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When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 18 Dec 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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I got my rota for this week on the first day of the week. It was changed later that night and was not told. I was then contacted 2 hours before my new shift (didn't know I had it) and told to come in. I refused. Am I in the right?
Mary - 18-Dec-18 @ 5:03 PM
Working at a company over 12 years, now also work in the medical field catch flu twice so for the whole year, also in the summer had a gal bladder removal, now I had the flu within 4 weeks of each other. Now due to this they are stating they are going to change my hours.Can They do this?
a - 17-Dec-18 @ 12:37 PM
I have worked for a company for 11 years on a 3 shift rotating basis monday to friday. Is it legal for the company to change our shift pattern to a 4 on 4 off continental shift pattern
Bonga - 8-Dec-18 @ 4:19 PM
I work in a nursery and on Saturday the 13th october my employer held a finday, she had given us 2 weeks notice however she was not in for me to tell her I could not make it due to having no one to watch my children as my husband was at work. Then on a Thursday in November I was ill, I had been ill on the Wednesday but still went into work, I was sick at work so I had asked see if I could go home I was refused because we were short staffed so as I was still ill on the Thursday I rang the nursery instead of the manager as I knew she was not at work. She has since given me a written warning for 2 unauthorised absences within a month. Is this allowed ?? Is there anything I can do about it ?? I don't feel that this is fair cause for a written warning, I feel at most this should be a verbal warning am I wrong ?? I have been here 3 years and don't remember ever seeing my contract.
Leanne - 24-Nov-18 @ 9:23 AM
I work in the care industry and have a set rota for shift patterns I have completed overtime for this month as i pick extra up to help out, my company have now changed my original shift pattern for this month and I have ended up losing 12 hours wages as they are using the overtime I have completed to make my hours up, I'm sure this is wrong and they can't do this can anybody help.
Andrew - 13-Nov-18 @ 7:55 PM
My boss has been changing hours on the rota without informing people they've been changed. Expecting them to check the rota on every shift. Is this okay? I would assume they'd need to talk to the staff member when changing hours?
Ben - 11-Nov-18 @ 7:33 PM
Trabalho em uma empresa e entrei com um contrato de 14 horas por semana sendo só no sábado e no domingo mais devido a uma colega de trabalho ter se machucado me pediram para eu cobrir ela a semana toda fazendo 9 horas por dia e estava cobrindo ela até ontem isso já deu 10 meses mais agora eles cortaram as minhas horas me deixaram só com o sábado e o domingo sendo que eles tinham me prometido que se a pessoa q estava afastada não voltasse a horas iriam ser minha mais eles passaram para outra pessoa
Santos - 1-Nov-18 @ 7:43 AM
I work shifts normally 4 hours every Saturday, my manager is forcing me to work Sunday but I have said I couldn’t, can I take action or do I have to work?
Katie - 24-Oct-18 @ 1:56 PM
I started my new job 4 months ago. I have a 15 hour contract for saturdays and sundays. I told my interviewer that I couldn’t work more than 16 hours per week due to claiming Employment Support Allowance for my mental health conditions. I was told this was fine. I signed my contract at my induction day(just skimming over the contents as a lot of people do). I later found out that I’m contracted to work bank holidays which would take me well over 16 hours. I told the HR team that I couldnt work so many hours and that I said so in my interview and was there any way we could work out a way to keep it under 16 hours while still working the bank holiday. The HR team then told a manager on my floor(I did not consent to sharing this information with him) and he pulled me aside and told me I couldn’t take bank holidays off(not what I asked) and that I needed to figure my situation out. Basically saying ‘do the hours I want you to, quit or don’t receive your benefits anymore). Do I have any rights here? Is this discrimination?
DollDell - 18-Oct-18 @ 11:32 AM
My MD advised me last week that she needed to reduce my hours by 50% due to business not so good. I am a recently widowed woman and can't afford to take the reduction. I have since found another full time job, not such good hours or pay, but at least it will be more than i am going to be on. Im in a predicament.I wrote to my MD yesterday asking for her to prepare me a redundancy package for me to make a more informed decision, she is on holiday, and "isnt getting good internet reception". I have today been offered the other job full time, which means i need to submit my resignation today or tomorrow latest....I don't want to miss out on potential redundancy pay from a company i have worked for 6 years for...anybody have any advice on what my rights may be...desperate!!:-(
lesleyt - 11-Oct-18 @ 1:54 PM
I work a 20 hour contract. I have been working additional hours somtimes to 37 hours a week. Therefore I have worked 17 hours additional most weeks. My Question is does my employer have to give me a new contract based on the average hours I’ve workedafter 2 years? Any help would be greatly appreciated Daz ??
Daz - 6-Oct-18 @ 8:17 AM
I have worked as a lunchtime assistant in a school for 20 plus years now I have been asked to do a rota shift which means I won,t finish until 2.45pm--hours are still the same but between 1.55 and 2.45 there are no children there to supervise--I have to empty in excess of 20 dustbins and sweep floors---I have another job which I have changed hours for twice before to accommodate school job due to changing hours before --I can,t possibly change my other jobs hours again --I am also a carer for my mother and father who live at separate addresses and this change in hours of working are causing no end of stress for me---help
sal - 3-Oct-18 @ 6:22 PM
Hi my wife has been working 26-32 hours a week on a 16 hour contact for the last year and a half .Now the business is finding it hard they want to reduce her hours to the contracted 16 .They have stated all staff have to only work there contracted hours yet some,those more in favour,have kept there extra hours . Can my wife keep the hours she's been working all this time and can she put in a grievance as all are being treated the same .
Markiee - 23-Sep-18 @ 10:10 PM
Hi I have been working a 51 week for over 10 years and my employer now ways to reduce my hours, I am not in a union but do I have any rights 00
Gnoorag - 21-Sep-18 @ 1:27 PM
I work for a well known organisation. I do a 30 hour week with set shifts on my contract. We are a flexible team and cover each others absences/holidays. However my employer wants us to declare a certain percentage of our working hours to be permanently flexible. We are being asked to declare our availability and they will change our shifts according to their needs. I have a chronic health condition and have responsibility for my elderly father. They are seeing us individually to discuss. What are the laws on this?
Jessica - 21-Sep-18 @ 6:37 AM
just had a very argumentative convo from my well known employer i was ill at the begining of the week and rung in and said im willing to make hours up they put me down for 2 shifts being weds thurs night of fri and sat but on friday i was told im in checked rota was not got phone call again saying i was in any how been told theres two rotas one for staff ie me and one for managers and they dont collaberate each other and im being threatend with dicerplinary action is this right or should i go to the unoin
smit - 15-Sep-18 @ 2:19 AM
im working under a 15 hour contract and have been asked to work 30 hours does this mean i have to sign a 30 hour contract
makem - 11-Sep-18 @ 12:56 PM
I started my job over 11 years ago and when i went for the interview it was advertised as a monday to friday job 20 hrs per week. My contract says my 20 hrs on it but not the mon to fri which is the main reason i wanted the job due to having children. I have increased hours over the years and always worked mon to fri. My employer now wants me to work every 2nd saturday and then to have the monday off. I don't want this. I took a mon to fri job all those years ago. Can they make me do it??
Eddie - 10-Sep-18 @ 1:48 PM
Hi my contract says 20 hours over 3 days but at my interview I said I can only work the 20 hours over 2 days, in which my employer said was absolutely fine ( as he knows I have a 9 month old baby ) but now after 4 months he has decided to put me on 3 days? Where do I stand? I know 3 days is in contact but we had a verbal agreement on 2 days? I physically cant work 3 days as I have no childcare
Maddy - 9-Sep-18 @ 3:14 PM
I work as a technician and my contract is an annualised contract. My hours per week are are stated as 50 but my actual hours regularly vary, sometimes i get given less and sometimes more. I am paid for 50 hours whether i do more or less than my contacted hours. I have been told that at the end of their financial year they will calculate whether i owe them or they owe me. Is this right for them to do so? Shouldnt they have to provide me with at least my contracted hours not less?
Jamieh - 4-Sep-18 @ 9:09 PM
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
Having worked within a very well known organisation for nearly fifteen years as a cleaning operative things started to be changed, outside contractors took over the work and things were changed. It became obvious because of my age and knowledge and the fact that Health and Safety was not good of which I pointed out but was answered with answers that did not answer or solve the problems they have decided to alter my hours of work to working very early mornings, to start around 04.00 or work evenings until well after midnight which would mean walking some three miles to work or from work to home because there would be no public transport at that time. I am getting near to 75 years of age and believe this is a way of getting rid of me but it would appear they have the legal right to change my working hours and if I do not accept they can sack me!
Moaner - 1-Sep-18 @ 9:13 AM
I am currently working a 40 hour week Monday - Friday. I dont have days specified in my contract just that i work 40 hours a week. This can be more as i do out of hours stuff also which can be a few hours at the weekend from home. My employer has recently informed me that i will be required to work in the office at the weekend and have 2 days removed from my week day pattern. My issue is these are working unsocial hours and also puts my partners employment at risk as we have a small child. The changing of my hours means we have no child care and my partner will have to leave her job for me to fulfill the weekend and unsocial hours my employer has given. Is this legal for my employer to tell me that i will be working these new hours and working in office at weekends ? It feels like its just being force in to me.
rich - 31-Aug-18 @ 11:38 AM
I work 16 hours a week in care sector.They have recently been putting me on 24 hours shifts with a new client in his own house . They tell me my contract is equivalent 64 hours a month and can do what they want within that. Doesn't seem right and I'm ready to leave or go for constructive dismissal
Jim - 28-Aug-18 @ 11:29 PM
Eve- Your Question:
I have been working at my present school since 2006. Since I reached retirement age I have been reducing my hours each new school year. I have been working 2 full days for the last 2 years which suits me well. In the last week of summer term I was told my hours would be spread over 4 days instead of the 2 I had been working. I subsequently discovered that everyother member of the support team were told what their hours would be. At 67 years of age I'm not happy to go back to what will amount to 4 working days all be it 3 hours a day. My contract sates I should be given notice the half term before the end of the academic year which was May when all other staff were given their working schedule. Apart from handing in my notice is there anything else I can do about this situation. I do still need to be working. Thanks

Our Response:
What days are in your contract? Does it say your hours/days can be changed? If the contract says you should have 1/2term notice then you can refuse to do the new hours until that notice period takes effect. If your contract actually specifies days and hours and the employer wants to change them without your consent, you can object; see our guide here.
SafeWorkers - 24-Aug-18 @ 11:40 AM
I drive for a big chain supermarket. They have changed my shifts because of what they say about how many hours I can drive in a 24 hour period. I worked Monday 6pm-10pm Tuesday 8am-6pm my Monday has changed to a Thurs 7pm -11pm which I'm ok about but the Tuesday has been changed to a 9am-7pm but someone else has been given these hours who used to work the 9-7 basically swapping my hours with there's without asking me. The manager said there's nothing he can do I'd have to swap it with someone else. I'm contracted these hours but the manager said it doesn't matter.
James - 22-Aug-18 @ 2:57 PM
I have been working at my present school since 2006. Since I reached retirement age I have been reducing my hours each new school year. I have been working 2 full days for the last 2 years which suits me well. In the last week of summer term I was told my hours would be spread over 4 days instead of the 2 I had been working. I subsequently discovered that everyother member of the support team were told what their hours would be. At 67 years of age I'm not happy to go back to what will amount to 4 working days all be it 3 hours a day. My contract sates I should be given notice the half term before the end of the academic year which was May when all other staff were given their working schedule. Apart from handing in my notice is there anything else I can do about this situation. I do still need to be working. Thanks
Eve - 21-Aug-18 @ 1:55 PM
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
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
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