Home > Employment Relations > When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 13 Feb 2019 | 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.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
The manager at my work does the rota in a month advance. So I know my days off. I plan for those days. But later on in the week it changes and they dont say anything to me is this right? Can they do this? Are they allowedto swap days with out notice.
T.b - 13-Feb-19 @ 10:20 AM
Ihave worked for my boss for 21yr doing 15hours contractedcleaning aweek over 5dayscover certain area of rooms she now say I need to take on more rooms and do them in the same time . This area was done by a person that retired . Am I expected to do this legally .
Beils - 9-Feb-19 @ 11:56 AM
I have been doing 12 days/nights (6-6) for 26months now, and now my work have said I will be going back to our normal shift patterns of 6-2 (earlies) 10-6 (nights) and 2-10 (lates) they have given a weeks notice. Is this right, or do i have a say as I have sacrificed my life/shift around these (new) shifts which I’ve been doing for over two years?? Any advice will be truly great fun?! Thanks
Dan818 - 8-Feb-19 @ 2:13 PM
Ive been working here for 18 months im contracted to the full hours of the shop. Because the shop is quiet i get sent home early without being payed. What can i do about this?
Mandy - 6-Feb-19 @ 4:56 PM
I have worked for my employer for 10 years with having the same day off. When my grandson came along i look after him on my day off. I have now been told that we are going into flexible working and have been told that I can' have every Wednesday as my day off. Can my employer make me do this
Linda shanley - 5-Feb-19 @ 11:06 PM
I couldn't get to my caring job one evening because of the severe weather conditions.I informed my boss. The next day when I went in for my morning shift she said she was stopping the evening carers coming in as she wasn't having people coming out in bad weather. I have discovered that she immediately gave my shifts to the other two carers who have being doing them for the last 6 + weeks. She has the rota showing only morning shifts on the wall and evenings are blank to make it appear that no one is doing evenings. I have had these shifts for over 3 years. Can she do this ?
Evie - 3-Feb-19 @ 11:25 PM
I was working for the company over 2years swing shift,I have a partime job,all of the sudden one guy is quiting in the morning so the owner wants me to go day shift,I told them I can'tso he said that there's no work for me at night,that I would have to resign,I don't know the reason why..
Pelon - 2-Feb-19 @ 7:23 PM
I worked 12 hours shift in the last 8 years, which was great so I had some time to spend with my children as I'm a single mom and I was able to get a second job to secure our life financially. No new management changing our working hour to 8 h shift and I'm supposed to work day and evening shift which put me in a difficult situation both financially and not able to look after my child. What can I do?
ladybug - 24-Jan-19 @ 1:08 PM
I work part-time at a supermarket, 16 hours a week spread across four days per week (i.e. four hours a day). I have worked at the supermarket for more than 26 weeks now and I would like to request my manager to give me every Tuesday as a fixed off so that I can sign up for some volunteering social service that requires 1 day in a week commitment. I would like Tuesday to be a fixed off for me because it is favorable to both my -self and employer as there is not much work at the supermarket given that there is no stock delivery that day. Can my manager refuse to grant me this request?
Rose - 21-Jan-19 @ 9:49 AM
I'm writing on behalf my son in law be as a work contract for 40 hrs he's had his hrs cut each week also been sent home because its quiet. His meter rings hour or so before his shift and cancels it he's lucky if as 2 days work a week. His manager is very nasty shouts and rants in front of customers what rights does he have
Dave - 13-Jan-19 @ 10:45 AM
I was working a 12 hour, 4 on and 4 off shift patter consisting of 2 days and 2 nights, 42 hours total. Due to child care issues at the weekends when the law changed regarding flexible working I asked to not work weekends, we had a few consultation meetings with HR and it was agreed that I could work 12 hour shifts during the shifts and my contract now states that I work a repeating 3 week rota consisting of: mon/tue/wed night in week 1, mon/tue day-thur/fri night in week 2, wed/thur/fri day in week 3. Now 3 years after working this pattern I have been ask to return to my original work pattern of 4 on / 4 off including weekend work. I signed my current contract which was negotiated under out flexible working policy so can I now be forced to move this contract or made redundant?
james - 8-Jan-19 @ 11:39 PM
Worked tues wed thurs night's for 10 years suddenly my employer has stopped me one night and put me on another without even telling me ,can he do this without notice or askibg me iff i can change
Bumble - 28-Dec-18 @ 12:41 AM
Hi I had a contract with Britannia parking for27hours A week but told to change to 8 Also change of venue can they do this without warning I turned it dow could not live on it
Big pete - 21-Dec-18 @ 3:36 AM
I got my rota for this week on the first day of the week. It was changed later that night and was not told. I was then contacted 2 hours before my new shift (didn't know I had it) and told to come in. I refused. Am I in the right?
Mary - 18-Dec-18 @ 5:03 PM
Working at a company over 12 years, now also work in the medical field catch flu twice so for the whole year, also in the summer had a gal bladder removal, now I had the flu within 4 weeks of each other. Now due to this they are stating they are going to change my hours.Can They do this?
a - 17-Dec-18 @ 12:37 PM
I have worked for a company for 11 years on a 3 shift rotating basis monday to friday. Is it legal for the company to change our shift pattern to a 4 on 4 off continental shift pattern
Bonga - 8-Dec-18 @ 4:19 PM
I work in a nursery and on Saturday the 13th october my employer held a finday, she had given us 2 weeks notice however she was not in for me to tell her I could not make it due to having no one to watch my children as my husband was at work. Then on a Thursday in November I was ill, I had been ill on the Wednesday but still went into work, I was sick at work so I had asked see if I could go home I was refused because we were short staffed so as I was still ill on the Thursday I rang the nursery instead of the manager as I knew she was not at work. She has since given me a written warning for 2 unauthorised absences within a month. Is this allowed ?? Is there anything I can do about it ?? I don't feel that this is fair cause for a written warning, I feel at most this should be a verbal warning am I wrong ?? I have been here 3 years and don't remember ever seeing my contract.
Leanne - 24-Nov-18 @ 9:23 AM
I work in the care industry and have a set rota for shift patterns I have completed overtime for this month as i pick extra up to help out, my company have now changed my original shift pattern for this month and I have ended up losing 12 hours wages as they are using the overtime I have completed to make my hours up, I'm sure this is wrong and they can't do this can anybody help.
Andrew - 13-Nov-18 @ 7:55 PM
My boss has been changing hours on the rota without informing people they've been changed. Expecting them to check the rota on every shift. Is this okay? I would assume they'd need to talk to the staff member when changing hours?
Ben - 11-Nov-18 @ 7:33 PM
Trabalho em uma empresa e entrei com um contrato de 14 horas por semana sendo só no sábado e no domingo mais devido a uma colega de trabalho ter se machucado me pediram para eu cobrir ela a semana toda fazendo 9 horas por dia e estava cobrindo ela até ontem isso já deu 10 meses mais agora eles cortaram as minhas horas me deixaram só com o sábado e o domingo sendo que eles tinham me prometido que se a pessoa q estava afastada não voltasse a horas iriam ser minha mais eles passaram para outra pessoa
Santos - 1-Nov-18 @ 7:43 AM
I work shifts normally 4 hours every Saturday, my manager is forcing me to work Sunday but I have said I couldn’t, can I take action or do I have to work?
Katie - 24-Oct-18 @ 1:56 PM
I started my new job 4 months ago. I have a 15 hour contract for saturdays and sundays. I told my interviewer that I couldn’t work more than 16 hours per week due to claiming Employment Support Allowance for my mental health conditions. I was told this was fine. I signed my contract at my induction day(just skimming over the contents as a lot of people do). I later found out that I’m contracted to work bank holidays which would take me well over 16 hours. I told the HR team that I couldnt work so many hours and that I said so in my interview and was there any way we could work out a way to keep it under 16 hours while still working the bank holiday. The HR team then told a manager on my floor(I did not consent to sharing this information with him) and he pulled me aside and told me I couldn’t take bank holidays off(not what I asked) and that I needed to figure my situation out. Basically saying ‘do the hours I want you to, quit or don’t receive your benefits anymore). Do I have any rights here? Is this discrimination?
DollDell - 18-Oct-18 @ 11:32 AM
My MD advised me last week that she needed to reduce my hours by 50% due to business not so good. I am a recently widowed woman and can't afford to take the reduction. I have since found another full time job, not such good hours or pay, but at least it will be more than i am going to be on. Im in a predicament.I wrote to my MD yesterday asking for her to prepare me a redundancy package for me to make a more informed decision, she is on holiday, and "isnt getting good internet reception". I have today been offered the other job full time, which means i need to submit my resignation today or tomorrow latest....I don't want to miss out on potential redundancy pay from a company i have worked for 6 years for...anybody have any advice on what my rights may be...desperate!!:-(
lesleyt - 11-Oct-18 @ 1:54 PM
I work a 20 hour contract. I have been working additional hours somtimes to 37 hours a week. Therefore I have worked 17 hours additional most weeks. My Question is does my employer have to give me a new contract based on the average hours I’ve workedafter 2 years? Any help would be greatly appreciated Daz ??
Daz - 6-Oct-18 @ 8:17 AM
I have worked as a lunchtime assistant in a school for 20 plus years now I have been asked to do a rota shift which means I won,t finish until 2.45pm--hours are still the same but between 1.55 and 2.45 there are no children there to supervise--I have to empty in excess of 20 dustbins and sweep floors---I have another job which I have changed hours for twice before to accommodate school job due to changing hours before --I can,t possibly change my other jobs hours again --I am also a carer for my mother and father who live at separate addresses and this change in hours of working are causing no end of stress for me---help
sal - 3-Oct-18 @ 6:22 PM
Hi my wife has been working 26-32 hours a week on a 16 hour contact for the last year and a half .Now the business is finding it hard they want to reduce her hours to the contracted 16 .They have stated all staff have to only work there contracted hours yet some,those more in favour,have kept there extra hours . Can my wife keep the hours she's been working all this time and can she put in a grievance as all are being treated the same .
Markiee - 23-Sep-18 @ 10:10 PM
Hi I have been working a 51 week for over 10 years and my employer now ways to reduce my hours, I am not in a union but do I have any rights 00
Gnoorag - 21-Sep-18 @ 1:27 PM
I work for a well known organisation. I do a 30 hour week with set shifts on my contract. We are a flexible team and cover each others absences/holidays. However my employer wants us to declare a certain percentage of our working hours to be permanently flexible. We are being asked to declare our availability and they will change our shifts according to their needs. I have a chronic health condition and have responsibility for my elderly father. They are seeing us individually to discuss. What are the laws on this?
Jessica - 21-Sep-18 @ 6:37 AM
just had a very argumentative convo from my well known employer i was ill at the begining of the week and rung in and said im willing to make hours up they put me down for 2 shifts being weds thurs night of fri and sat but on friday i was told im in checked rota was not got phone call again saying i was in any how been told theres two rotas one for staff ie me and one for managers and they dont collaberate each other and im being threatend with dicerplinary action is this right or should i go to the unoin
smit - 15-Sep-18 @ 2:19 AM
im working under a 15 hour contract and have been asked to work 30 hours does this mean i have to sign a 30 hour contract
makem - 11-Sep-18 @ 12:56 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments