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Can My Employer Reduce My Working Hours

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 16 Jul 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Employment Legal Advice Employee

Q.

My employers want to save money and have decided that they want to reduce the majority of the employees' contracted working hours.

Are they legally allowed to do this if the employee does not agree? What are the best steps for us to take next?

(KA, 15 September 2008)

A.

The first thing you need to do before you start panicking is to look carefully through your contract. Your contract of employment will hold the key as to the legality and fairness of this situation.

However, before we start delving into what is and is not legally acceptable in this situation, it is also important to consider the practicalities of the issue. Too many people get all gung ho about their rights, especially in terms of employment law, and while it is terribly important that you are not badly treated, it is also necessary to appreciate how you can damage your own career by being overly righteous.

Is It Better Than Being Made Redundant?

In the current economic climate, there are a number of companies that have to reduce the working hours of many of their staff. They do this rather than Making People Redundant as they hope the situation will change in the near future and so they will have retained their staff and their skills.

If you think that your employer’s request, or perhaps even their demand, is in response to the current economic downturn, you may be wise to ask yourself if you would be better to accept the changes in order to maintain your employment, albeit on a reduced scale.

Are They Being Fair?

If, however, you feel as though you and your colleagues are being toyed with and are simply being let down by your employers, you may wish to take the matter further, if your Contract Of Employment supports so.

So, go and dig out your contract of employment (sometimes also known as a written statement of employment particulars) – you did put it somewhere safe, didn’t you? This is where you will be able to asses what your next step will be. Look carefully at the ‘normal hours specified’ section as this will tell you what you need to know. It will usually say something along the lines of ‘you will be expected to complete working hours as necessary, compatible with the working time directive’.

What Can You Do?

Usually, reduced hours are at the request of the employee – for personal reasons – and the discretion of the employer. In your case, the fact that you have been given reduced hours suggests that you are either in a seasonal job or that your company may be experiencing some difficulties. Either way, the only true option for gaining more hours is to look for another job, as your contract is likely to cover a ‘no minimum hours’ point.

If it doesn’t, you and your colleagues have the right to ask for legal advice – your local Citizens Advice Bureau is a good place to start if you do not have a decent HR department. However, if your company is facing difficulties, do check that you are not simply jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

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[Add a Comment]
Johnny - Your Question:
Hi I was on a full time 40 hour contract and in the last 2 weeks of November 2017 was reduced to 26 hours.was told by my boss that he would get a new contract for me to sign.still waiting is this right?it's been 8 months now.or am I still on my 40 hour contract.

Our Response:
Much depends upon whether you agreed the change in hours. If you wished your hours to be reduced to 26 and agreed to the new terms, then you may wish to ask your employer for a contract again. If your employer doesn't respond, then please see the link here. However, if your employer changed the contract without your authorisation, then you may have recourse to complain. Please see the link here regarding making changes without agreement.
WorkingRights - 17-Jul-18 @ 10:25 AM
Hi I was on a full time 40 hour contract and in the last 2 weeks of November 2017 was reduced to 26 hours.was told by my boss that he would get a new contract for me to sign.still waiting is this right?.it's been 8 months now.or am I still on my 40 hour contract.
Johnny - 16-Jul-18 @ 11:40 AM
Mejulie - Your Question:
I have worked for company since October last year contracted at 33 hrs week without being told a new girl started now I'm only doing 22 hrs a week can my company do this if I am contracted for 33 hrs?

Our Response:
If you are on a permanent fixed hour contract for 33 hours, then your employer must stick to the terms of the contract. You may wish to give your contract a read and Acas a call if your employer is not keeping to the terms of the contract, as you may be able to claim the hours/wages back.
WorkingRights - 9-Jul-18 @ 2:46 PM
I have worked for company since October last year contracted at 33 hrs week without being told a new girl started now I'm only doing 22 hrs a week can my company do this if I am contracted for 33 hrs?
Mejulie - 6-Jul-18 @ 9:00 PM
Hi, I work part time and have worked 3.30pm-7.30 pm for a long time now when I first started nearly 13 years ago I was 3pm till 7pm but there was a recession so I was put on the hours I work now as I was always working past 7 therefore was working overtime and I think that's why I was put on 7.30 finish. On Thursday I was called into my bosses office to be told he wants to reduce my hours to 4.30 start and 7.30 finish so I will lose 5 hours a week and cannot afford to do this, also I am suffering really badly with peri menopause symptoms and this is all making me worse.
namistai - 23-Jun-18 @ 10:58 AM
Dawn - Your Question:
My colleague just informed me that some months ago my employer removed 30 minutes from the actual recorded hours worked as a consequence of my colleagues alleged 'laziness'. I am a diligent worker and have never had a warning of any form but my hours were retrospectively reduced as punitive action as I was working together with the offender. I was not formally informed at all. This to me is not only grossly unfair but appears unlawful. I feel constrained to complain as I am on minimum wage unskilled work in a blame culture. I would be grateful for any suggestions.

Our Response:
Please see the link here , which will tell you more about raising a grievance.
WorkingRights - 22-Jun-18 @ 2:59 PM
My colleague just informed me that some months ago my employer removed 30 minutes from the actual recorded hours worked as a consequence of my colleagues alleged 'laziness'.I am a diligent worker and have never had a warning of any form but my hours were retrospectively reduced as punitive action as I was working together with the offender.I was not formally informed at all.This to me is not only grossly unfair but appears unlawful.I feel constrained to complain as I am on minimum wage unskilled work in a blame culture.I would be grateful for any suggestions.
Dawn - 22-Jun-18 @ 11:43 AM
Apple - Your Question:
I have worked for the same company for 15 years I was off sick after an operation for three weeks and two days I returned to work to be told I was moving positions añd now they are trying to reduce my hours none of my other work colleagues hours are being reduced some even have overtime can they do this

Our Response:
If you are contracted for specific hours, your employer cannot reduce your hours unless you agree to the change in contract, please see link here which will explain more.
WorkingRights - 8-Jun-18 @ 12:55 PM
I have worked for the same company for 15 years I was off sick after an operation for three weeks and two days I returned to work to be told I was moving positions añd now they are trying to reduce my hours none of my other work colleagues hours are being reduced some even have overtime can they do this
Apple - 6-Jun-18 @ 11:42 PM
In January I had multiple seizures and was in the hospital for 2 weeks. when I came back to workand the chef told me that because of my seizures I am a liability. Now before the incident I was receiving over 80 hours a week. Now because I have a medical issue such as that how can he cut my hours.
Lano - 6-Jun-18 @ 7:08 AM
Mrs h - Your Question:
I have worked 16 hours for over four years and now they are expecting me to have a day off extra a week without pay.i cannot afford to do this as I live on my own.i am on a zero contact.But as stated worked 16 hours on a regular basis.can they look legally do this

Our Response:
If you are not on a permanent set hours contract, unfortunately there is little you can do in this case.
WorkingRights - 25-May-18 @ 3:48 PM
I have worked 16 hours for over four years and now they are expecting me to have a day off extra a week without pay.i cannot afford to do this as i live on my own.i am on a zero contact..But as stated worked 16 hours on a regular basis.can they look legally do this
Mrs h - 24-May-18 @ 9:05 PM
Hi I work at hair salon when I first interview the employer had agree to give me permanent full time job which is 6days/week, but I found out he noted me as a permanent part time worker. After I work for 1 month he cut 1day off, so only 5days’week. 5 days which is fine for me, but this morning he texted me said the business is running slow so cut 2 more days off, so only 3days/week which is 22hrs. Can he even do that to employee which they are relying on the job to pay all the bills?
Mei - 23-May-18 @ 1:08 PM
Michelle - Your Question:
I have worked in my company for 19 months now and my employer refuses to give me a contract, he claims they are not worth the paper they are written on and even when I asked for Employment particulars he refused. I have worked 4.5 hours Monday to Friday since I started and when I asked for auto enrolment onto a pension in April this year he exclaimed "you don't need that" and refused to do it for all staff members. I'm sure there is a law that states he has to do this? He has since hired another member of staff on a 40 hours (again no contract or particulars) and is reducing another full time member of staffs hours in order to pay for the new member.can he even do all this?

Our Response:
Your employer may think he is getting away with not having a contract, however as an employer you do have rights. The statement of particulars has to be provided in two months. You can see more via auto-enrolment via the link here, which will tell you all you need to know. If there are several employers, all without contracts I would give Acas a call, in order to explore yours and your other colleagues' rights.
WorkingRights - 15-May-18 @ 12:42 PM
I have worked in my company for 19 months now and my employer refuses to give me a contract, he claims they are not worth the paper they are written on and even when I asked for Employment particulars he refused. I have worked 4.5 hours Monday to Friday since I started and when I asked for auto enrolment onto a pension in April this year he exclaimed "you don't need that" and refused to do it for all staff members. I'm sure there is a law that states he has to do this? He has since hired another member of staff on a 40 hours (again no contract or particulars) and is reducing another full time member of staffs hours in order to pay for the new member...can he even do all this?
Michelle - 14-May-18 @ 6:22 PM
Razor - Your Question:
Hi I'm contracted to 16 hours a week & more hours if work available but today my boss had said he's going on holiday for 3 weeks soon & he will only be giving me 1 day a week which is 6 hours in total for the week can he do this or where do I stand etc as can't pay rent etc & feed family on 6 hours for 3 weeks as he's deciding to go on holiday which he normally does very often but always given me my 16 hours every other time he's went on holiday thanks

Our Response:
If you are on a permanent contract for 16 hours per week, then by law you should be paid for 16 hours per week. Otherwise, your employer is in breach of contract.
WorkingRights - 14-May-18 @ 3:09 PM
Hi I'm contracted to 16 hours a week & more hours if work available but today my boss had said he's going on holiday for 3 weeks soon & he will only be giving me 1 day a week which is 6 hours in total for the week can he do this or where do i stand etc as can't pay rent etc & feed family on 6 hours for 3 weeks as he's deciding to go on holiday which he normally does very often but always given me my 16 hours every other time he's went on holiday thanks
Razor - 11-May-18 @ 11:31 AM
I received a letter from my employer about 2 weeks ago advising me that from 2 days later my working hours were to be cut in half, with no discussion with me. They then sent me another letter a week later saying to disregard the previous one. This was due to the fact they discovered I had a contract for 12 hour/week with more hours as deemed necessary. During the winter I work 10 and a half hours/week and in the summer it is/was up to 16 hours/week. 2 years.ago they removed the designated footpaths I had to keep clear plus one lot of grass cutting to be done, this year they have removed all the grass cutting I did and given it to a contractor. I now have no way to make up my contracted hours over the summer, which was my reason for taking the job in the first place,hence their letter telling me they were going to cut my hours down to 6 hours/week. With the bills I have to pay, this is no good to me so will have to quit.They have basically given my work to someone else, expecting me to quit I suppose.My contract states that I work a minimum of 12 hours a week---for half a year I am only paid for 10 1/2---could I claim the missing 1 1/2hours have to be paid? Surely giving my work to someone else amounts to constructive dismissal? Whilst I accept that discussion with my employer is the best way forward I would appreciate your opinion on my position as it stands Thank you David
David - 4-May-18 @ 12:07 PM
I received a letter from my employer about 2 weeks ago advising me that from 2 days later my working hours were to be cut in half, with no discussion with me. They then sent me another letter a week later saying to disregard the previous one. This was due to the fact they discovered I had a contract for 12 hour/week with more hours as deemed necessary. During the winter I work 10 and a half hours/week and in the summer it is/was up to 16 hours/week. 2 years.ago they removed the designated footpaths I had to keep clear plus one lot of grass cutting to be done, this year they have removed all the grass cutting I did and given it to a contractor. I now have no way to make up my contracted hours over the summer, which was my reason for taking the job in the first place,hence their letter telling me they were going to cut my hours down to 6 hours/week. With the bills I have to pay, this is no good to me so will have to quit.They have basically given my work to someone else, expecting me to quit I suppose.My contract states that I work a minimum of 12 hours a week---for half a year I am only paid for 10 1/2---could I claim the missing 1 1/2hours have to be paid? Surely giving my work to someone else amounts to constructive dismissal? Whilst I accept that discussion with my employer is the best way forward I would appreciate your opinion on my position as it stands Thank you David
David - 4-May-18 @ 10:45 AM
I received a letter from my employer about 2 weeks ago advising me that from 2 days later my working hours were to be cut in half, with no discussion with me. They then sent me another letter a week later saying to disregard the previous one. This was due to the fact they discovered I had a contract for 12 hour/week with more hours as deemed necessary. During the winter I work 10 and a half hours/week and in the summer it is/was up to 16 hours/week. 2 years.ago they removed the designated footpaths I had to keep clear plus one lot of grass cutting to be done, this year they have removed all the grass cutting I did and given it to a contractor. I now have no way to make up my contracted hours over the summer, which was my reason for taking the job in the first place,hence their letter telling me they were going to cut my hours down to 6 hours/week. With the bills I have to pay, this is no good to me so will have to quit.They have basically given my work to someone else, expecting me to quit I suppose.My contract states that I work a minimum of 12 hours a week---for half a year I am only paid for 10 1/2---could I claim the missing 1 1/2hours have to be paid? Surely giving my work to someone else amounts to constructive dismissal? Whilst I accept that discussion with my employer is the best way forward I would appreciate your opinion on my position as it stands Thank you David
David - 4-May-18 @ 10:05 AM
AG - Your Question:
I work in a school kitchen - can my employers reduce my hours by nearly half but still expect the same level of work to be done.

Our Response:
You would have to check the terms and conditions of your employment contract to see whether there is a clause in your contract to say your employer can change your hours, please see link here. If you do not agree with the changes then you may wish to try to solve the issues with your employer directly, or speak to your TU rep if you are a member.
WorkingRights - 1-May-18 @ 10:23 AM
I work in a school kitchen - can my employers reduce my hours by nearly half but still expect the same level of work to be done.
AG - 30-Apr-18 @ 5:08 PM
Last July 2017 I was asked to sign a new contract reducing my hours from 15 hrs a week to 10 Hrs a week.On the 29th March 2018 I was made redundantas the company went into insolvency.I worked for the company for 14years and half years.I am enquiringon which hours do I claim my redundancy pay do I work out the amount on 10hrs or 15 hrs?
Jobless - 20-Apr-18 @ 10:14 PM
Maria- Your Question:
Hi I am contracted for 35/hours a week but unfortunatelly I do not get them hours and if I have any annual leave I only get paid for 28hors/week. Is this right? Isn't my boss obliged to pay me the 35 hours /week???? It's not me refusing to work them hours, I just don't get them. Can you help me please?Thank you

Our Response:
If you are contracted for 35 hours, then you should be paid for 35 hours. You should read the terms and conditions of your employment contract and perhaps give ACAS a call in order to explore your options.
WorkingRights - 29-Mar-18 @ 10:04 AM
Hi I am contracted for 35/hours a week but unfortunatelly I do not get them hours and if I have any annual leave I only get paid for 28hors/week. Is this right?Isn't my boss obliged to pay me the 35 hours /week???? It's not me refusing to work them hours, I just don't get them. Can you help me please? Thank you
Maria - 28-Mar-18 @ 2:42 PM
Ginag123 - Your Question:
Hi I have a snackvan and employ 2 girls for 16 hours. 1 girl is on the sick for the last two weeks. And has handed in another sicknote for a further 2 weeks. This could be an ongoing thing as it’s down to depression. I currently am having to work 7 days a week to cover the shifts she worked. Can I employ someone else and reduce her hours from the 16 hours she is contracted for? As carnt afford as a small business to be paying out a lot more in wages?

Our Response:
You cannot reduce your employees contracted hours if these are the hours your employee is contracted for. Also, you cannot reduce her hours without her agreement, please see link here , which explain more in addition to the information in the article.
WorkingRights - 20-Mar-18 @ 9:56 AM
Hi I have a snackvan and employ 2 girls for 16 hours. 1 girl is on the sick for the last two weeks. And has handed in another sicknote for a further 2 weeks. This could be an ongoing thing as it’s down to depression. I currently am having to work 7 days a week to cover the shifts she worked. Can I employ someone else and reduce her hours from the 16 hours she is contracted for? As carnt afford as a small business to be paying out a lot more in wages?
Ginag123 - 19-Mar-18 @ 3:39 PM
Jules - Your Question:
Hi. I've just heard that my employers are wanting to look at having new contracts drawn up for my particular role within the company. The hours will stay the same, the job role will basically stay the same, but they are looking at changing the job title and reducing our wages by a considerable amount (about 1700) for myself. I have been employed with this company for 9 and a half years. I'm not sure where I stand on refusing to sign the new contract as I don't agree with this.

Our Response:
In addition to the information in the article, please see link here, which will give you more information which should help answer your question.
WorkingRights - 9-Mar-18 @ 3:17 PM
Hi. I've just heard that my employers are wanting to look at having new contracts drawn up for my particular role within the company. The hours will stay the same, the job role will basically stay the same, but they are looking at changing the job title and reducing our wages by a considerable amount (about 1700) for myself. I have been employed with this company for 9 and a half years. I'm not sure where I stand on refusing to sign the new contract as I don't agree with this.
Jules - 9-Mar-18 @ 11:40 AM
Hey i work in a food production factory I work there for about 3 years about o no june 2017 they gave me 45h contact now they want to drop my hours down I don't know what to do I told them what happens I feel I don't accept they say they change it without my consent but I really don't know what to do as they change my position as I derent had a chance to do nothing about as they say "it's business needs" and they have the right i have told they in no verial terms on my contract saying that they can chenge me I really need somebody advice here thanks
Migueljose - 6-Mar-18 @ 9:52 PM
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