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When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 19 Aug 2018 | 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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[Add a Comment]
After arriving at work and starting a shift, can an employer send you home as they have “overspent” ?
Leia - 19-Aug-18 @ 10:05 AM
I am contracted for 36 hr a week.my employer has said I have to do 48hr one week ,and 24 hr the next week .I am on a monthly rota can they do this
saz - 18-Aug-18 @ 9:27 AM
wowzy - Your Question:
My son has a contract with a large employer of 36hrs a week. He is constantly doing 40/50hrs a week. However he is not paid overtime rates as he is classed as part time. Does the Employer have to re-evaluate his contractual hours?

Our Response:
Does the employer offer overtime rates to any employees? What kind of role is he in? Is he in a management position where extra hours are expected of staff?
SafeWorkers - 15-Aug-18 @ 11:14 AM
My son has a contract with a large employer of 36hrs a week. He is constantly doing 40/50hrs a week. However he is not paid overtime rates as he is classed as part time. Does the Employer have to re-evaluate his contractual hours?
wowzy - 14-Aug-18 @ 2:38 PM
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
Jagger - Your Question:
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

Our Response:
This all depends on what your contract says. If you contract says you can be asked to work any shifts then there's not much you cando really. You can submit a request for flexible hours, see the above article for details.
SafeWorkers - 10-Aug-18 @ 11:11 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
Mi77erb - Your Question:
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.

Our Response:
Talk to your employer (ie. a higher level than you immediate manager) to establish whether this is a new policy. If it's only recently been introduced, it may be that other centres are soon to come in line. If not, ask why it's only your centre that the policy applies to and see our articles onthissite relatingto discrimination
SafeWorkers - 6-Aug-18 @ 3:11 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
Hi my contract was for permanent night but i got attacked at work so they moved me on days 9/5 been working days for 11 months now they want me to go back in nights permanently double manned but my situation has changed im a single parent now with no help so ive told them its not possible for me to go back on nights. They went on to say can i do 2/10 but im in the same situation no one to have my kids. Now there saying they can move me back on night with out asking me as ive not been on days for12 months. They've said if i dont go back on nights then im to think about my passion as there is no 9/5 job no more and never really was. Or i need to go on 2/10 or they can make me redundant if feels like they are forcing me to resign can they do this
Tandy - 26-Jul-18 @ 9:27 PM
I have been given set hours at work and worked these shifts for 18 months now. My contract states I work an average of 18.5 a week. All of a sudden I can turn up for work and they say we are closing early and I can either put in an hours notice or make it up during the week. I have 2 young children and work evenings and weekends to fit in with my husband. Can they change it with a few hours notice and expect me to make it up? What is the reasonable amount of time to give me to arrange either coming into work early or making my hours up elsewhere without being forced to put an holiday in to cover the lost hours.?
Sammie - 26-Jul-18 @ 8:37 PM
worked for the same hospital for 7 years doing 3 12 hour shifts.In the Urgent care I work at hours were 8am-8pm.They changed the urgent care hours to 9am to 7pm.We are still required to work 36 hours per week.If we do not they will take pto hours from us.I am now working 5 days in a row, never get out on time.I do like 55 hours in 5 days. We are suppose to have 2 full time nurses and one part time.They have not replaced a part time nurse in one year so therefor we have been working extra. Only contracted for every 3rd weekend and I am doing every other.I have never seen any overtime in anything over 40 hours in one week. Is all of this legal
Lou - 24-Jul-18 @ 8:16 PM
Hi. I have asked work for a higher contract and they said no because they want to keep everyone at the same contract for annual leave reasons and to ensure that no one goes under the contract hours. However, other people have been given higher contracts recently. I am on a 9 day a fortnight contract, however have been rostered on for 10 days a fortnight for 12 months straight. I recently received a roster with 9 day fortnight and asked my manager for the higher contract and was turned down, mind you I have never had a day off, been late and have never said no to management when they need help. The roster following my 9 shift and after asking for a higher contract they put me on 10 days again but said they will put me on 10 when they need it. I feel like I am being used and abused.
Ironman - 18-Jul-18 @ 10:48 AM
I have worked 18mths for the same company, done overtime, worked as team leader been a key holder. Since the floor managers friend started work there 4mths ago I have now not got my contracted hours and she is doing 50+ hours over double her contacted hours. Where do I stand I don’t want to make an atmosphere as there are only 8 members of staff
Maxine - 13-Jul-18 @ 1:47 PM
Working for the company for11y on perm contract as warehouse college last 6 years only night shift been working in special department call C...(which incl. Chiller Allowance) this is the position I apply to.They want me to move to other site to other department on a 'same position' as they closing down my shift on my site. (it will not be a problem for me to moved there on same conditions as stay on same contract with the same salary)BUT the company offer me only same money which Im getting now for a period of two years (it is regards my chiller allowance) and they put in writing if I will not agree with this contract, this is what they have write:Your representative argued against this, as you will be losing your chiller allow. within your new role at site x, he agrued that the role was not suitable and you should be offered redundancy. Your rep. also stated that if this chiller allow. could be protected then redeployment into site x would be considered a suitable alternative in his opinion. Having considered this view, I am pleased to inform you that the company will ring-fence this chiller allow. for a period of 2 years starting from the 16 May 2018 despite there being no requirements for you to work within a chilled environment at site x. If you still do not accept the change company can offer you redundancy but you will not received any redundancy payment in that instance. This is because given the circumstances, we consider the ring-fencing of your chiller allowance to be a more compromise and the role on site x certainly constitutes a suitable alternative role to your previous position in other department. We therefore consider any refusal of the role offered will be unreasonable and therefore you would forfeit any right to a redundancy payment' Im already on stress at work for period of 2 months because of this I feel very disappointed and stressed that I will earn less money in two years time that Im getting now. I cant understand why they haven't offer me a redundancy pay after 11 years in this circumstances which they changing contract giving me only the same money for period of two years. What is more unlikley is that redundancy situation hits me two years ago but they cancelled it and now this its really too much to handle it. Do I have any chance for get what I have in my old contract or maybay payable redundancy.?
Alex - 12-Jul-18 @ 10:34 AM
Can an employer take me off the Rota for the whole week because I was ill had a disciplinary and that was the out come. I have not been giving a contract and iv been there 7 months.
Glen - 10-Jul-18 @ 2:54 PM
So I am on a contract for 24hours. But for the last 12 weeks I have been working for 40 hours (as my manager asked me to and said they'd change the contract) They still havent changed my contract to 40hours, am I entitled to this change and if so how do I do this?
ElCapitan - 7-Jul-18 @ 11:50 AM
If my employer cancels a shift can they take my holiday hours off me for that shift?
Webby - 6-Jul-18 @ 9:41 PM
manager - Your Question:
Hi, I an a manager in my company and I work 40 hours per week. Two other managers I work with do 37 1/2 hours per week. Although we do different jobs we are all managers. Is this legal?

Our Response:
This is your employer's decision but if you feel you are being discriminated against for some reason, raise it with your employer.
SafeWorkers - 5-Jul-18 @ 12:44 PM
Hi, I an a manager in my company and I work 40 hours per week. Two other managers I work with do 37 1/2 hours per week. Although we do different jobs we are all managers. Is this legal?
manager - 2-Jul-18 @ 11:02 AM
Darren Rose - Your Question:
I’ve been working for a company for 10 years recently we have been bought out by another company doing exactly the same work,i have been told that my job is under redundancy, but they have offered me another job within the company with a different job title and less pay, but they are still asking me to do the same job is this legal?

Our Response:
You can be given the choice over an alternative job or redundancy but cannot be forced to accept the alternative job if it's not on the same terms as the one you are contracted to do.
SafeWorkers - 27-Jun-18 @ 2:41 PM
i’ve been working for a company for 10 years recently we have been bought out by another company doing exactly the same work,i have been told that my job is under redundancy, but they have offered me another job within the company with a different job title and less pay, but they are still asking me to do the same job is this legal?
Darren Rose - 26-Jun-18 @ 7:52 PM
Hels - Your Question:
I have worked for a company for 10 years and my hours have never dropped below 20 they have now dropped to 11,do I need to be given notice that they are dropping my hours?

Our Response:
What does your contract say about your working hours?
SafeWorkers - 26-Jun-18 @ 12:26 PM
Nik - Your Question:
I work as a nurse and I have an established working pattern which was submitted as an amendment fixed three days mon tue and Thursday 9-3 for the last five years my employer is now trying to change this where do I stand ? Saying that I’d I don’t work evenings and weekends they will put me in consultation

Our Response:
If your contract was amended to cover the new working pattern, your employer cannot change this without your consent. Please take a look at our guide here for your options
SafeWorkers - 25-Jun-18 @ 1:44 PM
I have worked for a company for 10 years and my hours have never dropped below 20 they have now dropped to 11,do I need to be given notice that they are dropping my hours?
Hels - 25-Jun-18 @ 8:57 AM
I work as a nurse and I have an established working pattern which was submitted as an amendment fixed three days mon tue and Thursday 9-3 for the last five years my employer is now trying to change this where do I stand ? Saying that I’d I don’t work evenings and weekends they will put me in consultation
Nik - 22-Jun-18 @ 6:49 PM
SafeWorkers - Your Question:
Mrl123 - Your Question:
Ive been working for my employer for 3 years now 2 of which permanent contracted, 12 hour shifts our shift rota is 2 days 2 nights 4 days off then repeat, that’s the shift I’ve been contracted to since my first day on employment with them (also stated in my contract). Due to business trying to save money and lack of work they have told everyone that we are going to Monday-Friday 7.5 hours a day and reducing our Hourly rate which I can’t afford, where do I stand? Are they within there right to change this and what should I do. Cheers
.
Our Response:

Our Response:
If your contract specifies certain days and hours, your employer can't change them without your consent. Please see our guide to Objecting to Changes in your Contract for more details about your options.
SafeWorkers - 20-Jun-18 @ 2:59 PM
Mrl123 - Your Question:
Ive been working for my employer for 3 years now 2 of which permanent contracted, 12 hour shifts our shift rota is 2 days 2 nights 4 days off then repeat, that’s the shift I’ve been contracted to since my first day on employment with them (also stated in my contract). Due to business trying to save money and lack of work they have told everyone that we are going to Monday-Friday 7.5 hours a day and reducing our Hourly rate which I can’t afford, where do I stand? Are they within there right to change this and what should I do. Cheers

Our Response:
SafeWorkers - 20-Jun-18 @ 2:58 PM
Hi there I’ve worked for my company for almost 7 years now, during these times I’ve moved departments with contract changes which were fine. Issue is my new department only receives 1 weeks rotas a day before the week commences. Is this a breach or a law to this as I suffer with no work/life balance.
AntC - 20-Jun-18 @ 2:55 PM
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