Can my employer make me change my hours or pattern of work?

Released 6th January, 2014|85,892 Views

If your employer insists that you have to change your hours or pattern of work, and you do not agree, this may be a breach of contract. Even if you do not have a written contract, there may be an understanding about what you are expected to do and when, especially if you have been doing it for a long time.

 However, arguing breach of contract may not persuade your employer to change their mind, and taking them to court for this alone would be risky. You may need to use other arguments.

 You may be able to show that the new hours or pattern of work puts women at more of a disadvantage than men because women are more likely to be responsible for childcare. If you are a woman and the change is bad for you too, it may be indirect sex discrimination. However, it does depend why your employer is implementing the change. If they have strong business reasons, they may be able to justify the discrimination.

 If you are a man, and you feel that women who do similar jobs are not being asked to change their hours/pattern of work, this could be direct sex discrimination. Of if you are a woman, and you feel that the change is to get rid of you because you are pregnant, are breastfeeding or might have children, this could be direct sex discrimination too.

 If you are disabled or care for a disabled person, there may be other equality arguments you could use.

If your employer is making a fundamental change to your hours/pattern of work, this could be a redundancy. This is because your employer doesn’t need you do the job in the hours/pattern you had before, but in a different pattern – so your original job in the pattern you did it is redundant. Although this won’t get you’re your original job back, it could mean that you are entitled to some redundancy pay.

If you are dismissed because you cannot fit in with the new hours or pattern of work, or you refuse to sign a new contract, this could be unfair dismissal. You may need to have worked for your employer for at least two years to claim unfair dismissal unless there has been discrimination too. You should not resign however, unless you have taken advice, as this can make it more difficult for you to argue your case.

If you are not happy with a change, let your employer know in writing. It is especially important to do this if you decide to use the right to request flexible working to try to get your hours changed back. You can use the right to request if you have children or care for a disabled adult and have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks. But be careful, as using it could make it look as if you have accepted the change, unless you make it clear in writing that you have not.