Changing an Employees' Working Hours

We explain everything you need to know when changing an employees' working hours

In a time where conventional working hours are becoming less common, options like flexitime are becoming more standard. However, not all companies are embracing options like working from home or irregular hours, and so some employees may need to make a case for any changes to their working hours.

Naturally, any changes to an employee’s working hours must be agreed upon by both the employee and the employer. Failure to do so can result in troubles for the employer, as the employee may be entitled to claim a breach in contract. Any changes should be beneficial to all parties involved, so to an agreement both the employee and the employer should understand how to broach and discuss the subject.

Changing hours of work

So how does an employee request a change of contract working hours?

First, as an employee, it’s vital to explain to their employer exactly why they want to make any changes to their working hours. These reasons should be paired with any potential issues changes to working hours may raise, along with solutions to them.

Once these have been noted, they should be compiled into a comprehensive letter. Putting a request into writing will help establish the groundwork in which both the employee and employer can discuss the possibility of changing hours of work.

When both parties are open to a discussion, the employee can also consult or negotiate with the help of representatives, who can include other employees or assistance from a trade union.

This discussion will allow both the employer and employee to be open with expectations and concerns about any potential changes to working hours. Because of this, both parties may present alternative ideas than those initially proposed, such as changing to compressed hours or part-time working.

It’s worth noting that some statutory rights may justify a change of working hours, such as not wishing to work on a Sunday.

Employee rights on a change of working hours

In regards to employment law on a change of working hours, within an employment contract, there can be ‘variant clauses’. These clauses generally allow minor changes to a contract, yet they must be clear and precise about what they can change.

If an employer only has these variant clauses to rely on for changes to working hours, an employee may protest these changes.

Changes to contracts using variant clauses cannot be made without due consideration. An employer has to justify any attempts to change an employee’s contract due to variant clauses, such as if the company or business needs to reduce working hours due to financial struggles.

If this occurs, the employer needs to follow a fair procedure to utilise changes via variation clauses.

Changes to contracts may also be discussed due to a change of ownership of the company or business. However, they cannot make these changes without an employee’s consent. This is considered a Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment, or a TUPE change of working hours.

Any changes due to being transferred to a new employer cannot be made if they’re directly related to the transfer.

This means that even if the new owner already has an employee in a similar role, they cannot make any changes to the employee’s contract. For example, they can’t reduce your pay because they pay someone who already works for them in a similar role less.

How much notice for a change of working hours?

An employee should be notified whenever their working hours are changed, regardless of whether it was by their own choice or not. An employer’s intention to make these changes is a change of working hours announcement, which is open to a response from employees.

When discussing the change of working hours, it can refer to two types of changes.

These can be either a short-term change, such as a shift change, or a permanent one, such as changes made to an employee’s contract. Each has a different legal notice period for a change of working hours.

The former requires the employer to give the employee 12 hours of notice. The latter must be given to an employee written notification of any changes within four weeks of the decision being made.

In the event that there have been changes made to a contract without discussion or agreement, these changes to a contract will likely be a breach of the contract of employment. Simple providing a written notice would not make these changes lawful.

BrightHR can help

It can be difficult for both employees and employers to fully understand changes to working hours. This is where BrightHR’s expertise can provide valuable assistance. Get in touch today for employment law advice or explore our many insightful HR resources.


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