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When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 22 May 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]
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
I have just been told today that my contract will change at work I did work within school hours as I'm a single mum and have childcare issues but they want me to work passed school hours and weekends can they do this as I have no one to look after my child.x
amber - 17-May-17 @ 8:40 PM
Ive been working for a company for three years on a 30 + hours contract but most of the time my shifts only cover 20 -25 hours now ive been put down on the rota for only two shifts which will not even pull in 20 hours.Theres nothing in my contract to say my hours would drop but does say that i would be expected to work more at busier times am handing in my notice as i can't live on such fluctuating hours do you think i have a case to seek a tribunal.
nicky - 13-May-17 @ 5:29 PM
nomad31 - Your Question:
My works are telling us they are changing our working times from just days which it has been since everybody started between 2 & upto 9 yrs ago (8am-4pm).They are splitting the work force up into 2 shifts (6-2) (2-10). work has got alot busier so I do understad why they wanting to do thisI would like some advice if I ring ACAS for advice will they get intouch with my employer, as I dont want them to know yet that im looking for advice, ive told them im not happy with the proposal and will probably look for another job.thanks in advance

Our Response:
What do you contracts say? If this is a change to your contract, your employer needs to consult/gain your consent. I you ring ACAS they will initially give you advice...as long as you have all the information they need, they should not have to contact your employer. If this is an actual change to your contract and you disagree, see our guideobjecting to changes in your employment contract
SafeWorkers - 11-May-17 @ 10:53 AM
My works are telling us they are changing our working times from just days which it has been since everybody started between 2 & upto 9 yrs ago (8am-4pm). They are splitting the work force up into 2 shifts (6-2) (2-10). work has got alot busier so i do understad why they wanting to do this I would like some advice if i ring ACAS for advice will they get intouch with my employer, as i dont want them to know yet that im looking for advice, ive told them im not happy with the proposal and will probably look for another job. thanks in advance
nomad31 - 8-May-17 @ 7:40 PM
Dicko - Your Question:
I fill out a weekly timesheet of hours worked over the week and have to sign it as a ture Record of our working week. And are told by our employers that if we put false working records on it as not in the correct hours we are open to disciplinary action my question is my employer changes my timesheet without ringing or consulting me. Is this timesheet a legal document once I have signed it and should they be allowed to change it without asking ?

Our Response:
Your employer should only change any parts of the form that are completed by the employer and not the employee.
SafeWorkers - 4-May-17 @ 2:22 PM
I fill out a weekly timesheet of hours worked over the week and have to sign it as a tureRecord of our working week . Andare told by our employers that if we put false working records on it as not in the correct hours we are open to disciplinary action my question is my employer changes my timesheet without ringing or consulting me. Is this timesheet a legal document once I have signed it and should they be allowed to change it without asking?
Dicko - 4-May-17 @ 5:27 AM
Casino1 - Your Question:
Hi, myself and my wife have been working for our casino now for 16+ years and we are both contracted to work 40 hours. We have always worked night shifts and mostly together give or take 1 day. We have just been informed that our casino has now decided that we have to be more flexible and want us to work days/nights and opisit shifts/days off. obviously after 16 years our life is set into night shift work, can they just force us to do this.?

Our Response:
This will depend on your contracts. If they don't specify particular times or shifts, then your employer can change them.
SafeWorkers - 3-May-17 @ 2:20 PM
Megan - Your Question:
I work in sales and have been working here for a good couple of months but ive still yet to recieve my contract. Ive ask numerous of times but still yet to recieve one. Also how many times can the routa be changed a week because I think 3times is too much. I do understand it can change and I do check it but there has been times were I have taken a picture of it saying im for example working tomorrow at 6pm but when I finish my shift after taken the image they change it again for be to come in for example instead of 6pm it would be changed to 1pm, is it okay for then to do this?

Our Response:
You are legally entitled to a written statement (with the basic terms and conditions - such as hours, pay, holiday entitlement etc) withintwo months of starting work for an employer. If you employer refuses to provide this you can make a claim at an employment tribunal.
As for notice of shift changes, there are no specific time limits detailed in employment law. Just that an employer must give "reasonable" notice.
SafeWorkers - 3-May-17 @ 12:55 PM
headland - Your Question:
I have been cleaning in a school for 10 years 1.5 hours a day I have been told that the area I am cleaning will no longer be used so my employer is trying to drop my hours to half an hour a day by only giving me 4 weeks notice can you tell me if he can do this or is he actually making me redundant.

Our Response:
If you're contracted for 1.5 hours day that is what you should be paid. Your employer must have your consent before changing/reducing your hours. If your job no longer exists you must be made redundant.
SafeWorkers - 3-May-17 @ 12:12 PM
PHYLLIS - Your Question:
I have one of my employees of on long term sick. he is a gas engineer. the labourer who works with him agreed to work friday to monday instead of mon- to friday in january 2017. as my husband can cover the gas fitting on these days. his working week was for 40 hours. and he now works 32 hours but I kept it to the same as he was working the weekends and felt it only fair. I have never had a written contract with my two employees. the labourer has now came to me today and told me that working the weekends is affecting his social life.

Our Response:
If he agreed to change hours, you/he may have to assume his contract was amended accordingly. If so, there's not much he can do except to request a change back. Can you accommodate this in anyway? If there is a compromise position that you can reach then that might be the best solution.
SafeWorkers - 3-May-17 @ 10:48 AM
Hi, myself and my wife have been working for our casino now for 16+ years and we are both contracted to work 40 hours. We have always worked night shifts and mostly together give or take 1 day. We have just been informed that our casino has now decided that we have to be more flexible and want us to work days/nights and opisit shifts/days off.. obviously after 16 years our life is set into night shift work, can they just force us to do this.?
Casino1 - 3-May-17 @ 10:26 AM
I work in sales and have been working here for a good couple of months but ive still yet to recieve my contract. Ive ask numerous of times but still yet to recieve one. Also how many times can the routa be changed a week because i think 3times is too much. I do understand it can change and i do check it but there has been times were i have taken a picture of it saying im for example working tomorrow at 6pm but when i finish my shift after taken the image they change it again for be to come in for example instead of 6pm it would be changed to 1pm, is it okay for then to do this?
Megan - 2-May-17 @ 11:19 PM
I have been cleaning in a school for 10 years 1.5 hours a day I have been told that the area I am cleaning will no longer be used so my employer is trying to drop my hours to half an hour a day by only giving me 4 weeks notice can you tell me if he can do this or is he actually making me redundant.
headland - 2-May-17 @ 6:56 PM
i have one of my employees of on long term sick. he is a gas engineer. the labourer who works with him agreed to work friday to monday instead of mon- to friday in january 2017. as my husband can cover the gas fitting on these days. his working week was for 40 hours. and he now works 32 hours but I kept it to the same as he was working the weekends and felt it only fair. I have never had a written contract with my two employees. the labourer has now came to me today and told me that working the weekends is affecting his social life.
PHYLLIS - 2-May-17 @ 1:58 PM
Bob - Your Question:
The company I work for changed the start time of the shifts and public transport does not run to get me on time for the new shift times.i cannot get a lift in with anyone else. If I apply for flexitime to arrive at a time I can start can they refuse me?

Our Response:
Yes, if there are good business reasons for doing so, an employer can refuse an application for flexible working hours.
SafeWorkers - 2-May-17 @ 11:53 AM
The company I work for changed the start time of the shifts and public transport does not run to get me on time for the new shift times.i cannot get a lift in with anyone else. If I apply for flexitime to arrive at a time I can start can they refuse me?
Bob - 1-May-17 @ 9:20 AM
I have worked same company 20 years The past 10 years I've worked a fixed contract of 22hrs starting at 7am over 3days & one starting at 12.30 pm A new young manager has started & im told have to work 1in4 Saturday which I can deal withBut also been told I have to change all shifts as new colleagues want my mornings & it's only fair to change 5 of us long standing staff to diff shifts So now being pushed onto much later start & finishes Is this even legal ? When my children where babies I worked late nights & weekends for 10 years & gradually gained earlier shifts when people left & no one else would work them. I mentionedI would work a Sunday morning if poss instead of Saturday & was told everyone happy on a Sunday & don't want to swap! Unlike 5 of us happy on mornings who aren't given a choice! We work in a very busy place that is open 5am till 11pm7 days. The same amount of colleagues is still required but it seems my shifts & 4 others are being offered'I'm at my wits end & feel my loyalty & hardwork counts for nothingMy husband been ill for couple of years & just diagnosed with ME & needs support so I have made my family commitments fit round my jobplease help
Rahrah - 30-Apr-17 @ 11:34 AM
Hi, I work for the NHS and I am contracted to work 37.5hrs a week. We work shifts and are often put down for nights twice a week and 5 days of 7.5 hr shifts. Or, even 3 nights and 4 7.5 hr shifts. Or, 7.5 hr shifts 7 days in a row (often 2 weeks in a row). I am finding this quite tough as they don't give us the time back straight away (it can be many weeks later). Can I refuse to work more than 37.5 hrs a week? I have 2 young children.
SunshineGirl - 29-Apr-17 @ 5:26 PM
kat - Your Question:
I am a cleaner in a school my contract states that I work 16.25 hours per week. The caretaker has decided that he wants to close the school at 6 every night, so I have been told that I must drop 45 mins every night, Can they make me agree to this? Would I be entitled to compensation?

Our Response:
Can you ask to start earlier? Surely if you are given a certain amount of time to clean, you won't be able to complete properly in a shorter time anyway? If you contracted to do 16.25 hours a week, that's what you should do. If they want you to drop your time by 45 mins each day, they should still pay your for it. See the breach of contract section above.
SafeWorkers - 28-Apr-17 @ 2:45 PM
I am a cleaner in a school my contract states that I work 16.25 hours per week. The caretaker has decided that he wants to close the school at 6 every night, so I have been told that I must drop 45 mins every night, Can they make me agree to this? Would I be entitled to compensation?
kat - 27-Apr-17 @ 4:52 PM
1 year ago, the company I work for was TUPE over . We are shift workers which include 6-2 2-10 and 10-2 all our shifts are on a 8 week roll over and we work 8 hours a day. our current hours are 36 a week but we work 41 on average but this includes 1 hour unpaid lunch. Can our new employers force us to work 10 hour days? also they are suggesting we work sunday 6-2 then mon tues weds thurs fri 8-6 this means we would be in for 58 hours in 6 days can this happen.
samson - 26-Apr-17 @ 7:24 PM
Blueish_snakes - Your Question:
If my company goes through one of these phoenix transitions, can they just port me over to the new company or would they have to let me go from the bankrupt company and then rehire me (if they wanted to.) Would I have rights to negotiate a new contract? If I don't want to join the new company (despite it being almost the same with a different name) would I be entitled to redundancy?

Our Response:
This depends on what kind of agreements have been made. You will need to discuss this with your employer. You might have TUPE rights (where your current employment terms remain the same with your new employer). You can find out if TUPE applies to your transfer by talking to ACAS.If your job is still available and your terms haven't changed, it's unlikely you'll be offered redundancy.
SafeWorkers - 21-Apr-17 @ 11:04 AM
Falling_Down - Your Question:
In response to your response, no, I am just office admin. He says he asked me to pay two journeys but I only remember him asking to pay for one. It would have been our words against each other but instead of handling it professionally and talking to us he resorted to wanting to deduct it from my wages. Also, this was for his vehicle which was being used out of working hours.This situation was resolved in the end but I would like to know for the future if my wages can be deducted just because a manager says so, without any proof of wrong doing?

Our Response:
No, if it's a mistake, especially one that an employee disputes an employer should not deduct money from their wages.
SafeWorkers - 21-Apr-17 @ 11:00 AM
ala - Your Question:
At my place of employment staff are tasked with car park duty monitoring the car park to ensure only visitors use it, until now we are allowed to sit in our cars until people arrive, now we have been told to stand outside no matter the weather as we have a jacket and umbrella, our shift is from 09:00 until17:00 30 min for lunch and we are on a zero hours contract. can they make us stand in a carp ark for this length of time, all staff are involved both Male and female from 18 to 65.

Our Response:
If your job can be done sitting on a chair between visitors then your employer should be able to allow this. Ask if you can bring in folding chairs etc.
SafeWorkers - 20-Apr-17 @ 11:36 AM
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