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When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 25 Jun 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]
Hi I work for a company and I am on a full time contract the contracts states the hours that they have to give to me. I have for the past 6 months been put shifts that that are over my contracted hours and I rarely get paid for them sometimes they do not even put them through. I have been told today that if operations demand I must stay on even though I have two children and I they will extend my shift over my contracted hours and as little as two hours before I am due to finish for the shift time that they are changing. This is impossible for me to get childcare at that short notice and I haven't the funds to have childcare after nursery closes just incase they decide to extend my shift . I am happy to work over time if I can but if I haven't got childcare and Iv done my contracted hours can they force me to stay
Rach - 25-Jun-17 @ 8:45 PM
Hello. I work in retail, been there 10 years. My manager recently wanted me to change from 3 days to full time. I couldn't manage this because of childcare but we negotiated at 4 days which I have worked for 2 months now. We are moving to a smaller location and were promised no changes to staff but I was pulled in today and told I have to drop a day again, and another member of staff has to drop a day, and if we can't sort it out then I would lose both days. Can they do this so soon after raising my hours?
Doris - 20-Jun-17 @ 9:03 PM
PurIfi - Your Question:
I am a receptionist at the company I work for. I keep getting calls from insolvency specialists wanting to speak to the MD's. (They don't tell me the nature of the call but Google is your friend.) I have been under the impression this has been on the cards for a while but nothing is being told to the staff. Should the management be clear with us or are they within their rights to keep it all secret until it happens? They have recently resurrected an old company which is what I assume will take my current companies place when it is shut down but how do I know what my rights are if it does happen? Shall I use up all my holiday allowance now? Because surely if I am taken on in the newer company, they would have to start from scratch, contracts and all? Of course if I am not taken on in the new company, that means they would have known what's going on for months but given the staff no warning!

Our Response:
We can't really advise on individual cases like this, but in general if your company is taken over, your terms and conditions of employment (except for pensions) are automatically transferred as well. This can be an unsettling time but you're concerned about your employer's financial viability or your future, speaking directly to your employer might be the best approach.
SafeWorkers - 16-Jun-17 @ 1:44 PM
Hello, I work in a residential home,we have set shifts but it works on a 2 week rota.As far as I was aware my contract was for 36 hours a week and I had requested for this to be changed to 42 one week 36 hours the other. When my manager put in my "new"rota he had put me down for 48 one week and 36 the other, I spoke to him thinking it was a mistake and he said no that I had agreed to work 42 hours a week or 84 a fortnight. I have explained to him and my unit manager that I have never agreed to this they are not listening to me however and are still expecting me to work these extra shifts because they are short staffed. When looking into this further with the administrator it turns out that my contract was changed last July without them even telling me! Can I refuse to work the extra hours? Or will they be able to give me a disciplinary or even fire me?
Lou - 16-Jun-17 @ 8:17 AM
Tony- Your Question:
My contract states the amount of paid hours daily (8 hours 4 days, 7 hours 1day, and 39 hours per week, quite often they send us home early an hour or so, when there is no work to do, without pay, and a lot of the time getting us to clean up and go home 10 minutes before finishing time, when there is work that can be done, still without pay. When people have complained, the manager (owner) replies "if you don't like it leave" or "if we pay you there will be no job to work for" can they do this?

Our Response:
No, they are in breach of your contract. Follow the steps in the above article from the section "Breaches of Contract" onwards.
SafeWorkers - 15-Jun-17 @ 11:25 AM
I am a receptionist at the company I work for. I keep getting calls from insolvency specialists wanting to speak to the MD's. (They don't tell me the nature of the call but Google is your friend.) I have been under the impression this has been on the cards for a while but nothing is being told to the staff. Should the management be clear with us or are they within their rights to keep it all secret until it happens? They have recently resurrected an old company which is what I assume will take my current companies place when it is shut down but how do I know what my rights are if it does happen? Shall I use up all my holiday allowance now? Because surely if I am taken on in the newer company, they would have to start from scratch, contracts and all? Of course if I am not taken on in the new company, that means they would have known what's going on for months but given the staff no warning!
PurIfi - 14-Jun-17 @ 10:11 AM
My contract states the amount of paid hours daily (8 hours 4 days, 7 hours 1day, and 39 hours per week, quite often they send us home early an hour or so, when there is no work to do, without pay, anda lot of the time getting us to clean up and go home 10 minutes before finishing time, when there is work that can be done,still without pay. When people have complained, the manager (owner) replies "if you don't like it leave" or "if we pay you there will be no job to work for" can they do this?
Tony - 12-Jun-17 @ 9:10 AM
I was doing 20hrs contract and done Monday to Friday morning shift only. Recently company had an restructure and new contract offers with 25hrs contract . New contract says need to have flexible working. Now my manager forcing me to do the weekens which I can not do because of family commitment. I went though other branches rota and some other employees having flexible work hours without week ends. I feel now manager is bullying me . Do I have rights to take this to the court?
Rrs - 9-Jun-17 @ 6:07 AM
I currently work various shifts in any given week between 7am and10pm. My employer is changing the opening hours and now wants me to change my availability to 5am till half past midnight. Is this a reasonable adjustment to working hours or can it be classed as a substantive change to contract
Spark - 8-Jun-17 @ 8:29 PM
I have my rota given to me months in advance which I do different shift patterns on, so I can plan my social life around this. Due to my type of work during the summer the work can slack off, my company are now flexing us onto another contract , which is not a problem. My question is if I am rostered on a 8 am till 4.30 can they on the Wednesday/Thursday the week before change our hours to a later shift ? They are saying we have no choice but to work the later shift
Wba - 7-Jun-17 @ 2:21 PM
I work 18 hrs pw on Tues and Thurs only, my employer wants to reduce my overall hours and change my work pattern to 5 days a week every other week, I can't do this, so am I being made redundant technically and legally?
JT - 5-Jun-17 @ 1:17 PM
On multiple occasions I have been given my weeks rota with my hours to work, then halfway through the said week my hours are changed and I'm expected to keep checking the rota even on days I'm not in. For example I'll work a friday, have saturday off and then my work will ring me on sunday telling me I'm supposed to be working that day. How much notice by law are they suuposed to give me and is what they're doing legal in the first place?
Jay - 1-Jun-17 @ 9:16 AM
I've been given a 16hr post , with a possible 4hr floating . Now the manager is wanting me to come into work for 1 hr at a time to cover another person whilst they go to a meeting . How much notice do they need to give me as they are expecting me to come in when they phone that morning or is there a minimum amount of hrs they should ask me to work at a time . 1 hr doesn't even pay my bus fare .
Midget782012 - 30-May-17 @ 7:31 PM
jennywren - Your Question:
I work in a school. My contract shows my contracted hours as Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. We have to attend three inset days for training. They are making us go in on Saturday even though the school is closed to the children on Monday for the inset day. Can we be forced to attend on Saturday. Should we be paid extra (ie time and a half) for weekend working?

Our Response:
This really depends on any other clauses in your contract such as references to compulsory training etc. You should be paid for this, but there is nothing in employment law that says you should be paid extra...again this will depend on your employer's policy and your contract.
SafeWorkers - 30-May-17 @ 2:18 PM
Horsey gal. - Your Question:
I've been working in a cash office for the last 12mths. My boss recently told me that the office was only going to be open one day a week,so he was giving me my hours front of shop. I have come to find out that he has lied,other people have gone in there.Understandably, I was very upset to find this.Now himself is totally ignoring me on the floor. Is he embarrassed??? At present, I am not able to discuss matters,as being so overwhelmed by the whole thing.Is he wrong in his actions???Please advise.Thankyou.

Our Response:
We don't know what your job description was etc. If your hours have not changed and there is nothing in your contract that states you work at the front or back of the shop, there is not much that can be done. You should try to arrange a meeting with your employer to discuss this if you are feeling unsettled by it.
SafeWorkers - 30-May-17 @ 1:55 PM
JOhnbull23 - Your Question:
Hello,Is it illegal to not show breaks on team rota's?

Our Response:
No. If you work more than 6 hours you should have a minimum break of 20 minutes. As long as you are able to take the breaks, they do not necessarily need to be documented in advance.
SafeWorkers - 30-May-17 @ 12:46 PM
From starting my job in October I'm contacted to 20hrs a week. From mid January I was asked if I would do 40hrs a week because someone left quite suddenly. So 40hrs is what I'm doing but my contract has not been changed. My question is - what holiday pay do I get? 20hrs contacted or 40hrs non-contracted. (4 months of 40hrs a week)
Kerrie - 29-May-17 @ 10:13 AM
I have worked in my job for 16 years as a deputy manager I am contracted 40 hours per week I have always worked 8-4 monday to friday can my employerchange my hours
Nelly49 - 29-May-17 @ 9:50 AM
Jennywren. What's your job in the school? If you are a teacher they can't make you go in. If you decide to go you should negotiate at least double pay for the day.
Cantianella - 28-May-17 @ 9:32 AM
I've been working in a cash office for the last 12mths. My boss recently told me that the office was only going to be open one day a week,so he was giving me my hours front of shop. I have come to find out that he has lied,other people have gone in there. Understandably, I was very upset to find this. Now himself is totally ignoring me on the floor. Is he embarrassed??? At present, I am not able to discuss matters,as being so overwhelmed by the whole thing. Is he wrong in his actions??? Please advise. Thankyou.
Horsey gal. - 28-May-17 @ 12:59 AM
Hello, Is it illegal to not show breaks on team rota's?
JOhnbull23 - 27-May-17 @ 5:22 PM
Sheila- Your Question:
Have Wörked 32 hrs a week for 5 yrs. my employer wants me to now drop to 20 hrs. how much notice should I get?

Our Response:
What does your contract say? If you are contracted to work 32 hours per week your employer cannot change your hours without your consent. There is no specific period unless a collective agreement involving multiple employees is required. There is more information about what you can do here in our article objecting to changes in your contract
SafeWorkers - 26-May-17 @ 10:31 AM
I work in a school.My contract shows my contracted hours as Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.We have to attend three inset days for training.They are making us go in on Saturday even though the school is closed to the children on Monday for the inset day.Can we be forced to attend on Saturday.Should we be paid extra (ie time and a half) for weekend working?
jennywren - 25-May-17 @ 4:50 PM
have Wörked 32 hrs a week for 5 yrs. my employer wants me to now drop to 20 hrs. how much notice should i get?
Sheila - 24-May-17 @ 9:49 AM
mayp - Your Question:
A friend of mine has a job where by which she is to be available at all times, and is only made aware of her working obligations at 4pm the previous day and often doesnt get a deal of notice for days off, life is a nightmare. Is this legal? Also in previous jobs unions have told me that my employer has to give me 48 hours notice to change my rotad shift, she is given merely hours notice is this right?

Our Response:
This really depends on her contracts. There is no real specification in employment law about notice apart except that it must be "reasonable". If her contract doesn't give any information she should try and negotiate something with her employer.
SafeWorkers - 23-May-17 @ 2:14 PM
Racer - Your Question:
I was phoned an hour before I was supposed to start my shift yesterday and told I would have to go to work at a different building because another member of staff had phoned in sick. I said I wasn't very happy about this but was told I had no choice in the matter. Is my employer allowed to do this? I wasn't very happy with there attitude in the matter either. Thanks

Our Response:
Yes if you contract allows it your employer can ask you to work at various locations.
SafeWorkers - 23-May-17 @ 11:25 AM
I was phoned an hour before i was supposed to start my shift yesterday and told i would have to go to work at a different building because another member of staff had phoned in sick. I said i wasn't very happy about this but was told i had no choice in the matter. Is my employer allowed to do this? I wasn't very happy with there attitude in the matter either. Thanks
Racer - 22-May-17 @ 6:24 PM
I work for a dom care company and have done for the past 2 1/2 years. I made it clear at interview that I was only able to work mon-fri 7am-2.30pm, this has been agreed and accomodated but is not written in my contract. Im concerned that now a new manager has started that she wants me to do diffrent hours and weekends.....can they make me do this? i have 3 small children and my husband is a long distance driver so im unable to work different hours?
T21 - 22-May-17 @ 4:56 PM
A friend of mine has a job where by which she is to be available at all times, and is only made aware of her working obligations at 4pm the previous day and often doesnt get a deal of notice for days off, life is a nightmare. Is this legal? Also in previous jobs unions have told me that my employer has to give me 48 hours notice to change my rotad shift, she is given merely hours notice is this right?
mayp - 22-May-17 @ 1:15 PM
Hello, I have a 40 hour contract on a PM Shift, with 4 days in and 3 days off. (fixed days) Because I usually worked 5 days and did over 40 hours I have never noticed that my employer just sums up all the hours until I had 2 lieu days.If I do 35 hours in my 4 contracted days and I do another 10 in my 5th day, I end up getting paid 45 hours, and this doesn't strike me as legal. Because the contract doesn't specify 10h a day, just 40 a week (4 days) is it implied that the minimum is 10 or they can just average it out in between the 4 days that I work? Can they do the same for the 5th or 6th day ? Best regards,
Mihai - 17-May-17 @ 11:53 PM
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