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When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 23 Mar 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]
sam - Your Question:
I have worked for this company for almost 3 years can you tell me how much notice they have to give to change my hours I work mornings at the moment but they want to change this to evenings.

Our Response:
What does your contract say? If your contract suggests your shifts can be changed (i.e shift times, not total number of hours worked), your employer can change this with a "reasonable" period of notice. This could be 24 hours. If your contract says you are employed to work a morning shift only, then your employer cannot change this without your consent.
SafeWorkers - 24-Mar-17 @ 12:09 PM
Falling_Down - Your Question:
My commercial director says I forgot to pay for a Dart charge and wants to take the fine out of my wages. I'm sure he only asked me to pay for one return journey, which I did. He asked verbally, so I cannot prove it. I really don't know what to do. I'm always the first to admit a mistake but I don't believe I have made one. Even if I have, can he just dock my wages like that? Please help.

Our Response:
We're sorry we don't know the terms of your contract. Assuming you are a driver of a company vehicle - are you responsible for paying the charge?
SafeWorkers - 24-Mar-17 @ 11:26 AM
I have worked as a Teaching Assistant at the same school for 18 years.During that time we have always been allowed a 15 break when the children are having playtime except if we are needed to cover or do playtime duty. We have never been advised this was not acceptable.I was told that from 17th March that this has changed and in order to have the 4 x 15 minute breaks, at present being taken, I need to work an extra 2 x 30 minute duties from 12.00 to 12.30 during lunchtime.I understand this and have been doing the extra hours from then, but have also been told that they are backdating it to December, in my case, as I seemed I was aware I wasn't working sufficient hours to warrant a paid break.To reclaim the money I have not been paid for overtime claimed since December.Can they do this?
lyn - 23-Mar-17 @ 2:40 PM
cherri - Your Question:
Hi my daughter works as a nurse practioner she started in jan 17 but she had a meeting yesterday they are reducing her hours from 37.5 to 20hours although her contract states 37.5 min can they do this while she is on probation?

Our Response:
If her contract states that she will be given a minimum of 37.5 hours per week, the employer cannot change it without her consent. Follow the steps for breach of contract above.
SafeWorkers - 23-Mar-17 @ 1:00 PM
LS - Your Question:
If you have worked 08:00 whilst 16:00 for a number of weeks/months/years, is there something somewhere that states that this becomes your "normal" working pattern. Therefore if you are subsequently requested to work different house eg 09:00 -17:00 this has to be mutually agreed and not just enforced by the Employer.

Our Response:
Not really. If your contract doesn't state specific start and finish times, these can be varied slightly by your employer as long as the total number of hours is the same. Some benefits can become "custom and practice" after a long period but it's a complex issue (and probably doesn't apply in this case) and you would need a professional legal help.
SafeWorkers - 23-Mar-17 @ 11:58 AM
hi my daughter works as a nurse practioner she started in jan 17 but she had a meeting yesterday they are reducing her hours from 37.5 to 20hours although her contract states 37.5 min can they do this while she is on probation?
cherri - 22-Mar-17 @ 3:44 PM
If you have worked 08:00 whilst 16:00 for a number of weeks/months/years, is there something somewhere that states that this becomes your "normal" working pattern. Thereforeif you are subsequently requested to work different house eg 09:00 -17:00 this has to be mutually agreed and not just enforced by the Employer.
LS - 22-Mar-17 @ 11:17 AM
Hi there, I have recently been invited to my first consultation meeting which is asking us to change our contracts to work 3 fixed bank holidays and move too 5 days instead of 4. Is there anything I can do to change the bank holiday changes? I have spoken to the company and they have offerered no alternative. I feel my job role is being changed in the process, which i have spoken to the company about. However they are still stating this is what is needed to fulfil my new role and could lead to dismissal if I do not accept the changes. Thank you.
Annaxxx - 22-Mar-17 @ 1:43 AM
I have worked for this company for almost 3 years can you tell me how much notice they have to give to change my hours i work mornings at the moment but they want to change this to evenings .
sam - 21-Mar-17 @ 12:48 PM
jay jay - Your Question:
Can you please advise. I have worked for the last 12 years for the same Company having gone to a 4 day working week approximately 6 years ago doing a 28hr day. The Company now wants to change to Annualised Hours Contracts, I will still be working 4 days a week but possibly doing 9.5hrs a day with a half hour break so doing possibly 38hrs over 4 days then during the winter months going to a possible 3 day week. I do not agree with this change of contract and do not want to work these hours. Can the Company dismiss me if I refuse to sign a new contract as they seem to be inferring. What are my rights and what can I do please.

Our Response:
There is a range of options open to you. In general your company should have undergone a period of employee consultation before Please read this information on the
Citizens Advice website
SafeWorkers - 21-Mar-17 @ 12:03 PM
My commercial director says I forgot to pay for a Dart charge and wants to take the fine out of my wages. I'm sure he only asked me to pay for one return journey, which I did. He asked verbally, so I cannot prove it. I really don't know what to do. I'm always the first to admit a mistake but I don't believe I have made one. Even if I have, can he just dock my wages like that? Please help.
Falling_Down - 21-Mar-17 @ 8:40 AM
At interview i was told that during the initial probationary period of 3 months I could not be contracted for more tgan 30 hours a week and received a contract for 24 hours. Also at the interview it was agreed that after the probationary period I would be given a new contract of at least 35 hours per week if the business needed this. From day 1 and for the past 10 months I have worked an average of 45 hours per week and in some weeks 60+I have chased my new contract following the probationary one of 3 months several times and have not been given this yet. This month an old manager has returned and began employing new staff on full time hours but has reduced all current staff to their contract hours. A majority of which were still the probationary ones. This seems very wrong and unfair as I was initially told my hours would increase to full time after probation.
Jmac - 20-Mar-17 @ 5:39 PM
Can you please advise.I have worked for the last 12 years for the same Company having gone to a 4 day working week approximately 6 years ago doing a 28hr day. The Company nowwants to change to Annualised Hours Contracts, I will still be working 4 days a week but possibly doing 9.5hrs a day with a half hour breakso doing possibly 38hrs over 4 days then during the winter months going to a possible 3 day week.I do not agree with this change of contract and do not want to work these hours.Can the Company dismiss me if I refuse to sign a new contract as they seem to be inferring.Whatare my rights and what can I do please.
jay jay - 18-Mar-17 @ 2:13 PM
Bob - Your Question:
Ive been working on a 4 on 4 off shift pattern for the past 8 months working 12 hours on nights, now all of a sudden my work place has decided to cut everyone on nights only leaving a small number of 26 people for nights now this has left my self and other people who face the same changes as my self short each month by just under £600p/m and have basically told us we are now gonna be on 8 hours a day and it will be 5 of 7 days a week including weekend. ive reviewed my original contract and no where on the contract does it state that shifts may change. however they recently made all members of staff select times we are able to work where everyone feared if they dont select one we may get dismissed and over 98% of did not receive our first choices nor our 2nd choice now I for one know that they is no where near enough people for this to of happened. long story short I just wondering if they are legally allowed to do this.

Our Response:
If your contract specifices particularly shifts and does not say that this is subject to change etc, then your employer should not change it without your consent. An employee representative body such as a union can consult/negotiate with the employer but employees would normally be informed consulted by them as well. See the above section entitled "breaches of contract" for more information about what steps you can take.
SafeWorkers - 17-Mar-17 @ 2:15 PM
Kat - Your Question:
I started work on a 24hr contract 6months ago but since I have started have rarely been put on less than 30+hrs a week,I'm also working 5-6 working days a week mostly late shifts till 22:10 so I'm not able to see and spend time with my 4yr old daughter and my partner which is really upsetting me plus if also got a 40hr working week coming up as my boss is on holiday that week can she make me do so much over time as regularly as she is legally?? Thank you

Our Response:
A contract for 24 hours per week should be just that. It may specify that you will need to occasionally work extra hours but to have to do so on a regular basis is unreasonable of an employer. You should talk to your employer about this and the effect it is having on your family. If it continues, follow the advice for breach of contract above.
SafeWorkers - 17-Mar-17 @ 10:49 AM
I have been working at the same place for 5 years. My contract hours say 8:30 - 5:00 but this was changed verbally the first day I started to 7:00 - 3:30. We then agreed to change my hours again because of my health issues and doctors appointments I needed to attended about a year ago. I had issues at work a few months ago and ever since then I have been bullied a bit and now my boss wants to change my working hours back to my contracted hours. I have a doctors note that states I need to attend to exercise classes at 4 pm everyday in order to maintain my health. Are they still able to change my hours? The bulling I am experiencing is I am not included in Lunches or ask to attend as everyone is working out the door and a few other little issues.
None - 16-Mar-17 @ 10:35 PM
Hi. I have been working for a company for 13 months. Since I started the business got brought by someone else. Since the takeover we don't have a new contract from the new business which has also changed its name. I work Monday to Friday and every other Saturday. Today me and the colleague I work a Saturday with received an email from our boss to say we needed to discuss bank holiday/weekends as me and my colleague are not scheduled to work a Saturday of a bank holiday weekend until august and he feels this is unfair to our other colleague and him who he works the opposite Saturday with to myself. He wants us to swap so we work the same amount of bank holiday weekends. My question is can he do that? It's not my fault how it has fallen? We have said we have made plans and we have got to provide proof of this also! Can we refuse? Thanks
Lou - 16-Mar-17 @ 8:15 PM
Russ - Your Question:
I have been employed by my company for 18 months my employer has asked that I cover out of hours, on call for one week in every three, others in the same department receive an allowance for being oncall but they are refusing this stating that it is expected as part of my role. My contract of employment states 8-4.30 Monday to Friday. What can I do? Thank you.

Our Response:
If your contract does not have any clauses relating to out of hours cover, you can refuse/negotiate with your employer.
SafeWorkers - 16-Mar-17 @ 2:00 PM
hi i was newly appointed for a fifth shift that should have being implemented, i've signed a shift contract with shift allowance and i've receiced it now for five months working shifts and all of the sudden the employer decided the fifth shift is not neccasary anymore i must work straight shift and forfeited my shift allowance that is R5574 i've already set out my lifestyle according to that, i've accounts to be payed what are my rights according to this situation
dotcom - 15-Mar-17 @ 10:27 PM
Ive been working on a 4 on 4 off shift pattern for the past 8 months working 12 hours on nights, now all of a sudden my work place has decided to cut everyone on nights only leaving a small number of 26 people for nights now this has left my self and other people who face the same changes as my self short each month by just under £600p/m and have basically told us we are now gonna be on 8 hours a day and it will be 5 of 7 days a week including weekend... ive reviewed my original contract and no where on the contract does it state that shifts may change.... however they recently made all members of staff select times we are able to work where everyone feared if they dont select one we may get dismissed and over 98% of did not receive our first choices nor our 2nd choice now i for one know that they is no where near enough people for this to of happened..... long story short i just wondering if they are legally allowed to do this..
Bob - 15-Mar-17 @ 7:51 PM
I started work on a 24hr contract 6months ago but since i have started have rarely been put on less than 30+hrs a week,I'm also working 5-6 working days a week mostly late shifts till 22:10 so I'm not able to see and spend time with my 4yr old daughter and my partner which is really upsetting me plus if also got a 40hr working week coming up as my boss is on holiday that week can she make me do so much over time as regularly as she is legally?? Thank you
Kat - 15-Mar-17 @ 12:08 PM
I have been employed by my company for 18 months my employer has asked that I cover out of hours, on call for one week in every three, others in the same department receive an allowance for being oncall but they are refusing this stating that it is expected as part of my role. My contract of employment states 8-4.30 Monday to Friday. What can I do? Thank you.
Russ - 14-Mar-17 @ 7:13 PM
Un - Your Question:
I work in a private own business restaurant and the schedule ask for me to clock in at 8:30 every morning from Tuesday to Saturday if I clock in 2 minutes early and start working is the general manager allowed two change my clock in time to 8:30 without asking me or letting the owner know when she does it.

Our Response:
This depends on the terms of your employment contract. In general it's unacceptable/unethical to manually change clocking in times etc. Why don't you ask the manager why she's doing it?
SafeWorkers - 14-Mar-17 @ 12:19 PM
emz - Your Question:
My contract is for 14 hour, but am working more hours which is fine but a few more shifs have come up and my boss is trying to make me cover , can he do that, if I do not cover he is putting me back on probation, allso I left after a year then went back does that original contract still stand thanks Emma

Our Response:
You cannot be put back onto a probationary period if you've already successfully passed it. What does your contract say about working extra hours? If it says you may be asked to work extra hours to cover for sickness, holidays etc then this must be "reasonable" it cannot become a regular occurrence without your contract being amended (with your consent). If you left and rejoined, you may have a different contract.
SafeWorkers - 14-Mar-17 @ 10:04 AM
Damo - Your Question:
I have been with company for 13 years ,working 5days a week ,now they have cut my days down to 3 days a week. At the same time employing someone with cash in hand, thus trying to force me out , what are my rights, and I don't think I singed a contract. Do I have rights.

Our Response:
Your contract exists because you have been working for your employer and they have been paying you. An employer cannot change terms of your contract without your consent. Please see the above article for more information especially the part about "Breach of Contract"
SafeWorkers - 13-Mar-17 @ 2:30 PM
Daz - Your Question:
At work in this new job. been working 6.45am til 3.45pm. Now they have put me on 10 30am til 7.30pm. now I told them in interview I cannot do these shifts. what can I do about it.

Our Response:
What does your contract say? If your contract does not state specific start/end times there's not much you can do. You should have clarified this with your employer when you agreed to accept the job.
SafeWorkers - 13-Mar-17 @ 2:29 PM
I work in a private own business restaurant and the schedule ask for me to clock in at 8:30 every morning from Tuesday to Saturday if I clock in 2 minutes early and start working is the general manager allowed two change my clock in time to 8:30 without asking me or letting the owner know when she does it.
Un - 12-Mar-17 @ 1:39 PM
My contract is for 14 hour, but am working more hours which is fine but a few more shifs have come up and my boss is trying to make me cover , can he do that, if i do not cover he is putting me back on probation, allso i left after a year then went back does that original contract still stand thanks Emma
emz - 11-Mar-17 @ 9:26 AM
I have been with company for 13 years ,working 5days a week ,now they have cut my days down to 3 days a week. At the same time employing someone with cash in hand, thus trying to force me out , what are my rights, and I don't think I singed a contract. Do I have rights.
Damo - 10-Mar-17 @ 10:45 PM
At work in this new job. been working 6.45am til 3.45pm. Now they have put me on 10 30am til 7 .30pm. now i told them in interview i cannot do these shifts. what can i do about it.
Daz - 10-Mar-17 @ 10:27 PM
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