What can I do if my employer wants to change my hours?

If your employer says they want to change your hours, what are your rights? Our legal experts explain.



Current uncertainty about the economic situation can mean employers are looking to alter shift patterns at short notice or make changes to hours.

So what if you find your shifts switched with little notice or your employer wants to permanently change your schedule? Can you refuse the changes?

What does your contract say?

If your contract sets minimum hours only, or says that your hours are based on the employer’s rota, your employer can generally change your shift pattern. Contract terms can be implied over time, however, so if you have actually worked the same pattern every week for some time, you may still have an argument that this pattern has been implied into your contract.

If your contract specifies the times that you are required to work, then your employer will need to consult with you about any change and ask you to agree to this.

Raise your concerns

If the proposed change causes you difficulties you should make this clear.

A solution often comes down to negotiation between employer and employee, taking into account the needs of both and considering all the options available. As an employee, it is important to set out your issues and concerns up front.

Make a flexible working request

As an employee you have the right to request a change to your working arrangements, including any shift patterns.  Anyone can now request flexible working to secure the hours they would like. You should submit your request in writing, with reasons.

Your employer has to follow a set process and must genuinely consider your request. A request can be  turned  down for one of eight legal reasons.

To increase the chance that your request is accepted, it’s helpful to:-

  • Show that you have taken into account any impact on the business
  • Look at the eight reasons in advance and address any concerns that your employer might have up front
  • If there are several alternative options that might work for you, include these too.

If your employer is unsure whether your solution will work, a good option is to agree a trial period.

*Tabytha Cunningham and Charlotte Farrell are Associate Solicitors at Paris Smith. To read more about employment rights click here

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