Can My Employer Force Me to Change My Shift?

Can an employer force a radical change to your shifts such as a switch from days to night shifts? Our guide will advise on the laws surrounding shift changes, and how to speak with your employer to navigate this delicate situation.

image of a working man and a clock

Being Asked to Change From Day Shift to Night Shift

Reader A.D has been asked to change from her regular day shift to a night shift and is anxious her employer can force this change. As a working mum, childcare is a barrier to nighttime shift patterns.


Q. I have been asked to work nights, I have no one to look after my son on some of the nights I am wanted to work. There is still a day shift running on the section that I am currently working on. What are my rights to stay on the day shift if my employer trys to force me to work nights?

A.D, 1 June 2020


A.

The suggestion that an employer may force someone to work nights is certainly worrying. Employers who take this approach upset staff and damage their companies’ reputations.

Furthermore, it’s clear from the question that this employee cannot work nights. After all, on some occasions there’’ll be no one at home to look after a child. There are 3 main things to be aware of when navigating this situation.


1. Can an Employer Force a Change to Night Shift?

The first point to make is that an employer cannot force someone to change shift patterns. This is unreasonable and if your work contract stipulates particular work hours your employer will need your agreement to change them. This will require a new work contract. Our guide to your rights when employers make changes to working hours has more information.

You should also be aware that all employees have the right to request flexible working.

There’’s a potential problem in the way this situation may unfold, however.

If an employer tries to force a member of staff to work nights, and the member of staff refuses, such a confrontation is bad for everyone involved. The member of staff may win in the short-term; but in the medium to long-term, the employer may prove difficult over other issues such as granting time off.


2. Talking To Your Employer About Shift Changes

One way to avoid harmful confrontation is for both sides to talk to each other in a sensible way. More than likely, the employee will have to make the first move.

The best course of action is to speak to the appropriate manager. Explain why a change to the night shift is impractical. Most managers will respond positively.

If the manager isn’t sympathetic, speak to the HR section. Again, explain the situation and ask to stay on the day shift. Make sure you are fully aware of your contract rights during your conversation. If you do not have a copy of your work contract, ask for a copy before you have your conversation. It may also help to talk to ACAS beforehand so you can get advice on how to approach the situation.


3. The Right to Request Flexible Working

If the HR section takes the manager’s side, or your company doesn’t have an HR professional, then discuss flexible working.

All employees have a legal right to ask for flexible working. To make such a request within the law, an employee mustn’’t be an Agency Worker. They must have worked for the company for 26 weeks or more; and mustn’’t have made a similar request in the past year.

Employees must also give a reason for the request.

In this question, the employee is not asking to change hours as part of a flexible working arrangement but to stay on the day shift. Because the request is not to change, the employer may seize on this and still try to force the employee to work nights. If so, the employee needs to point out that once on the night shift, he or she will demand the legal right to Flexible Working. This will lead to a return to the day shift in order to care for the child.

Further Reading

Our guide to reading and understanding your contract of employment might be of help. If you understand your contract, you’ll feel more confident about whether your employer can force you to change shifts.

31 thoughts on “Can My Employer Force Me to Change My Shift?

  1. Paul says:

    Can the employer force you to work a different shift, if you have medical reasons to stay on the shift you’re on?

  2. lesleyharrell742 says:

    I work on the software support team, so we need shifts both day and night. and before we had a lot of controversy about the fact that there was no correct accounting of working hours and day and night shifts. now we use employee monitoring software, so we hardly have any disputes over the number of hours worked during day and night shifts. can you suggest other similar programs that can help improve our workflow?

  3. goodhelp says:

    Hi, I am working Monday-Friday, 9-18 and my employer want to change and put shifts Monday to Sunday / 7-23. This will have a big impact on personal and professional life. Are they allowed to force you to sign?

  4. Baz says:

    Hi i work 8 hour shifts at a factory and they want us to change too a conternetal shift of 12 hours im 49 can they force me too sign a new contact or can i refuse i worked there for 32 year and on this 8 hour shift for 11 year wots my opions many thanks barry

  5. Dan says:

    My manager just keeps changing the rota with no notice and expects me to have no life is there anything I can do ?

  6. Ash says:

    Good day I used.to be dayshift worker and have been loved to nights shift due to lack of space. It has impacted my family life and mental health. Can I request a day shift ?

  7. Rob says:

    My company is trying to make me work days &I work nights the night shift is ending say have no choice or quit no pink slip no unimportant been here 1 1/2 years what can I do??

  8. Driver says:

    Hi I have been working night for 18 years and my employer has told me I have to go onto days as they want to move 15 night drivers off night to save on paying the4 night allowance. I am one who received the letter to shift change but many others didn’t so I am already feeling picked on. I had a meeting and they told me I would get the minuets within 48 hours, I’ve had nothing, I was told I would be told what they are going to do with me within two weeks, that’s up tonight and I’ve sill heard nothing. In the meeting I said I could not work days as I am the registered carer for my wife and I need to be there during the day, my employer told me they do not have a duty of care to her, she is not employed by them, I am there employee and as such there consideration stops with me. Am I sunk, if they change my shift I will be forced to leave and I said this to them.. Silly I know as I have just given them the perfect way to save on a drivers wage and night shift allowance as they can now put me on days knowing I will have to leave. Any advice thanks.. feeling stuck here.

  9. kags says:

    I work on a rolling rota and look after 2 grandsons on days off ..my employer and changed my shift pattern by putting it back 3 days …can they just expect me to do that without asking me if this is ok .

  10. Rods says:

    I use to work a 3 shift patern but for the last 3 months i rotate from normal 8 hour shifts to 12 hour shifts and there is just no more patern i only find out on a thursday what shift my manager feels his going to put me on the next week i can’t make any plan’s with my wife and my manager has no intrest in stopping this weird rotations as he claims he want people outside their comfort zones.

  11. Aisha says:

    My husband is working for a company that I work for but I left them because I was working on the doors at the weekend only I was finishing at 5.00am in the morning and this company I did work for want me to do a day shift my husband was working a night shift and after finishing at 7.00am then they given him a day shift after doing a night shift so when he finished at 7.00am in the morning he had to go and do a day shift at 8.00am in that morning after finishing doing a night shift how can anyone do over 24 hour shifts

  12. Slink says:

    My work is changing my hours to a time I can’t do because of having to help and look after my mum witch lives bye herself and is 74 years old can they do this .

  13. Gakzo says:

    I have been working night shifts for about 1 and half year …my manager doesn’t want to change me to day shifts..and I leave with my daughter’s child she’s 6months…my daughter stay at varsity to complete her studies…where is my rights

  14. Gakzo says:

    I have been working night shifts for almost 1 and half year …my manager doesn’t want to change me to day shifts..and I leave with my daughter’s child and she’s only 6months …my daughter she stay at varsity to complete her courses …so am struggling about the child especially when am coming to work night …where is my rights??

  15. Sino says:

    I have been working night shifts only for over 5 years, my manger refuses to give me rotation of day and night, is there any law in south africa

  16. Lex says:

    I have been working 0600 to 1400 shift and now my employer is changing my start time to 0300 until 1100 and the reason is apparently to meet business needs and saying like it or lump it and the implication is either do as you are told or find a job elsewhere. Can you offer any help?

  17. Kirsty says:

    I’ve been working for a year at my job, but I’m quite young, I’m only just 18 and my manager has put me on a seriously late shift I am uncomfortable with this because I’m young and the area in which my work is placed is considered dangerous at night, I’ve got a minor disability which makes me struggle to run, is it reasonable for me to ask to cancel my shift?

  18. Allen says:

    My employer due to covid is switching our shift from 12 hour days 2 on and 2 off to 3 on and 2 off then 2 on to 3 off and they are now say we are going to move to monday thru friday. There will be 1st shift, 2nd shift and 3rd shift due to me only being here almost 4 years I wont be on days but I’m on days now 7am to 7pm. I cant work any shift but 1st shift if its 8hoir days due to my kids. Can they make me switch? Or fire me? They did this once b4 but I took voluntary layoff but this time I cant do that. What are my options because I cant do 2nd or 3rd?

  19. Dil says:

    Have worked particular shift for 16 years and now my employer is taking me of this shift and putting me in a variable roster what are my rights

  20. Kfc76 says:

    I have been nightshift for over 4 years constant how much notice does my employer need to give if they want me to come days ? .

  21. Tez says:

    I’ve been working at my place off work for 23 years got a new manager two weeks ago he’s already tried to take a weeks holiday off me took me off my job I’ve done for all this time and put me on sweeping up filling shelves and cleaning so degrading he’s now hinting about changing hours I work three days a week and have done for a long time now he also says things to me in front off other employees can he do all this

  22. Lesego says:

    Our superior alow one worker to work day only us we work night and its pain cos i live a 4mouth baby but she dont want to rotate 3 shift with us and the Hr dont want to solve these matter

  23. Lee says:

    I was working for two years straight night shift and then they moved me to work on day shift during the lock down my mother got sick and cannot 100% look after herself I got a friend to help out during the day yesterday my manager ask me move to night shift I tried to tell him why I can’t go to night shift but he didn’t give me a chance to explain I told him that I can’t go to night but he insisted and said if I don’t go to night shift then I have no work I must stay at home and he will book me for a hearing I even recorded him he said that he don’t care whether I go to ccma or what he don’t care he asked my supervisor to call the securities to escort me of the site later that day so my supervisor phoned me and said that I must write a letter as to why I can’t work night shift I explain to them they phone me and told me that I must get proof by her doctor that she’s a patient there and that I’m the cargiver and then he phone and said that he won’t accept that he wants a doctor report from my mother doctor I then told him that the doctor said that he won’t be able to give me more than than information due to the fact that my mom is the patient and not me and that it’s private and confidential my mom also don’t want him to give out any information about her sickness so the manager phone me and told me that he won’t accept that letter and he don’t care he just want to see me night shift I then spoke to his boss looks like he is taking the manager part and is also not replying to my messages I desperately need advise pls I’m clueless

  24. Lee says:

    I was working for two years straight night shift and then they moved me to work on day shift during the lock down my mother got sick and cannot 100% look after herself I got a friend to help out during the day yesterday my manager ask me move to night shift I tried to tell him why I can’t go to night shift but he didn’t give me a chance to explain I told him that I can’t go to night but he insisted and said if I don’t go to night shift then I have no work I must stay at home and he will book me for a hearing I even recorded him he said that he don’t care whether I go to ccma or what he don’t care he asked my supervisor to call the securities to escort me of the site later that day so my supervisor phoned me and said that I must write a letter as to why I can’t work night shift I explain to them they phone me and told me that I must get proof by her doctor that she’s a patient there and that I’m the cargiver and then he phone and said that he won’t accept that he wants a doctor report from my mother doctor I then told him that the doctor said that he won’t be able to give me more than than information due to the fact that my mom is the patient and not me and that it’s private and confidential my mom also don’t want him to give out any information about her sickness so the manager phone me and told me that he won’t accept that letter and he don’t care he just want to see me night shift I then spoke to his boss looks like he is taking the manager part and is also not replying to my messages

  25. short says:

    I work weekends only9fri sat sun)12hrs shifts total of 34.5hrs perweek. we have been told that this shift is now ending and we are to be moved to a 5 day week mon =fri .I stated I cant do these hrs as 1 I was employed as a weekend worker which is why I applied for the job and 2 I care for an elderky parent and my week days are planned around appointments and care. can I be force to change ?

  26. giddy says:

    i have been informed that my employer has changed my shift pattern from 3 on 3off to 2 on 2 off 2on 2off 3on 3off with no consultation with the people affected or written conformation or notice what can i do about this and can they legally just do it without any consultation thank you

  27. Amazing says:

    I work in retail my manager put me on Sunday shift when I was due to work on Monday 12/10/2020. I had a week off. She denyed and said I was aware of the Rota which is not true otherwise I would have come. We having issue and Company interview all employees this is very sensitive time. I’m not sure if I should contact to HR or not as I don’t want this issues create problems for my new role. Please what should I do ?

  28. King says:

    I have worked for my company for more than 2years. When i started, i signed in for night shift which actually the shift posted and i wanted. In the course of this pandemic i was temporarily laid off and recalled after two months to work. I have been giving a hint that night shift will phased out and then i will be put to day shift. I purposely put in for night shift because i school during the day. Now due to covid-19, i assist in home schooling the kids because my wife works day shift. Is this fair for done to force me to day shift? Will they terminate me if i refuse? Will the lay me off? What can i happen in either way?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *