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When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 19 Nov 2019 | 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've worked night shift at my company for best part of 10 years, I've worked days when they have requested the occasional time with little or no notice and also agreed to new longer hour systems that I'm presently on. In new year they are switching to 6-2. 2-10 only. I've requested 2-10 permanent under the rules and whilst they say this may be possible, I won't get shift allowance...is this right?
Liz - 19-Nov-19 @ 10:09 PM
My daughter has been working for a private nursery for 8 months. She has sleep deprived epilepsy but the company took her on knowing this fact. She has had 3 fits during her work time there and this is basically because of early and unregulated shift patterns even though a letter from the hospital states she needs a regular work pattern. Can anything legally be done to set her shifts so she can get on with her job without fear of fitting or being pushed out of work because they won’t do this
SammyW - 12-Nov-19 @ 2:28 PM
I have worked for the same company for 17 years. I have never worked weekends (except to cover holidays) and my hours have always been 7.30 am till 3 pm. I have now been told that I must work every other weekend and that my times are 10 am till 6 pm. Can they do this?
Netty - 6-Nov-19 @ 4:52 PM
I work shift patterns with working hours stated in my job description between 8.30am-8pm Monday to Friday and 10am-4pm Saturday on a 35hr per week. My employer, after 2 years of service, is forcing a change of hours on Saturday to be 9am-6pm. Is this allowed if not agreed?
Harry D - 5-Nov-19 @ 7:47 PM
I work at a hotel where my front desk colleagues and I used to work 12 hour shifts. Recently, our manager changed our shifts to 8 hours. Because of this change, we have all lost significant pay for lack of overtime. Also, the new scheduling is quite erratic as we now have day shift staff having to work night audits as well as night auditors having to work day shifts. One of the night auditors is now stuck working nearly every single weekend for the next month. When we worked the 12 hour shifts, everyone had a weekend off for every weekend worked. This seems unfair and unreasonable. Is this even legal, ethical?
MissT - 31-Oct-19 @ 8:13 AM
I been working at a company for 6 years 12 hour shift 4 days on 4 days off suddenly the manager decide he want to do a shift rotation for 3 months.i told him the ways it would affect my life,he said he doesnt care and its not just me.. what to do
Vawn - 19-Oct-19 @ 11:33 PM
Hi guys If a roster been change does the employee have notify employer the changes and what hours of notification they have to give you if for availability.
Sam - 7-Oct-19 @ 1:28 AM
Hi I have worked for my employer for 19 years they are now changing everyone’s working hours and wanting me to stay later at night. I have a 13 year old son that I have to ferry to football practice 3 times a week. Do I have any rights because of his age.
Ang - 17-Sep-19 @ 4:35 PM
I have been working Saturday and Sunday with enhancements now for 7 months.Can my employer just take these hours off me now?
Janie - 17-Sep-19 @ 7:21 AM
Good day I am working 24months now for a company and never worked weekend and now I have to start to working every saturday 8-13 with unchanged remuneration.....I this legal?
spikkels - 10-Sep-19 @ 1:47 PM
My employer has given me written training to complete at home. If I do not complete it within 2 weeks they say they can't employ me and they will not give me shifts. I feel this is another instance of Management bullying. Can they do this?
Zo - 8-Sep-19 @ 3:51 PM
I was put on fixed hours at my employer's suggestion after suffering ill health (several heart problems). The hours were 08.00-16-00 Mon to Thurs. and 08.00-14.00 Friday. I have just been sent a change of hours requiring me to work 10 hour days, one of these with a 05.00 start (which affects my medication regime) and requiring me to work on a Saturday when I have already booked the weekend away.( this was booked a month ago) What are my rights?
STEEVO13 - 4-Sep-19 @ 1:25 PM
My employer, a large utilities company, has told us ' you will do shifts, how we want - or we will outsource'. Surely this is a threat and a form of blackmail?We already work one long week, including 24/7 emergency cover. Can an employer use such threats against its workforce?There has been no proper consultation, what there was has not been superceeded by this ' you will or else' demand.
gizmo - 2-Sep-19 @ 6:26 PM
Our rotas have changed. I have been put on five afters when other employee have one I don't think this is fair it's not been shared fairly
Linda - 28-Aug-19 @ 6:20 AM
I got a job at the resturant and signed a contrtact which was not specific with my shift because they have two shift closing and opening shift hi i found out that there are depends that you work pecific hours which is 7-3 every day i communicated with the manager to put me on that department since I was struggling with my kids when working late shift which is 12-8pm and was moved to that departmentas i requested now i have worked 7-3 for more than a year. The manager got fired and the company brought us a manager from another restaurantnow she is changing my shift again I have to go back to 12-8.after she told me take my lunch at 11:30and I refused because I usual take my lunch at 13:30 does she have a right to do so
Yonie - 21-Aug-19 @ 5:58 PM
Our work demands that we are available for work as they see fit. We have minimum 40 hours gauranteed over 6 days. We never know our start or finish times.Start times for the next day are given only late the day before. That time may be from 1am or 1pm (For example) It is impossible to plan for personal time because of these demands. It is possible to request an early finish (with 12 hours notice) but it is likely they will give a 2am start in that day which leads to fatigue and renders any personal plans useless. Any complaints regarding work load are often replyed with-if we dont like it yo get a new job- If we start for example at 2am we are pressed to work up to 13 hours and are made to feel guilty if we want to finish earlier.... yes, I could find s new job but that does not fix the problem for others. We have immigrants on work to visa schemes ho are paid for 40 hours yet often work 50 plus.... the concerns go on. I do not know what to do. I am a loyal employee of 29 years. When I raise these concerns and offer solutions I am told it is the industry,it is too difficult and, to leave. Witts end
Nick - 12-May-19 @ 6:14 AM
I work shifts that highly depend on what time the delivery shows up. I am supposed to be told the day before a delivery what time I am supposed to be in the next day. They can find out the delivery time and amount of cages we get in from around noon the day before. Most of the time they do not contact myself or other staff until very late the night before and expect us to be in work for 7am. Sometimes they have contacted us after 11pm. Do they not need to give us reasonable notice of what time to be in or can they theoretically tell us whether we are in or not just 7-8 hours before we could be expected in?
Catalogue Store - 8-May-19 @ 11:00 PM
I do both shift, it's one week 6 .00am to 2.00pm and the next week2.00 to 10.00 pm. With Friday & sat days off. But last week when the rota was outtheSunday timings were 3.00 pm to 11.00 pm. The public transport on that route is never on time. I have to take a bus as well as a train. My problem is that if I miss the bus orthe bus is late I miss the last train. I spoke to my seniors about it but they say that they can cannot make exceptions I have to follow my rota and arrange formy transport, ( Uber ,find another route.etc). Can theydo that?
Sherry - 3-May-19 @ 8:52 PM
hi we work set shift in a factory they are cancelled our shift for two day can they makeworkshift that normally our days off, hasthey aretrying to make us workingeven if we have plans or childcare issue,and even if theholidays/event booked has normal day off
blackdog - 30-Apr-19 @ 7:59 PM
Hi there, I currently work at a hotel (worked there for a year) that is beside the restaurant that I have been working at for 2 years. Working full time at the hotel they said I can only work Saturdays, I said that is fine. But since about a month ago, they haven't given me shifts when I've asked for more because I was changing full times job, so now my schedule at the restaurant is more open but I still haven't gotten a shift yet. Are they allowed to do that? need some help, thanks for your time, Nicole
Nicky P - 9-Apr-19 @ 9:29 AM
I have worked 7 yrs for my Co. doing 8-5 Out of the blues they want us all to work either 6-2 or 2-10 This is impossible for me as I am diabetic and I have 2 dogs who are used to the routine Can a company changes working hours, even temporarily like that? No-one is happy with the suggestion.
Redhead - 9-Mar-19 @ 12:11 AM
The manager at my work does the rota in a month advance. So I know my days off. I plan for those days. But later on in the week it changes and they dont say anything to me is this right? Can they do this? Are they allowedto swap days with out notice.
T.b - 13-Feb-19 @ 10:20 AM
I have been doing 12 days/nights (6-6) for 26months now, and now my work have said I will be going back to our normal shift patterns of 6-2 (earlies) 10-6 (nights) and 2-10 (lates) they have given a weeks notice. Is this right, or do i have a say as I have sacrificed my life/shift around these (new) shifts which I’ve been doing for over two years?? Any advice will be truly great fun?! Thanks
Dan818 - 8-Feb-19 @ 2:13 PM
I have worked for my employer for 10 years with having the same day off. When my grandson came along i look after him on my day off. I have now been told that we are going into flexible working and have been told that I can' have every Wednesday as my day off. Can my employer make me do this
Linda shanley - 5-Feb-19 @ 11:06 PM
I was working for the company over 2years swing shift,I have a partime job,all of the sudden one guy is quiting in the morning so the owner wants me to go day shift,I told them I can'tso he said that there's no work for me at night,that I would have to resign,I don't know the reason why..
Pelon - 2-Feb-19 @ 7:23 PM
I worked 12 hours shift in the last 8 years, which was great so I had some time to spend with my children as I'm a single mom and I was able to get a second job to secure our life financially. No new management changing our working hour to 8 h shift and I'm supposed to work day and evening shift which put me in a difficult situation both financially and not able to look after my child. What can I do?
ladybug - 24-Jan-19 @ 1:08 PM
I work part-time at a supermarket, 16 hours a week spread across four days per week (i.e. four hours a day). I have worked at the supermarket for more than 26 weeks now and I would like to request my manager to give me every Tuesday as a fixed off so that I can sign up for some volunteering social service that requires 1 day in a week commitment. I would like Tuesday to be a fixed off for me because it is favorable to both my -self and employer as there is not much work at the supermarket given that there is no stock delivery that day. Can my manager refuse to grant me this request?
Rose - 21-Jan-19 @ 9:49 AM
Worked tues wed thurs night's for 10 years suddenly my employer has stopped me one night and put me on another without even telling me ,can he do this without notice or askibg me iff i can change
Bumble - 28-Dec-18 @ 12:41 AM
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
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