved to another establishment. So we reluctantly agreed. However since August we have been put back to 8.30 to 4.30. Can this now become custom and practice. Have asked to keep this fixed pattern. And have been refused. Eventhough at present we at still on a fixed pattern of 8.30am to 4.30
Al - 24-Oct-20 @ 12:18 AM
Boss has told me I have to work different hours to that i have done for two years. I have explained that this messes with childcare etc and getting to my other job. Response was that I need to sort myself out.
Bluesky - 18-Oct-20 @ 8:15 AM
I work 8:30 to 4:30 Monday to Friday, since I started this job in April. These were the times I was told in my interview. Now I've been told by my manager that he wants me to work 9am till 5pm sometimes because it's not fair on other staff members. They wear told they started at 9am and finished at 5pm. I have a childminder that will charge extra if I work later, do i have to accept this new change?
Sarah - 16-Oct-20 @ 11:47 AM
I work 9am till 5pm Monday to Friday my employer is now trying to force shift change on employees by saying we work 6am till 2 pm and 2pm till 10pm on a rotating shift pattern and we have to do 5 out of Severn days, this is not sitting pretty with employees because a lot of us have children and partners who we pick up from their work in the evening. I’m my circumstances I have my daughter at weekends and pick my partner up at 5.30 in the evening as it would cost us over £100 pounds a week in taxi and bus fares. Where do we stand on our working rights
Dave - 10-Oct-20 @ 5:07 PM
Hi I was working full time before lock down and have been told By my employer that my job role is no longer available, and that there is only part time hours for an admin role available. The hours don’t suit for childcare and are harder for my family to work around. I’m also watching another colleague do my job that I wasn’t told was no longer available. Can they do this?
Single mum - 28-Sep-20 @ 9:31 AM
I m working for weekend night shift from last 4 years in a secondary packaging company ,shift pattern wed,thurs,fri &sat notgetting paid extra pay for weekend but my manager asked me changed my shift pattern from thurs,fri,sat &sun now which i m loosing my sunday which i should get paid fir unsocial hours and that too within 2 weeks. Can i demand for extra pay or can i deny thus shift pattern according to some law? Please advise.
Fredd - 26-Sep-20 @ 5:35 PM
I work 18 hrs a week very but as from mon I am down to 12 hrs and not been told I only found out when I saw rota
Dont have - 18-Sep-20 @ 7:17 AM
I’m currently on a fixed rota pattern which is changing to a different fixed rota pattern On 30th October, which I have no real issues except on the new pattern I will now work an extra 3 days between 30th Oct & 31st December, is this allowed?
H - 10-Sep-20 @ 11:46 AM
Hi. I work 4day week over 5mon to fri for over 10years. I am now told I will ge going to a 3day week to include a sat every other week. Can I say refuse to work Saturday?thanks
Annie - 9-Sep-20 @ 2:56 PM
I have always worked 1130 to 6 for 17 years now I have been taken off one of my day shifts and been given evening shift somebody else has been given my day shift is this fair
Lib - 2-Sep-20 @ 9:40 AM
My hours were changed during the working week without any notice or heads up, and well after the rota had been finalised. I saw this by chance and changed my plans to accommodate so I could work (on my day off) It was a busy shift but I had to leave on time because I had moved my plans to the evening. My manager is now trying to give me disciplinary action for not staying past my time to help out. What’s the ruling on this?
Me - 31-Aug-20 @ 11:01 PM
I work in a restaurant and we start the week from Sunday .. Very often it happens that the schedule for the next working week, which starts on Sunday, is given a day before, for example, at 5pm on Saturday.Is it legal and when is the deadline for notifying employees of the next week's shifts if they work on a weekly basis
Nikmil - 22-Aug-20 @ 3:54 PM
I work for a care company and have always done same shifts hours and sleep overs for 2 years now they are putting out rotas with bank staff already allocated hours and sleeps and changing my shifts when others complain they want more sleeps they are taking off me and not informing me and when I phone or email to ask about it ignoring my email and calls
worklife - 26-Jul-20 @ 3:25 PM
Question, i work in a spa. When i started they had said that they consider full time being on average 32 hours a week. I was informed that they now have changed that. You must work 1 weekend day to be considered full time. So personally having to work around daycare hours, i work monday to friday, averaging 35 hours a week. So my question being is this legal? I work more then there required full time hours, but im still considered "part time"because i cant work on weekend. This effects my ranking so i wont get booked as much, as well as i wont get the extended medical benifits.
Workproblem - 24-Jul-20 @ 5:12 PM
Have worked full time nights for 20 years and now because of loss of work they want me to work days. Ifs there’s no work on night shift why don’t they just make me redundant
Archiemabel - 16-Jul-20 @ 12:28 PM
Hi.I work 5 from 7, have always done our own rotas but now we are being given rotas with no choice. Some are double shifts and day off so am expected to work all hours over 4 days as opposed to 5. Do we have a say in which days off we want/need. TIA
Missita - 9-Jul-20 @ 8:33 PM
We havnt been open a week , like every pub and club we have reduced hours,now they want to change them back is this allowed.
I - 8-Jul-20 @ 11:12 PM
Hi , I want to ask regarding hospitality jobs. Many times I witnessed situation were management decided to save labour so they simply send employee home after few hours as the pub/ restsurant want busy at that time. Can you advice if there is any law protecting these workers?? Mainly if the shift is 8 hours and been cut to 3 hours only. Many thanks.
Martino - 2-Jul-20 @ 1:23 PM
My daughter is a hairdresser and the salon is to reopen this weekend. She has been asked to work every sunday now 9-7. She has not agreed to sign anything yet but can she refuse? Can they dismiss her? She has asked if the sundays could be rotated but they refuse
Jeanie - 29-Jun-20 @ 10:56 AM
I have been furloughed since March, always done the same hours of work fitting in with my children’s school, for the last 14 years, I am a single mum to 3 young children and I Have been told that my hours of work will need to change to suit the business better meaning I would have to work all day mon, friand every other sat, starting in July this would be so difficult for me with having to do school run etc
Blue - 24-Jun-20 @ 3:49 PM
been told today that my alternate weekends of work are being swapped. I'm not happy due to family commitments that have been booked in the future, are they allowed to do this??
kirst - 23-Jun-20 @ 4:13 PM
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