Changing an Employees' Working Hours

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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

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As an employer, can you change your employees’ working hours? Yes, but we explain the employment laws you need to understand in order to many contractual amends.

From time to time, you may need to make changes to a member of staff’s contract. Going about doing so is often a confusing issue for employers.

You need to follow employment laws carefully so as not to breach any individuals contractual rights.

It can be a tricky change to get right—you can discuss the issue with us on 0800 028 2420 for immediate support.

Or you can read this guide, where we explain the process for you.

Can my employer change my working hours?”

Yes, changing your employees’ working hours is possible. However, you must make sure that you get this process right.

So if you’re wondering, “Is it legal for an employer to adjust your hours?” and, “Can an employer reduce your contracted hours?”

In short, it’s legal. Changing employees working hours in the UK is something you can seek to do, but you’ll need to follow a thorough and fair process—as well as informing staff of amends you intend to make.

Reduction in working hours employment law

Legally, the hours an individual is to work is set out in their contract of employment.

The contract will outline whether these hours are fixed, or can be subject to change. You need to clearly indicate such arrangements.

For example, some shift workers, or zero hours workers, may be given different hours to work on a weekly basis.

In this situation, staff may wonder, “How much notice do employers have to give to change shift patterns?” When considering how much notice to change a shift pattern, the time provided should be reasonable and established by contract.

As stated above, outline the right to change working hours clearly in a contract of employment.

The term needs to be specific to the situation—simply stating you reserve the right to change staff hours where necessary may not be enough if you need to make significant changes.

Without this specific term, employment law reduction of hours becomes more complicated. This is because a change in hours means a change in contract.

Can my workplace change my hours?

Many employees could be wondering, especially in this current climate, “Can your work hours be changed without your consent?” They may also want answers to other burning questions, such as, “Can my employer reduce my hours” or “Can my employer change my hours?” Fundamentally, you can seek to change their hours, but they’ll need to agree to it before you do so.

This means that the answer to the question, “Can my employer change my contract without my consent?” is no.

This’ll involve holding discussions with staff to gain their consent to change the contract.

They’re likely to ask, ”Can my employer reduce my hours without my consent?” You should make clear that, no, you can’t. Instead, they need to agree to the change.

While this may seem daunting, staff may more willing to agree to it if the alternative is some of them losing their jobs entirely.

To this end, you need to make clear why this change is necessary.

How much notice must an employer give to change working hours?

When considering how much notice to change working hours in the UK, if such a change is permitted in the contract of employment, notice should be given as outlined there.

If not, the notice will need to be reasonable, following confirmation that staff have agreed to it.

You may wonder if there’s a certain time period, such as 12 weeks notice change contract, to change working hours.

Final confirmation of the change, and when it is to take effect, should be outlined in a clear changing employees working hours letter.

The total number of hours employees can work

So, how many hours can you work in a day by law in the UK? When changing hours, it’s important you’re aware of the limitations set by the law on how many hours an employee can work.

Generally, you shouldn’t ask adult workers to work more than 48 hours per week on average, unless they’ve signed an opt-out agreement stating they accept it.

If they’re asked to work these increased hours without such an agreement, you could face costly sanctions.

Can my employer change my flexible working agreement?

Staff have the option to request flexible working hours, which can include a reduction in their hours, provided they have worked for you for at least 26 weeks and have not made a previous request in the last 12 months.

If you agree to their request, such a change is permanent in their contract. Further changes will need to be made following agreement from the employee.

To avoid this, you could consider having a trial period of the flexible working request in order to ascertain if it works before agreeing to it on a permanent basis.

Can my employer cut my hours and give them to someone else?

Fundamentally, this’ll again depend on a contract of employment. If your workers are working irregular shifts by contract, it’s generally up to you who’ll work.

However, if you’re preferring some staff over others, you could risk claims of favouritism and even discrimination.

If staff are working fixed hours and there’s no contractual term permitting this, you’ll need to agree on any reduction in their hours. For example, you may be asking them to job share.

If an employee’s role can be reduced in this way, you should carefully consider if you should pursue a redundancy procedure.

It may be you can absorb the duties of their role in that of other members of staff.

Need our help?

If you need any assistance with your workforce’s working arrangements, get in touch for immediate support: 0800 028 2420.


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