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When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 18 Feb 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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[Add a Comment]
I have 39 contracted hours with daily hours set out in contract my employer has told me I can no longer work after 4.30 money to Thursday or after 12.30 on Fridays because no one else will be in the office this will reduce my hours and affect my pay can they do this
Sal - 18-Feb-17 @ 11:25 PM
Keeley - Your Question:
I have been on long term sick ( 4 n half months ) due to having cancer. Whilst off I have found out that my boss has given my rota to another member of staff and I'm to be slotted in where needed on my return is this allowed

Our Response:
Until you return to work - your employer can do what they like to make sure your work is covered.You need to check your contract of employment. If there are changes made to your contract, then you can take action for breach of contract. However, if you contract allows for rota changes and you are keeping the same number of hours and the same wage, then there's not a great deal you can.
SafeWorkers - 16-Feb-17 @ 12:51 PM
Offered job - 40 hours. Asked to please start Monday (This was on Thurs) so hand in notice to previous employer on Friday and work Saturday but leave after shift on Saturday. Friday afternoon receive offer if trial on FULL TIME 40 hr a week job by email.Reply and accept also by email. All well. Friday afternoon asked to come in and meet boss as I will be cleaning his house mornings and his businesses in afternoons. Promised plenty work and 'more pay than I am getting at present and more hours - e plaited to them that I was looking for full time work as I needed the extra hours to pay bills etc. All set to start on Monday - boss seems happy. Friday afternoon, after my handing in notice etc I am told - mistake been made - job now only 20 hours as someone already hired to do house in mornings. I have already given up old job and cannot withdraw notice as they asked me to start on Monday and my employer was furious at this. How do I stand? No longer employed by them. Dismissed without notice as no longer needed after being called into office on Wednesday but told will be paid to end of week!
Liahona - 16-Feb-17 @ 7:19 AM
I have been on long term sick ( 4 n half months ) due to having cancer . Whilst off I have found out that my boss has given my rota to another member of staff and I'm to be slotted in where needed on my return is this allowed
Keeley - 16-Feb-17 @ 1:46 AM
LumLum - Your Question:
I work for a mental health Outpatient Clinic since 4/11/2016. My contract I signed was from 9 to 5 Mon through Friday. Since a new director took over in 8/8/16 you have 16 clinicians that left because of this director and 2 administrators that left leaving us short staff on administrators to take care of over 500 patients. My shift has changed since 2/2/17. I am now working from 9:30 to 9 at night 2 days a week and from 10 to 7 on Fridays. Me and the other only administrator came to this schedule on our own. I have yet to be asked by my immediate supervisor or told my shift would have to be changed which is very unprofessional. Please let me know if I can tell her I can't do these hours any longer since I was never asked or told by her.

Our Response:
Yes if your contract is from 9 to 5 Monday to Friday then your employer is in breach of contract iby making or allowing you to work different hours. Your contract may state that you need to work alternative hours occasionally to provide cover etc. But this should not become a permanent arrangement.
SafeWorkers - 14-Feb-17 @ 11:02 AM
I work for a mental health Outpatient Clinic since 4/11/2016. My contract I signed was from 9 to 5 Mon through Friday. Since a new director took over in 8/8/16 you have 16 clinicians that left because of this director and 2 administrators that left leaving us short staff on administrators to take care of over 500 patients. My shift has changed since 2/2/17. I am now working from 9:30 to 9 at night 2 days a week and from 10 to 7 on Fridays. Me and the other only administrator came to this schedule on our own. I have yet to be asked by my immediate supervisor or told my shift would have to be changed which is very unprofessional. Please let me know if I can tell her I can't do these hours any longer since I was never asked or told by her.
LumLum - 12-Feb-17 @ 11:01 PM
My employer is changing my shift from a 4 on 4 off to 5 days a week and will days off. But for last 8yrs me and my wife has worked opposite shifts due to one of us needs to be there for our 11y old . This is making and causing alot of stress and problems as my wife can not do her contracted hrs in the 2 days I'll be off work she's needs 3days . Can they do this
Just a number - 11-Feb-17 @ 10:20 AM
I am contracted to 39 hours a week and my employer wants the whole factory to work an extra unpaid hour a week (up to Christmas) to be accrued and paid as a weeks holiday the week before Christmas. As we are on minimum wage would this take us below the legal living wage? And would I be within my rights to decline the requested extra hours work and just do my contracted 39 hours?
Sheila - 10-Feb-17 @ 2:48 PM
Glover- Your Question:
My employer has put me on light duties because of a medical problem. My contracted hrs of work are 36 hrs from 7am-2.45pm now they want to change them from 7am-3.30pm mon- wednesday and 7am-2.30pm Thursday & 7am-12 Friday still 36hrs. I have children I collect from school at 3pm. Ps. I did not ask for light duties the work doctor suggested it

Our Response:
If you are unable to take on your normal role because of a medical problem then you don't really have a choice if the light duties are only available at these times. You could suggest reducing your hours on the days when you're hours run until 3.30 but that would of course mean a reduction in your salary.
SafeWorkers - 10-Feb-17 @ 12:51 PM
I have worked in the same restaurant for 30 years, I've never felt so unhappy as I do now. I know in this trade you have busy times and quieter times, I'm used to sometimes having shifts cut and getting sent home early, I accept that. However, when you arrive at work at your correct start time on the rota to be told it's quiet at the moment, we'll let you know when we want you to clock in, I find very unfair! Should I accept this?
NikkiB - 9-Feb-17 @ 9:28 PM
My employer has put me on light duties because of a medical problem. My contracted hrs of work are 36 hrs from 7am-2.45pm now they want to change them from 7am-3.30pm mon- wednesday and 7am-2.30pm Thursday & 7am-12 Friday still 36hrs. I have children I collect from school at 3pm. Ps. I did not ask for light duties the work doctor suggested it
Glover - 8-Feb-17 @ 2:55 PM
Bella - Your Question:
When I was appointed 2 years ago the agreement was that my working hours will be from 09:00 to 16:00 due to the travelling distance and circumstances with my child. I never signed a contract. Now they informed us on Friday that our working hours will be chanfed from Monday and when I asked about our agreement I was told that it's no longer valid. I cannot make alternative arrangements with my child and feel that I don't have other choice but to resign. I can't afford to be unemployed. What can I do?

Our Response:
No, if that was your agreement when you started working and you've been working those hours for 2 years accordingly...your employer cannot simply change the terms of your contract. They should by law have provided you with a written statement of particulars (or an employment contract) within 2 months of your starting anyway. You should seek further advice from your HR department, a union rep, Citizens' Advice or ACAS.
SafeWorkers - 7-Feb-17 @ 2:17 PM
Tea and toast- Your Question:
My employer changed my shift. I had requested that day off and it had been agreed. That day someone said they tried to book it off and needed it off! My employer then decided to change my shift so the other employer could have that day off. Without consulting me. And I was expected to work. Is this allowed?

Our Response:
You have not said how much notice you were given of the shift change or whether the day you book off, was an annual leave day or just change in your shift pattern.
SafeWorkers - 7-Feb-17 @ 12:32 PM
When I was appointed 2 years ago the agreement was that my working hours will be from 09:00 to 16:00 due to the travelling distance and circumstances with my child. I never signed a contract. Now they informed us on Friday that our working hours will be chanfed from Monday and when I asked about our agreement I was told that it's no longer valid. I cannot make alternative arrangements with my child and feel that I don't have other choice but to resign. I can't afford to be unemployed. What can I do?
Bella - 6-Feb-17 @ 5:19 PM
My employer changed my shift. I had requested that day off and it had been agreed. That day someone said they tried to book it off and needed it off! My employer then decided to change my shift so the other employer could have that day off. Without consulting me. And I was expected to work. Is this allowed?
Tea and toast - 6-Feb-17 @ 2:18 PM
Battle_Scars - Your Question:
Good day, you recently answered a question from my ex colleague Abs below. She ended up taking her redundancy and leaving. The thing is, I am now being asked to do her job as well as my own. I thought redundancy could only be offered if the position was no longer available, not just because the work rate had gone right down? Also, we were told it was only temporarily going down. Thanks, BS.

Our Response:
An employer can make an employee redundant for one of the following reasons: the business is closing down or becoming insolvent; the employer's skills are no longer needed; there has been a reorganisation and the employee's work is being done someone else and the business is taken over by another company. If your colleague was made redundant on the basis that her job no longer existed, then you would be right to raise this with your employer.
SafeWorkers - 6-Feb-17 @ 10:51 AM
Good day, you recently answered a question from my ex colleague Abs below. She ended up taking her redundancy and leaving. The thing is, I am now being asked to do her job as well as my own. I thought redundancy could only be offered if the position was no longer available, not just because the work rate had gone right down? Also, we were told it was only temporarily going down. Thanks, BS.
Battle_Scars - 3-Feb-17 @ 9:04 AM
I work 11hour shifts in a care home 3 days per week My employer rotered me in to work Friday Saturday and Sunday-Monday Tuesday and Wednesday on the trott I was physically and mentally drained is itlegal for her to expect me to work this many hours?
Toots - 2-Feb-17 @ 1:38 PM
The company I work for has changed the working time from 7pm start 5.30 finish(night shift ) to 4 pm start 2.30finish...do they have to supply transporteg taxishome ..
Harra - 31-Jan-17 @ 10:45 AM
My husbands place of work has been bought by new company and want to change his working hours can they do this after 10 years and he does school run
sue - 30-Jan-17 @ 8:41 PM
In my contract it says my working hours are 8 hours between 08:00 and 18:30. Now my employer is changing my working hours to 10:00 til 19:00. Is this allowed?
Babs - 28-Jan-17 @ 9:09 PM
I work a variety of shifts as a HGV driver. 5 over 7 usually a 48 hour week could be more ( up to 60) or less. Usually we know what we are doing the next day when we check the rota at the end of our shift. It would have our start time, our route and expected finish time. Shifts can vary from 6 to 15 hours. The transport office in the past week are now only giving us our start time and general area of operation and not our expected finish time which is causing all sorts of grief for guys with families and commitments as we can not plan our down time. We have asked to reinstate the finish time but they have refused. It may sound trivial but if you know you are on a 15 hour shift you can make arrangements for child care and conversely if you are on a normal shift you can plan ahead. This leaves us no chance to plan for a work life balance. An example of this is if I start work at 04:00 and only then find out I'm doing a 14 hour shift I have had no opportunity to fully prepare for being away for this length of time. I have colleagues who are on medication (legal for driving) and this is really messing with their routine. Is this legal?
Sojofi - 28-Jan-17 @ 5:07 PM
My rota printed 2 weeks ago for last week showed me as having Mon-Wed off then Sat off. On Thursday evening I noticed they'd booked me in on Sat without telling me. Can they do this? What if I hadn't noticed as I had a picture of the first rota I was referring to. I think I'm on a zero hours contract as when I asked to be informed if they wished to change my hours from the stated hours in the rota they gave me no shifts the next week. I left my copy of my contract in their office so can't check but don't think they'd do that if I wasn't on zero hrs.I only asked as I'd booked a medical exam I had to then cancel and it's fair to assume I'd be told when they want me to work on my stated day off. They're now saying I have to accept their Facebook friend request and join their group if I want to see the final rota in advance of my shifts. As the rota put up a week in advance is a provisional and subject to change (I understand this I just expect some communication should there be any changes). Can I be bullied in this way into accepting a Facebook request from a bar? Isn't this a clear invasion of my privacy?
Bargirl - 27-Jan-17 @ 11:39 PM
We have recently been taken over by new management who are trying to implement a whole lot of new changes. One of them is that they want to stop paying for our 30min lunch break. Instead they want us to work an extra 15mins before and after our 8 hour shift. Any new starter has to abide by these new hours . Do they have the right to enforce these new hours onto us.
Mick - 26-Jan-17 @ 9:32 AM
My boss is suggesting changing our working hours (less hours) but not reducing pay. This will include reducing our unpaid lunch from one hour to 1/2 hour. Is this ok?
Pauline - 25-Jan-17 @ 5:17 PM
My employer wants to change my 6pm to 10pm shift to 7pm to 11pm. I am my mothers carer and this 11pm finish is not suitable.I am contracted to work mon to sat and they want to change my contract to sunday. Can they force me to do sundays? Do i have rights as a carer ? Thank you Yvonne
Yvonne - 24-Jan-17 @ 10:38 AM
Me and two other colleagues are on 56 hour contracts.we are security supervisors at a shopping centre.our company are trying to reduce our weekly hours to 42 in order to create a fourth supervisor position.is this legal.
Boppa - 19-Jan-17 @ 11:26 PM
I am contracted to work 45 hours a week. My employer wants me to reduce my annual leave by 5 days a year(I would still meet minimum requirement). Upon refusing their request the are saying if I don't work full quota of hours they will dock my pay accordingly. Can they legally do this?
C - 19-Jan-17 @ 8:01 PM
Hello, My contract says I work 9-5:30 Monday to Friday. I get paid a set amount for this. Today my employer has asked that we all stay until 7:30 with no extra pay or time back. Is this okay to do? Can they implement this straight away?
BennyT - 19-Jan-17 @ 7:26 PM
I have a 12 hour contract with my employer, but today my manager told me that he has to change all part time employees to 0 hour contracts starting next week. Do I have to agree to this? He's already essentially (but not formally) fired at least 10 other part timers by not giving them any hours on the rota
Georgia - 19-Jan-17 @ 12:55 PM
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