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When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 19 Apr 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]
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
Hi I work 34 hours over four days ,every week, but now somebody in a higher position wants to step down but they also do not work on a Friday,can the company make me work Friday's ? ,if so would we both have to work Friday's, or wouldi have a case against them if only I have to change Thank you
Ellie - 19-Apr-17 @ 7:54 PM
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?
Falling_Down - 18-Apr-17 @ 4:18 PM
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?
Blueish_snakes - 18-Apr-17 @ 4:13 PM
romper55 - Your Question:
I work in the security sector 2 man site I work 12 hour shifts based on a 48 hour contract but having opted out of the working time directive to survive financially we have been told that they are dropping our hours to 48 on a shift pattern of 4 on 4 off and they are dropping the night guard down to one man now my question is im an insulin dependant diabetic now they are expecting me to work alone without a break knowing full well I have this condition so im asking what is the protocol for a security company and care of duty and what's the procedure in regards to breaks during a 12 hour night shift

Our Response:
You should ask what precautions are in place regarding the diabetes. As for the working time regs, night workers cannot opt out of these. Here's what the government information states:
"Additional rules apply to night workers on top of the rules on maximum weekly working hours and rest breaks.
Night workers must not work more than an average of 8 hours in a 24-hour period.
The average is usually calculated over 17 weeks, but it can be over a longer period of up to 52 weeks if the workers and the employer agree, eg by collective agreement.
Regular overtime is included in the average, but not occasional overtime.
Workers can’t opt out of the limit."
SafeWorkers - 18-Apr-17 @ 1:53 PM
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.
ala - 17-Apr-17 @ 3:22 PM
I work in the security sector 2 man site I work 12 hour shifts based on a 48 hour contract but having opted out of the working time directive to survive financially we have been told that they are dropping our hours to 48 on a shift pattern of 4 on 4 off and they are dropping the night guard down to one man now my question is im an insulin dependant diabetic now they are expecting me to work alone without a break knowing full well I have this condition so im asking what is the protocol for a security company and care of duty and what's the procedure in regards to breaks during a 12 hour night shift
romper55 - 15-Apr-17 @ 9:57 PM
Jan - Your Question:
I am currently on a flexible working Rota and currently get double time and a day off in lieu for bank holidays. Newer staff don't get this privilege any more, so now they want the single time staff to work the shifts on bank holiday,which is ok but my question is can I take the day as holiday as I am paid for it or can they make me work a different shift I would just prefer to have the day off

Our Response:
We don't have full details of your contract but we think it's unlikely that you simply take the day as holiday unless it comes out of your annual leave entitlement.
SafeWorkers - 12-Apr-17 @ 12:55 PM
Iam currently on a flexible working Rota and currently get double time and a day off in lieu for bank holidays. Newer staff don't get this privilege any more, so now they want the single time staff to work the shifts on bank holiday,which is ok but my question is can I take the day as holiday as I am paid for it or can they make me work a different shift I would just prefer to have the day off
Jan - 11-Apr-17 @ 10:12 AM
planettel - Your Question:
I've been working for a company for 12 years with working ours stated at 0830 - 1730, which can be variable as long as agreed with myself, they are updating/renewing contracts and under hours it states variable times.only and no start and finish time, surely this must show my 0830 - 1730 ? But these times are variable as agreed with employee.?

Our Response:
Yes your original hours should be included on a renewed contract unless you have specifically agreed to this contractual change. Discuss this with your employer. If you feel it will have siginificant impact and your employers is not willing to negotiate, contact ACAS.
SafeWorkers - 10-Apr-17 @ 11:59 AM
I've been working for a company for 12 years with working ours stated at 0830 - 1730, which can be variable as long as agreed with myself, they are updating/renewing contracts and under hours it states variable times.only and no start and finish time, surely this must show my 0830 - 1730 ? But these times are variable as agreed with employee.?
planettel - 7-Apr-17 @ 11:06 AM
Mad1lost - Your Question:
My supervisor is trying to force me to change my hours for a later finish can they make me do this or can I refuse also is this something I can get the union involved in to help?

Our Response:
If the suggested hours are outside of your contractual working hours, then yes you can refuse and yes, your union is there to help with this kind of issue.
SafeWorkers - 7-Apr-17 @ 11:05 AM
Louise- Your Question:
Hi, I've been working 5-12 everyday on a Monday Tuesday Thursday Friday and Saturday, my contract is 20 hours per week but I've never done 20 hours. I'm kept on these shifts that I've done for over a year and a half due to childcare issues, we are having a new manager at the end of the month, can I class the early starts as part ofMy contract or can they change them without warning now?

Our Response:
If your contract is for 20 hours why are you doing 35hours (or 30 if you have an hour lunch break)? Unless your hours were agreed and your contract was accordingly amended, there may not be mcuh you can do.
SafeWorkers - 6-Apr-17 @ 12:46 PM
Hi, I've been working 5-12 everyday on a Monday Tuesday Thursday Friday and Saturday, my contract is 20 hours per week but I've never done 20 hours. I'm kept on these shifts that I've done for over a year and a half due to childcare issues, we are having a new manager at the end of the month, can I class the early starts as part of My contract or can they change them without warning now?
Louise - 5-Apr-17 @ 1:40 PM
I had agreement with the last manager, I asked to go down to two nights a week and for those to be all together so I could be able to travel 200 miles to help my eldly father and step mother they are getting on a need more help, now we have a new manager and because I didn't get the chance to change my hourly contract, she wants me to do e nights, and them to be all random, which I can't do... it hard enough to do nights has it is but to do random night will kill me.... I'm at my wit end, also I had concerns and went to the manager... she has gone spoke to other people and saying angry that I did this, what are my rights
Dogbody - 1-Apr-17 @ 11:59 AM
My supervisor is trying to force me to change my hours for a later finish can they make me do this or can i refuse also is this something I can get the union involved in to help?
Mad1lost - 31-Mar-17 @ 11:13 PM
My son has been working for an Agency for 16 years. He was hired as a full time staff, going to work a night shift employee (11pm to 7am -fixed night shift). After three years, he requested to work part-time, only Friday and Saturday, from 9pm to 7am, fixed weekend overnight shift); and it was approved. He has been doing the shift for 13 years. A year ago, the agency hired another staff to work 40 hours (weekend overnight shift) -which would technically eliminate my son's shift. However, they told the new staff to be patient and work weekend day shift while they work-out something. Now, they told my son that he will no longer work his weekend-20hr shift (fixed -night shift), because the staff they hired a year ago is going to be working the weekend -overnight shift. That my son should look in other programs within the agency to work his 20 hours. Is that acceptable? What should my son do in this case?
Loyal - 31-Mar-17 @ 9:42 PM
Lizzie21 - Your Question:
I'm contracted to 16 hours per week but have been working 30 for 3 years am I entitled to expect 30 hours each week and/or a new contract for 30 hours

Our Response:
No not necessarily. This is something you need to try and negotiate with your employer.
SafeWorkers - 31-Mar-17 @ 11:38 AM
Dee - Your Question:
Is it allowed to have your shifts changed because they want to split the not so strong workers with the strong having been one the same sifts always By doing this I am losing money as weekends have changed which is an extra £1 per hr

Our Response:
Check your contract. Were you told you could be working any shift? Or a changing shift pattern? If so, there's not much you can do about this.
SafeWorkers - 30-Mar-17 @ 2:39 PM
Ray - Your Question:
I work in a kitchen at a care home and have been told that we must now wear our own clothes to work and get changed there, we must then get changed at the end of the day and wear our own clothes home. I have no problem with any of that except the changing at the beginning and end is in our own time and we wont get paid for it, is this right?

Our Response:
This is quite common and doesn't cause people much of an issue usually. Unless there is something else specifically written into your contract, there isn't much you can do about this. It's only the same as making sure you're ready to start work in any job (e.g making sure your computer is fully started up by the time you're supposed to actually start your working day etc)
SafeWorkers - 30-Mar-17 @ 2:19 PM
I'm contracted to 16 hours per week but have been working 30 for 3 years am I entitled to expect 30 hours each week and/or a new contract for 30 hours
Lizzie21 - 30-Mar-17 @ 12:35 PM
Is it allowed to have your shifts changed because they want to split the not so strong workers with the strong having been one the same sifts alwaysBy doing this I am losing money as weekends have changed which is an extra £1 per hr
Dee - 29-Mar-17 @ 7:52 PM
I work in a kitchen at a care home andhave been told that we must now wear our own clothes to work and get changed there, we must then get changed at the end of the day and wear our own clothes home. I have no problem with any of that except the changing at the beginning and end is in our own time and we wont get paid for it, is this right?
Ray - 29-Mar-17 @ 5:26 PM
I've worked days for several years and have now been put on nights without any consultation or notice. I don't know what my contract says because neither me or anybody else has ever had one. Can they do this without notice?
Original C - 28-Mar-17 @ 11:38 PM
sam - Your Question:
I have worked for this company for almost 3 years can you tell me how much notice they have to give to change my hours I work mornings at the moment but they want to change this to evenings.

Our Response:
What does your contract say? If your contract suggests your shifts can be changed (i.e shift times, not total number of hours worked), your employer can change this with a "reasonable" period of notice. This could be 24 hours. If your contract says you are employed to work a morning shift only, then your employer cannot change this without your consent.
SafeWorkers - 24-Mar-17 @ 12:09 PM
Falling_Down - Your Question:
My commercial director says I forgot to pay for a Dart charge and wants to take the fine out of my wages. I'm sure he only asked me to pay for one return journey, which I did. He asked verbally, so I cannot prove it. I really don't know what to do. I'm always the first to admit a mistake but I don't believe I have made one. Even if I have, can he just dock my wages like that? Please help.

Our Response:
We're sorry we don't know the terms of your contract. Assuming you are a driver of a company vehicle - are you responsible for paying the charge?
SafeWorkers - 24-Mar-17 @ 11:26 AM
I have worked as a Teaching Assistant at the same school for 18 years.During that time we have always been allowed a 15 break when the children are having playtime except if we are needed to cover or do playtime duty. We have never been advised this was not acceptable.I was told that from 17th March that this has changed and in order to have the 4 x 15 minute breaks, at present being taken, I need to work an extra 2 x 30 minute duties from 12.00 to 12.30 during lunchtime.I understand this and have been doing the extra hours from then, but have also been told that they are backdating it to December, in my case, as I seemed I was aware I wasn't working sufficient hours to warrant a paid break.To reclaim the money I have not been paid for overtime claimed since December.Can they do this?
lyn - 23-Mar-17 @ 2:40 PM
cherri - Your Question:
Hi my daughter works as a nurse practioner she started in jan 17 but she had a meeting yesterday they are reducing her hours from 37.5 to 20hours although her contract states 37.5 min can they do this while she is on probation?

Our Response:
If her contract states that she will be given a minimum of 37.5 hours per week, the employer cannot change it without her consent. Follow the steps for breach of contract above.
SafeWorkers - 23-Mar-17 @ 1:00 PM
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