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When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 12 Aug 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.

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Our work demands that we are available for work as they see fit. We have minimum 40 hours gauranteed over 6 days. We never know our start or finish times.Start times for the next day are given only late the day before. That time may be from 1am or 1pm (For example) It is impossible to plan for personal time because of these demands. It is possible to request an early finish (with 12 hours notice) but it is likely they will give a 2am start in that day which leads to fatigue and renders any personal plans useless. Any complaints regarding work load are often replyed with-if we dont like it yo get a new job- If we start for example at 2am we are pressed to work up to 13 hours and are made to feel guilty if we want to finish earlier.... yes, I could find s new job but that does not fix the problem for others. We have immigrants on work to visa schemes ho are paid for 40 hours yet often work 50 plus.... the concerns go on. I do not know what to do. I am a loyal employee of 29 years. When I raise these concerns and offer solutions I am told it is the industry,it is too difficult and, to leave. Witts end
Nick - 12-May-19 @ 6:14 AM
I work shifts that highly depend on what time the delivery shows up. I am supposed to be told the day before a delivery what time I am supposed to be in the next day. They can find out the delivery time and amount of cages we get in from around noon the day before. Most of the time they do not contact myself or other staff until very late the night before and expect us to be in work for 7am. Sometimes they have contacted us after 11pm. Do they not need to give us reasonable notice of what time to be in or can they theoretically tell us whether we are in or not just 7-8 hours before we could be expected in?
Catalogue Store - 8-May-19 @ 11:00 PM
I do both shift, it's one week 6 .00am to 2.00pm and the next week2.00 to 10.00 pm. With Friday & sat days off. But last week when the rota was outtheSunday timings were 3.00 pm to 11.00 pm. The public transport on that route is never on time. I have to take a bus as well as a train. My problem is that if I miss the bus orthe bus is late I miss the last train. I spoke to my seniors about it but they say that they can cannot make exceptions I have to follow my rota and arrange formy transport, ( Uber ,find another route.etc). Can theydo that?
Sherry - 3-May-19 @ 8:52 PM
hi we work set shift in a factory they are cancelled our shift for two day can they makeworkshift that normally our days off, hasthey aretrying to make us workingeven if we have plans or childcare issue,and even if theholidays/event booked has normal day off
blackdog - 30-Apr-19 @ 7:59 PM
Hi there, I currently work at a hotel (worked there for a year) that is beside the restaurant that I have been working at for 2 years. Working full time at the hotel they said I can only work Saturdays, I said that is fine. But since about a month ago, they haven't given me shifts when I've asked for more because I was changing full times job, so now my schedule at the restaurant is more open but I still haven't gotten a shift yet. Are they allowed to do that? need some help, thanks for your time, Nicole
Nicky P - 9-Apr-19 @ 9:29 AM
I have worked 7 yrs for my Co. doing 8-5 Out of the blues they want us all to work either 6-2 or 2-10 This is impossible for me as I am diabetic and I have 2 dogs who are used to the routine Can a company changes working hours, even temporarily like that? No-one is happy with the suggestion.
Redhead - 9-Mar-19 @ 12:11 AM
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
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
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 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
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
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 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
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 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 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
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
Work shifts in a 24hr petrol station.I worked 7 nights in a row.22.00-06.30.Normally have 2 days off and return to day shift 06.00-14.30. Now when working night shift I have only been given 1 day.So I am finishing from nights at 06.30 Monday morning, returning to work at 06.00 Tuesday day morning.Is this right?? Finding the extreme yo-yo of shift exhausting.
Ash - 4-Sep-18 @ 4:04 AM
I,v been working for my employer for 10 1/2months after 2 workers left to have babies. 1 worker has,not come back and the other 1 is due back next month. When I started this job I was told it was permanent 16 hrs a week. How ever since I started my employer have has set another lady on and given extra hours to existing employers ( family members). How ever now the lady (family member) is coming back off of maternity my hour have been cut to 12 hours. Which I need 16 hrs for tax /child tax credits. Can they do this by law?
Jo - 20-Aug-18 @ 9:44 AM
Kelly- Your Question:
Hi, I have been working at my place of work for 6 years, for the last 2 years since coming off maternity leave I have done set shifts every week on a Tuesday Thursday and Friday she now wants me to change my shifts to work a weekend. What rights have I got with time limit to changing shifts and I have no childcare for my 2 year old on a weekend have I got the right under the flexible working act to go against this?

Our Response:
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
Your employer does not have to agree to your request but 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. Your employer must respond to your request within 3 months of your submitting it.
SafeWorkers - 13-Aug-18 @ 2:10 PM
Hi, I have been working at my place of work for 6 years, for the last 2 years since coming off maternity leave I have done set shifts every week on a Tuesday Thursday and Friday she now wants me to change my shifts to work a weekend. What rights have I got with time limit to changing shifts and I have no childcare for my 2 year old on a weekend have I got the right under the flexible working act to go against this?
Kelly - 13-Aug-18 @ 9:27 AM
Hi I was recently asked to change my working pattern which I normally do 6am-2pm one week then 2pm-10pm the next. I was asked to go on the other shift to cover sick which I did with no hesitation. Now 10 months down the line after the person who was sick has been back several months I've now been asked to go back. Can i fight my case as I cannot change due to children and partners working hours. If I'm given my 90 day notice can my company put me in another department if the work is available so I can stay on these hours
Jagger - 8-Aug-18 @ 4:08 PM
My employer has recently told me that I must start work 15mins earlier because I am a smoker, the 15mins to accommodate the 3 or 4 cigarettes I have p/day. I am the only smoker in that department so can understand their point bring I'm out of the office 'on a break'. My issue is that out of the 25-30 centres no-one else in the company has to do this. Singled out ? Discrimination ? Bullying ? I don't mind doing the extra to make up the time, surely though it must be introduced company wide and not put upon an individual ? Any advise much appreciated.
Mi77erb - 4-Aug-18 @ 5:23 PM
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