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When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 19 Oct 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 working at a restaurant asa waiter on a full-time basis with a contract. I work one weekend and the next one i am off. My manager asked me to swap weekends and start from my weekend off on a permanent basis. What i have to ask for? To have two weekends off in a row and get paid regularly or ask him to get paid for this weekend overtime? ? think he is intending to swap me without getting anything back just by claiming that I'll have the next weekend off and the rota will go on as normal. Can you please tell me what to do? I am so confused...Thanks in advance.
David - 19-Oct-17 @ 11:04 PM
Hi my husband has been working nights with the same company come 15 years, he has heard that they might be putting a stop to nights. Would his company need too give him a notice period? If they offer him a job on days is he required to accept it? Thank you
Shell - 19-Oct-17 @ 8:36 PM
My 2week rolling rota has changed with no notice at all, in fact I would not have known until a college told me hers had changed, so I looked and they had only given me 3 shifts a week instead of four, so I mentioned this, but then was off for four days, so on my return to work, i checked the rota only to find I shoul have been in the day before. No one contacted me to say I should have been in work. Therefore I have lost a shift. Can my employer do this. I’m not happy with the new 2 weeks rolling rota.
Jude - 18-Oct-17 @ 10:01 PM
Kaz - Your Question:
I am a permanent member of staff who work shifts over 7 days. we have seasonal contract hours (April -October /November -March)usually 25 in winter / 30 in the summer although this year it has increase to 37 and we do not yet know what the winter hours will be. Is there a legal requirement to inform us of hour and shift patterns , we were informed of our summer contract on 1st April with new shifts commencing 3rd April , I have 3 school age children and need to arrange child care.

Our Response:
What does your original contract say exactly? Sorry we can't reallly comment without more information.
SafeWorkers - 17-Oct-17 @ 10:39 AM
i have worked in the same job for 14 years -tupe twice- my contracted working hours are 40 my employer is now wanting to reduce those hours to 30 which is a change to my contract -I don't want to work less hours as I would suffer financially can they do this ? they are saying its for economic reasons and they only have to give 30 days notice this is a very large company
poppy - 16-Oct-17 @ 2:47 PM
I am a permanent member of staff who work shifts over 7 days. we have seasonal contract hours (April -October /November -March)usually 25 in winter / 30 in the summer although this year it has increase to 37 and we do not yet know what the winter hours will be. Is there a legal requirement to inform us of hour and shift patterns , we were informed of our summer contract on 1st April with new shifts commencing 3rd April , I have 3 school age children and need to arrange child care.
Kaz - 16-Oct-17 @ 11:20 AM
I have worked for my employer for 6 years , I get one Saturday offa month . While my contract states nothing as to the amount of Saturdays I may take as holiday in 2013 my employer decided that we could only take 3 Saturdays per year as holidays as full time staff . Now they have revised this and say 2 Saturdays per year . Is this a change to my contract ? or can they do this as they please ?
Lewis47 - 11-Oct-17 @ 9:27 PM
Meant to say Christmas is a Monday - I have never worked Mondays as I have no child care
Nicelln - 11-Oct-17 @ 12:17 AM
Hi, I have an agreement of flexible working set shifts and have done since going back to work from mat leave. I work tues weds sun. However they have did Christmas off duty already, put me in for it and said my flexible working hours do not count at Christmas time. But they didn't do this to my previous year? I have checked flexible contract and it does not state anything like this about Christmas. What do I do?
Nicelln - 11-Oct-17 @ 12:15 AM
Kipper - Your Question:
Hi I have been working for my employer for 10 years and it says in my contract that I work 39 hrs a week (nights) sunday to friday morning this year the week before christmas they are trying to make us work a 47 hr week (nights) sunday to saturday morning , can they make us do this and can they give you a disciplinary if you dont do it , they have given us 3 months notice

Our Response:
Is it just for one week or is it a permanent change to your contract?
SafeWorkers - 10-Oct-17 @ 11:33 AM
Hi i have been working for my employer for 10 years and it says in my contract that i work 39 hrs a week (nights) sunday to friday morning this year the week beforechristmas they are trying to make us work a 47 hr week (nights) sunday to saturday morning , can they make us do this and can they give you a disciplinary if you dont do it , they have given us 3 months notice
Kipper - 7-Oct-17 @ 2:18 PM
My husband works shifts. He booked holidays that included his set days off. The dates were agreed and signed by the manager. However, they have announced that the Rota will now be changed and there will be a period of time where there is no Rota in place. They have told my husband he will now have to rebook his holidays as the dates had incorporated his previous set days off. Can they really ask him to do that? Should they not honour the days he already requested and they agreed to?
SJ - 6-Oct-17 @ 8:22 AM
I am contracted to 40 hours a week by my employer, if there is no work as has recently happened does my employer still have to pay me for hours not worked up to my contracted maximum of 40 hours.
Chris - 5-Oct-17 @ 8:36 PM
Hi the whole store I work in has just undergone a major change. Me and my colleagues have 16 to 20 hour contracts. We have consistently for years worked way above theses contracted hours. Somewhere between 30 and 40 hours. They now are slashing these hours to between 20 and 25. Can they do this with less than two weeks notice. Some people have come to rely on these hours as regular income.
Sophia - 5-Oct-17 @ 5:59 AM
megs - Your Question:
I have a 26 week contract working on a two week rota and work the same days on one week and different days on the other week but my conract days stay the same ,but a new staff as started and to accomadate them because they cant work certain days they gave her my working pattern can they do this to me

Our Response:
Sorry it's not clear what your contract says. Are you days each week specified? If so your employer cannot change these without your consent. Take a look at our guide here
SafeWorkers - 4-Oct-17 @ 2:28 PM
Lorry - Your Question:
My employers are changing my hours in office from day to having to work from 4pm to midnight one week in three - this is not suitable from a personal point of view but been told if I don't do then basically will lose my job - been in this job for 8 years - please advise

Our Response:
What does your contract say? Please read the advice in the above article about this and about the right to request flexible working. If your contractual hours are only during the daytime, your employer cannot change them without your consent. Our guide here gives more information
SafeWorkers - 4-Oct-17 @ 2:23 PM
i have a 26 week contract working on a two week rota and work the same days on one week and different days on the other week but my conract days stay the same ,but a new staff as started and to accomadate them because they cant work certain days they gave her my working patterncan they do this to me
megs - 3-Oct-17 @ 9:42 PM
My employers are changing my hours in office from day to having to work from 4pm to midnight one week in three - this is not suitable from a personal point of view but been told if I don't do then basically will lose my job - been in this job for 8 years - please advise
Lorry - 3-Oct-17 @ 8:59 PM
Jomorgs- Your Question:
I work for a big store and have done for 2 yrsive been away from work for a week on holiday, I took a picture of this weeks rota so I new what I was working this week, I went in for my shift today which is 6 to 12. I was inform once I got into work my shift may have be changed, once we got downstairs I checked the rota and it had been changed to 11 to 6.15 as you can imagine I wasn't happy, is it my responsibility to ring work during my holiday to see if my rota had changed. Thank you

Our Response:
This depends on your employer's policy. They should have this documented in your contract or in the employee's handbook.
SafeWorkers - 3-Oct-17 @ 3:28 PM
shirley - Your Question:
My new employer , 4 weeks ago asked me to change my monday from 7am -3pm to 6am -2pm, I was happy to change, now less than four weeks later he now wants me to change my monday back to the original 7-3, do I have to comply , he is under the impression that I have little say in it ? is he right ?

Our Response:
What does your contract say?
SafeWorkers - 3-Oct-17 @ 12:44 PM
big Jane - Your Question:
I am contracted to 24 hours per week as a cook. I have done 2 shifts this week wich is 16 hours and there is no more on the rota what do I do I cannot offord to lose money and shifts

Our Response:
Speak to your employer. If you are not given the number of hours stated in your contract, your employer has breached the contract. Follow the advice in the above article (the last two sections).
SafeWorkers - 2-Oct-17 @ 12:26 PM
I work for a big store and have done for 2 yrsive been away from work for a week on holiday, I took a picture of this weeks rota so I new what I was working this week, I went in for my shift today which is 6 to 12. I was inform once I got into work my shift may have bechanged, once we got downstairs I checked the rota and it had been changed to 11 to 6.15 as you can imagine I wasn't happy, is it my responsibility to ring work during my holiday to see if my rota had changed. Thank you
Jomorgs - 2-Oct-17 @ 7:20 AM
my new employer , 4 weeks ago asked me to change my monday from 7am -3pm to 6am -2pm, i was happy to change, now less than four weeks later he now wants me to change my monday back to the original 7-3, do i have to comply , he is under the impression that i have little say in it ? is he right ?
shirley - 1-Oct-17 @ 3:01 PM
Smithy - Your Question:
I have a 25 hr contract and have only worked Mon - Fri in a retail store for over 10 yrs. The new owner of the shop has requested that half my time needs to be worked on weekends and has given 4 weeks notice. My contract does state that I can be called Mon to Sun. Must I comply?

Our Response:
If your contract states your availability must be Mon-Sun then yes it's likely to apply unfortunately.
SafeWorkers - 29-Sep-17 @ 2:33 PM
I am contracted to 24 hours per week as a cook. I have done 2 shifts this week wich is 16 hours and there is no more on the rota what do I do I cannot offord to lose money and shifts
big Jane - 29-Sep-17 @ 11:36 AM
Caz - Your Question:
Hi, we have just been taken over by a new employer.we were tupe over.My contract says approx 12 hrs stock person.i have been with the previous employer 12yrs.i used to to 4hrs x3days stock days a week mon/wed/fri.under my old employer I agreed to cut my hrs from 3x4hrs to 3x3hrs. we were taken over 2 months ago but the new employer only had stock 2 days a week.which was a bit inconvenient because I work around 2 other jobs.i managed to change my hours to suit him and do 2 x4.5 hrs on tues and thurs.but he has now said he will only have 1 stock day a week and I will have to do whatever he asks me to do on the other day.i have told him that by having only 1 stock delivery day it is to much for me to rush to do.I am 63 yrs old.i have told him I will revert back to my former days/ hours which I was never given written notice to change only a verbal agreement from me to help accomodate him.am I within my rights to do this.thankyou.

Our Response:
If you agreed to the new shifts after working for your new employer, your contract may have been amended. You need to check this before you can claim that your contract has been breached.
SafeWorkers - 29-Sep-17 @ 10:26 AM
I have a 25 hr contract and have only worked Mon - Fri in a retail store for over 10 yrs. The new owner of the shop has requested that half my time needs to be worked on weekends and has given 4 weeks notice. My contract does state that I can be called Mon to Sun. Must I comply?
Smithy - 27-Sep-17 @ 11:27 PM
Terry - Your Question:
I have worked constant night shift for over 6 years now ive been told I must go on a 6-2, 2-10 shift pattern ive been given only a weeks notice is this a reasonable amount of notice? Or is it only 12hours notice that has to be given?

Our Response:
There are no specified time limits for notice. Employers are expected to give "reasonable" notice that's all.
SafeWorkers - 27-Sep-17 @ 3:35 PM
Hi, we have just been taken over by a new employer.we were tupe over..My contract says approx 12 hrs stock person...i have been with the previous employer 12yrs..i used to to 4hrs x3days stock days a week mon/wed/fri...under my old employer i agreed to cut my hrs from 3x4hrsto 3x3hrs... we were taken over 2 months ago but the new employer only had stock 2 days a week ..which was a bit inconvenient because i work around 2 other jobs...i managed to change my hours to suit him and do 2 x4.5 hrs on tues and thurs...but he has now said he will only have 1 stock day a week and i will have to do whatever he asks me to do on the other day...i have told him that by having only 1 stock delivery day it is to much for me to rush to do...I am 63 yrs old...i have told him i will revert back to my former days/ hours which i was never given written noticeto change only a verbal agreement from me to help accomodate him...am i within my rights to do this.thankyou...
Caz - 27-Sep-17 @ 10:24 AM
I have worked constant night shift for over 6 years now ive been told i must go on a 6-2,2-10 shift pattern ive been given only a weeks notice is this a reasonable amount of notice? Or is it only 12hours notice that has to be given?
Terry - 27-Sep-17 @ 6:31 AM
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