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When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 17 Apr 2018 | 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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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
KIMMY - Your Question:
Can they change my shift without asking me first

Our Response:
This depends on your contract. Please read the above article for further information.
SafeWorkers - 17-Apr-18 @ 2:43 PM
Ladslads - Your Question:
I work as a night shift career post in a private care home. Some of my service users routine to wake up in a certain hours, let’s say 7-9am but due to changing the staffs working hours night my service user are affect. And their routine is changed and have to wake up early. Because my company changed the staffs working hours our service users have to adopt with this and change their routine without any choice. Is this a abuse towards my service users? And can a company change what the service users routine and caring hours that they will need?

Our Response:
All care homes have to meet certain standards and requirements. If you feel the service users are not being treated as they should be talk to your employer first of all. If you're not satisfied with the response, make a formal complaint. You can then report it to your local council.
SafeWorkers - 17-Apr-18 @ 9:44 AM
Can they change my shift without asking me first
KIMMY - 17-Apr-18 @ 1:02 AM
busy mamy - Your Question:
Hi, while off on maternity leave over a year ago I submitted a flexible working request for childare friendly hours. I am a single mum of twins working part time. My manager was not able to meet my specific requirements i.e. day shifts during the week but did reach a compromise which we agreed and a new contract and working pattern was agreed as a result. I have been working this for almost a year now. however they are now proposing changes to my shifts again. I was advised that as the hours I requested were not fully met my flexible working request was only partially met. Is this true and does it leave me in a precarious position legally with respect to refusing any changes? the rota is currently undergoing consultation and a union representative advised me to re submit another flexible working request to mantain my current hours stating this needs to be fully accepted rather than partially accepted. I did this earlier this week but fear my manager will reject it and I dont know where I stand with respect to my existing request and working patterns. Please advise, much appreciated.

Our Response:
If you received a revised contract with the new working hours and times then your employer cannot change them without your consent. Please see our guide to objecting to changes in your contract
SafeWorkers - 16-Apr-18 @ 3:21 PM
I work as a night shift career post in a private care home. Some of my service users routine to wake up in a certain hours, let’s say 7-9am but due to changing the staffs working hours night my service user are affect. And their routine is changed and have to wake up early. Because my company changed the staffs working hours our service users have to adopt with this and change their routine without any choice. Is this a abuse towards my service users? And can a company change what the service users routine and caring hours that they will need?
Ladslads - 16-Apr-18 @ 3:06 AM
Hi, in my workplace we work on a rota bases which states in the contract will be made up of lates, earlys and a day at the weekend. It also states in the contract that we will be given at least two weeks notice of our working hours. Today on Sunday (I wasn’t in yesterday) I have seen the new rota go up and have 3 lates as I am then on holiday for a week. My question to you is where do I stand with the fact they have given me 1 days rather than 2 weeks notice of my shifts and the fact I have 3 lates one of which is tomorrow. I have young children and I am now finding it hard to get them looked after with 24 hrs notice!
Ali - 15-Apr-18 @ 7:22 PM
hi I work for a company with a contract that says they guarantee a minimum of 39 hrs over a 7 day working weekwe have approximately7 rotas with eith a 4 day or 5 day week all working at least 1 weekend day. over the last few years the company introduced a fixed rota that is surposed to cater for those employees that are unable to work specific times due to external influences. the agreement with the union was that these fixed line were to be reviewed every 6 months. to date this has not happened and we now have a situation that 4 of the lines do not work weekends at all and 1 of the lines has 54 hrs on it . all of these are now guaranteed to the staff on them with no change in contract for them. my question is are the company setting a precedent by allowing a Monday to Friday working week and also giving a 54 hr working week an fixed lines that are basically now guaranteed to those members of staff working them.
Vypermax - 14-Apr-18 @ 10:29 AM
hi, while off on maternity leave over a year ago i submitted a flexible working request for childare friendly hours. I am a single mum of twins working part time. My manager was not able to meet my specific requirements i.e. day shifts during the week but did reach a compromise which we agreed and a new contract and working pattern was agreed as a result. i have been working this for almost a year now. however they are now proposing changes to my shifts again. i was advised that as the hours i requested were not fully met my flexible working request was only partially met. Is this true and does it leave me in a precarious position legally with respect to refusing any changes? the rota is currently undergoing consultation and a union representative advised me to re submit another flexible working request to mantain my current hours stating this needs to be fully accepted rather than partially accepted. I did this earlier this week but fear my manager will reject it and i dont know where i stand with respect to my existing request and working patterns. Please advise, much appreciated.
busy mamy - 13-Apr-18 @ 11:20 PM
Shell - Your Question:
I work in a collage campus canteen my contract is 20 hours, which I wanted as I suffer from bad anxiety and depression which I am on medication for and also disability, I am allowed work these hours and keep my medical card which I need because the medication is exspensive. I am finished now for the summer as I do the evening shift and all classes are finished but now I have been told by employer when I go back in September I will have to work 35hrs a week when my contract states 20 hours. Can they leagally do this and fire me if I don’t agree to the change of contract. I work part time because I can’t afford my medication which would cost at least 300 a month and also because I am not fit for full time work. I don’t miss days through my illness as I am able for 20 but not 35?

Our Response:
There are several things you can do if you object to a change in your employment contract. Please see our guide here
SafeWorkers - 13-Apr-18 @ 2:00 PM
Suerue - Your Question:
My employer are restructuring my dept, ie reducing work for certain by 50%. we have been told that we will need to go to another area of the market business but the shift patterns are very unsociable, working various days but until midnight or 1am. The only option for those of us that cannot work these hours is to leave. Is this constructive dismissal? What are my rights?

Our Response:
If your contract is changing you will need to give your consent, this is especially true if your contract is changing significantly, such as a reduction in hours. Please follow our guide here
SafeWorkers - 13-Apr-18 @ 12:21 PM
catlover - Your Question:
About 5 years ago I made an arrangement with my company to split my working shift to fit in with my other job and so the hours wer'nt affecting my health. Today I was told that they were moving me to a section I cant do those same hours on. The reason for this is that the company have a problem with another employee and are using me as a scape goat to rid them of this problem! Are they allowed to cause stress to an employee by doing this. Why should I be moved to eliminate their problem with this other employee?

Our Response:
This depends on what your contract says really. Was it amended when you split your hours? If so, your employer cannot make the changes without your consent. See our guide to Objecting to changes in your contract
SafeWorkers - 13-Apr-18 @ 11:57 AM
I work in a collage campus canteen my contract is 20 hours, which I wanted as I suffer from bad anxiety and depression which I am on medication for and also disability, I am allowed work these hours and keep my medical card which I need because the medication is exspensive. I am finished now for the summer as I do the evening shift and all classes are finished but now I have been told by employer when I go back in September I will have to work 35hrs a week when my contract states 20 hours. Can they leagally do this and fire me if I don’t agree to the change of contract. I work part time because I can’t afford my medication which would cost at least 300 a month and also because I am not fit for full time work. I don’t miss days through my illness as I am able for 20 but not 35?
Shell - 11-Apr-18 @ 11:12 PM
My employer are restructuring my dept, ie reducing work for certain by 50%. we have been told that we will need to go to another area of the market business but the shift patterns are very unsociable, working various days but until midnight or 1am. The only option for those of us that cannot work these hours is to leave. Is this constructive dismissal? What are my rights?
Suerue - 11-Apr-18 @ 9:48 PM
about 5 years ago I made an arrangement with my company to split my working shift to fit in with my other job and so the hours wer'nt affecting my health. Today I was told that they were moving me to a section I cant do those same hours on. The reason for this is that the company have a problem with another employee and are using me as a scape goat to rid them of this problem! Are they allowed to cause stress to an employee by doing this. Why should I be moved to eliminate their problem with this other employee?
catlover - 11-Apr-18 @ 6:05 PM
markus - Your Question:
If I have a 30 hr contract can the company I work for give me less hours or do they legally have to give me my contracted hours.

Our Response:
If your contract is for 30 hours, that is what you should be paid for.
SafeWorkers - 9-Apr-18 @ 2:35 PM
Dallas - Your Question:
My company wants to open up a second shift n have half of us come in the morning n the other half at 12 I put on my contract I can do morning n nights I can’t do 2nd shift can they obligate us to work 2nd shift out of no where and 2. Can they make us stay past our 8 hours with no warning

Our Response:
What does your contract actually say? Sorry it's not clear.
SafeWorkers - 9-Apr-18 @ 11:48 AM
If i have a 30 hr contract can the company I work for give me less hours or do they legally have to give me my contracted hours.
markus - 8-Apr-18 @ 10:26 AM
My company wants to open up a second shift n have half of us come in the morning n the other half at 12 I put on my contract I can do morning n nights I can’t do 2nd shift can they obligate us to work 2nd shift out of no where and 2. Can they make us stay past our 8 hours with no warning
Dallas - 7-Apr-18 @ 1:12 AM
worky - Your Question:
Hello, I currently work part time Monday, Thursday and Friday. I put in for flexible working 5 years ago and they said if I withdrew my application they would strive to give me set shifts as much as possible. They kept to their word and my manager gave me set shifts every week. But now my manager has left and we have a new one. She said she is going to have to change my shifts now. What should I do?

Our Response:
You could make another request for flexible working. If your current arrangement of set shifts has worked well for five years, your employer may not have good business grounds for refusing what would effectively be a continuation of this.
SafeWorkers - 6-Apr-18 @ 3:31 PM
Hello, I currently work part time Monday, Thursday and Friday. I put in for flexible working 5 years ago and they said if i withdrew my application they would strive to give me set shifts as much as possible. They kept to their word and my manager gave me set shifts every week. But now my manager has left and we have a new one. She said she is going to have to change my shifts now. What should i do?
worky - 6-Apr-18 @ 1:20 PM
BJM - Your Question:
Hi. I work for a company where I am contracted to 40 hours per week (paid breaks). As Xmas Eve is a Monday, the company want to make us work 8 hrs on a Sunday in exchange for the day off. I believe my contact has to specifically mention Sunday working for us to be legally obliged to do it. My contract mentions nothing of having to swap working days when business needs suit nor does it mention Sunday in my contract. I do not work in retail or a betting shop. Please can you advise. Thanks

Our Response:
Without seeing your contract it's difficult for us to comment. If you want to object to this change see our guide to Objecting to Changes in a Contract
SafeWorkers - 6-Apr-18 @ 12:45 PM
I am on a 48 hour contract but then I get deducted 10 hours in total. (1 hour to and from work each day even though I only live 15 minutes from my place of work) AND 1 hour per day for a dinner break although I find it IMPOSSIBLE to complete my daily schedule if I was to take an hour break.
Mrbrown - 5-Apr-18 @ 6:41 PM
Hi. I work for a company where I am contracted to 40 hours per week (paid breaks). As Xmas Eve is a Monday, the company want to make us work 8 hrs on a Sunday in exchange for the day off. I believe my contact has to specifically mention Sunday working for us to be legally obliged to do it. My contract mentions nothing of having to swap working days when business needs suit nor does it mention Sunday in my contract. I do not work in retail or a betting shop. Please can you advise. Thanks
BJM - 5-Apr-18 @ 6:14 PM
I have a 3 day / 21 hour contract. For the past 2 years since starting there I have worked every other weekend with varying days in the week. Employer requests if we are unable to work over time on a weekend off to inform them so they don’t Rota us in to work.I have a few weekends off authorised (not annual leave) I have recently taken on a promotion (change in the pattern- every other weekend was not mentioned at the time) They are now expecting me to work 2 weeks in and 1 off. (Which I’m not happy about) And any of my original weekends off I had authorised before I now need to use my annual leave allowance for them if I wish to still have them off. Can they expect me to use my annual leave even though it was authorised days off? I only made plans for these dates because they were days off so I didn’t have to use my holiday allowance.
Dog lover - 5-Apr-18 @ 5:00 PM
Clixby- Your Question:
Hi, I am contracted to 37.5 hours a week, but on my third day I was asked to work nights 12 hours shifts 4 on 4 off, which was no problem, this means I am now working 48 hours a week, does this automatically become my standard working hours after a certain period of time? I have been doing them for 4 months now! Thanks

Our Response:
It's not clear how you've arrived at 48 hours per week if you're working 4 on 4 off. Do your shifts have a break? Is this paid. If so, over a normal working week you average 3.5 xtwelve hour shifts, which is 42 hours per week. If you have an unpaid break of 1 hours in each shift it's actually 38.5 hours per week. So you really need to find out what reference period is being used to calculate your weekly hours - if they don't match the 37.5 hours in your contract, you can object. See our guide for more details
SafeWorkers - 4-Apr-18 @ 2:21 PM
Iam currently working 3 day a week my boss wants to cut me to two days Iam having to have time of in July for operation will be off approx 6 weeks is she aloud to do this and set someone else on to do my hours thankyou
Liz - 3-Apr-18 @ 4:41 PM
Sha - Your Question:
I am contract 42 hours and any hours over 42 I have to work to keep my store open I am ment to be given back in Lou. The only problem is there is never no staff to work in my store to cover me so continue to work 50+ hours a week only being paid 42. What am I meant to do in this situation can I force them to pay me if after a time frame it obvious I'm not getting the hours back.

Our Response:
You need to address this with your employer - if they are uncooperative, give ACAS a call.
SafeWorkers - 3-Apr-18 @ 3:24 PM
Bubbles - Your Question:
I was hoping someone here would be able to help with some advice. The company I work for is bringing in company wide changes, one of which being that we will no longer get paid breaks and that break times will automatically be deducted in payroll. I work a 16hour contract and if I have this time taken off my hours I will fall below the threshold for tax credits and will literally not be able to afford to live in my house. I have asked if it’s possible to forego breaks (I work less than 6 hour shifts and am over 18 so my breaks aren’t a legal requirement but more of a company courtesy) and have been told that wouldn’t be allowed, I’ve asked if I can stay on 15 mins at the end of my shifts to make time up and have also been told that this isn’t a possibility either. The changes have stated that the everyone will be asked to sign these new contracts and if they refuse they’ll be told to leave, where do I stand with this and is it even legal? I can’t afford to lose my job and will be screwed if I go below the tax credits threshold

Our Response:
If you object to changes in your contract, there are things that you can do.. Our guiide Objecting to Changes in your Contract should help you.
SafeWorkers - 3-Apr-18 @ 2:58 PM
Hi, I am contracted to 37.5 hours a week, but on my third day I was asked to work nights 12 hours shifts 4 on 4 off, which was no problem, this means I am now working 48 hours a week, does this automatically become my standard working hours after a certain period of time? I have been doing them for 4 months now! Thanks
Clixby - 2-Apr-18 @ 6:07 AM
I am contract 42 hours and any hours over 42 I have to work to keep my store open I am ment to be given back in Lou. The only problem is there is never no staff to work in my store to cover me so continue to work 50+ hours a week only being paid 42. What am I meant to do in this situation can I force them to pay me if after a time frame it obvious I'm not getting the hours back.
Sha - 30-Mar-18 @ 9:02 PM
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