Can My Employer Change My Working Hours: Understanding Your Rights

Your employer does have the right to change your working hours as they see fit if you do not have an employment contract in place that specifically states your hours of work.

As an employee, understanding the dynamics of your working hours and how they can be altered by your employer is crucial. Let us explore the circumstances under which an employer can change your working hours, the rights you have in such situations, and the steps you can take if you find yourself in this position.

Legal Obligations of Employers

Employers can adjust working hours if there isn’t a contract specifying a set schedule. However, employers must abide by certain legal obligations when making such changes. Any alterations to working hours should not be done without your prior knowledge, and you must be informed at least 12 hours in advance.

Communication of Changes

Effective and legal changes to working hours hinge on clear communication from your employer. Employers must give notice of changes in advance, providing at least 12 hours notice as a general rule. However, the specifics may be outlined in your employment contract. The notification should be in writing, either through email or a formal letter, providing proof of the change. It is essential to review the details of this notice, and if anything is unclear, seek clarification immediately.

Rights of the Employee

Every employee has the right to an employment contract. This contract should clearly state your working hours, along with the processes for changing these hours. If the contract is altered without your consent and it doesn’t contain provisions allowing such changes, this could constitute a breach of contract.

In the event of a breach, you have several options:

  1. Accept the changes and continue with the new working hours.
  2. Negotiate with your employer for a compromise.
  3. Work ‘under protest’, which means formally expressing your disagreement with the changes in writing.
  4. Refuse to work under the new terms and continue with the older ones.
  5. Raise a grievance or file a claim against your employer.
  6. If you have already resigned, you might be eligible to file for constructive dismissal.

Steps to Take If Your Working Hours Change

If your employer modifies your working hours, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that these changes are legal:

Minimum Working Hours:

Review your contract for the minimum number of working hours stated. Your employer must honour this minimum. If changes result in you working less than this minimum, you have the right to take legal action.

Maximum Working Hours:

Ensure that your employer has not increased your working hours beyond the maximum limit stated in your employment contract.

Working Times:

Check your contract for specified working times (e.g., 9 am to 5 pm). Without your consent, these cannot be legally changed by your employer.

Your employer can draft a new employment contract detailing the changes in working hours. However, you are not obligated to sign this new contract, and your existing one will remain in effect unless it has expired or has been violated in a way that renders it unenforceable.

Navigating changes to your working hours can be challenging. By understanding your rights and obligations, as well as those of your employer, you can better handle such situations. Always remember to check your employment contract and seek legal advice if you’re unsure about anything.

Working Under Protest

Working ‘under protest’ is a term often used when employees continue to work following changes they don’t agree with, such as modifications to their working hours. In such a case, you would write a formal letter to your employer stating that you disagree with the changes but will continue to work ‘under protest’. This action can be crucial if you plan to raise a grievance or pursue legal action later, as it demonstrates that you did not consent to the changes, preserving your legal rights.

Raising a Grievance

Raising a grievance is the process of making a formal complaint against your employer. If you’re considering this step, it’s important to check your employer’s grievance procedure which is often included in the employee handbook or available on the company’s intranet. The procedure usually involves writing a formal letter outlining your complaint, attending a meeting to discuss the issue, and if not resolved, potentially escalating the grievance to a higher level within the organization or involving a third party like a trade union or employment tribunal.

Need Legal Advice?

If your working hours have been changed and you need professional advice, our experienced team at DPH Legal is here to help. Call us at 0118 914 5622 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

For any information relating to our services please give us a call and we will be very happy to help.

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    We can be contacted 24 hours a day.
    Our Reading Head Office address is:

    Davidson House
    Forbury Square
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    0118 914 5622
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