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Can My Employer Reduce My Working Hours

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 21 Apr 2017 | 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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Hi I work for a company and lately every week the budget for the wages keeps getting cut by head office. At the minute it's been cut so low it's only covering the managements contracts so there's not enough to cover the rest of the staff, I just wanted to know are they allowed to do this or should they give enough to cover everyone's contrated hours?
Vickster - 21-Apr-17 @ 10:14 AM
spicer - Your Question:
Is employer allowed to cut my hours just because I have gone off sick

Our Response:
Much depends on what contract you are on. If you are on a pemanent one, then your employer cannot reduce your hours unless through prior negotiation. If you are on a zero hours contract, then your employer can.
WorkingRights - 20-Apr-17 @ 12:01 PM
Is employer allowed to cut my hours just because I have gone off sick
spicer - 19-Apr-17 @ 6:46 PM
Kim- Your Question:
I work 20hrs a week. I'm employed by a large pharmacy company. I got told yesterday that they are taking 50 hours away from us as a shop. Which means I'm losing 6 hours a week. Also my holiday will be affected. I have nothing in writing and was told this has to start by beginning of may. Can they do this. I won't be able to pay my mortgage now as I will be 6 days short of pay per month.

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your contract which will say whether your employer can reduce hours i.e if you are on a zero hours contract, then your company is within its rights.
WorkingRights - 10-Apr-17 @ 10:19 AM
I work 20hrs a week. I'm employed by a large pharmacy company.I got told yesterday that they are taking 50 hours away from us as a shop. Which means I'm losing 6 hours a week.Also my holiday will be affected. I have nothing in writing and was told this has to start by beginning of may. Can they do this. I won't be able to pay my mortgage now as I will be 6 days short of pay per month.
Kim - 9-Apr-17 @ 12:58 AM
mikey69 - Your Question:
I work 4 days a week. My employer has given me notice of reduncancy which is 8 weeks. They also want to cut my hours in the last month from 4 to 3 days a week.What is my statutary reduncancy pay hours based on ? 3 or 4 days a week. Can they reduce my hours like this while under notice ? Thanks

Our Response:
You can calculate your statutory redundancy pay via the link here.
WorkingRights - 4-Apr-17 @ 2:11 PM
I work 4 days a week. My employer has given me notice of reduncancy which is 8 weeks. They also want to cut my hours in the last month from 4to 3 days a week ...What is my statutary reduncancy pay hours based on ? 3 or 4 days a week. Can they reduce my hours like this while under notice ? Thanks
mikey69 - 1-Apr-17 @ 9:16 AM
I have been working for a company for 7 months and I signed a contract in December for 16hours today I received a memo telling me my contracrpted hours have gone done to 8hrs and it started on the 1st January 2017 so for the past nearly four months I have not known about this is there anything I could do and are they allowed to do this
zo - 29-Mar-17 @ 8:01 PM
I work for council teaching. I was put on a 16 hour week annualised contract at the beginning of last November (new job). They wanted me to complete 520 hours of teaching by 31st July. They thought I would have classes starting immediately to make up the 16 hrs. However I only had 4 hours worth of teaching every week from November to Feb. And so have accrued 189 owed hours! I'm now working 17.5 hours and they have no more work for me so they have decided to reduce my contract to 14hours back-dated to November and have worked out I owe 56 hours of work; which they havent got and want me to pay them back for this. Even though it was them who had no work for me even though I was available. Where do I stand regarding this???
Nelly - 13-Mar-17 @ 11:41 PM
Loz - Your Question:
Currently working a 40 hour week & due to cuts in NHS budgets my employer wants to cut my hours down to 35 which doesn't sound like a big cut but it would cause me severe financial hardship. At the same time they're creating a new managerial position with a ridiculous high pay scale (an amount most of us could only dream of) & it's a position that's not really needed. Can they cut my hours, claiming budget cuts, when they're spending ridiculous amounts on an uneccessary position?

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your contract to see whether there in a clause in it that allows yoru employer to be able to reduce your hours. The fact another person is being employed in a different role will have no bearing on a decision made regarding your role.
WorkingRights - 8-Mar-17 @ 2:04 PM
Skip - Your Question:
I am an employer and I have 1 member of staff who has been with the company for 19 years. We have seen a decline in work and wanting to suggest she is to go part time (16hrs), we have evidence from the accountants they confirm the decline in work. She knows of the situation as we have briefly discussed but she says she would rather be made redundant as too old to find another full time job. The business is not in a position to pay redundancy. What is the best solution?

Our Response:
This is a tricky question to answer as you don't give any reasons why there has been a decline in your employees work. If you feel your employees work is not satisfactory, then ideally you should attempt to ascertain why and work with your employee to try to get her back on track. If your employee still cannot do her job properly, please see link here, as it would also come under reasons to dismiss an employee. However, in order to do so, you would have to explore ways to help your employee and surely it is more advantageous for you that you have an employee who performs well in their job. With regards to changing your employees contract by a reduction in hours, it is still not a straightforward process and you could be liable for unfair dismissal, please see ACAS link here. I suggest in this instance you give ACAS a call for some direct advice.
WorkingRights - 8-Mar-17 @ 11:14 AM
Currently working a 40 hour week & due to cuts in NHS budgets my employer wants to cut my hours down to 35 which doesn't sound like a big cut but it would cause me severe financial hardship. At the same time they're creating a new managerial position with a ridiculous high pay scale (an amount most of us could only dream of) & it's a position that's not really needed. Can they cut my hours, claiming budget cuts, when they're spending ridiculous amounts on an uneccessary position?
Loz - 7-Mar-17 @ 8:17 PM
I am an employer and I have 1 member of staff who has been with the company for 19 years. We have seen a decline in work and wanting to suggest she is to go part time (16hrs), we have evidence from the accountants they confirm the decline in work. She knows of the situation as we have briefly discussed but she says she would rather be made redundant as too old to find another full time job. The business is not in a position to pay redundancy. What is the best solution?
Skip - 7-Mar-17 @ 9:15 AM
I have a 27 hour contract ( the most my company gives out ) but have worked 40+ hours since I started 2 years ago as have my colleagues, the management have now hired extra staff cutting our hours down to low 30's as they say legally they only have to honour our contract, people are having to pick up shifts on their days off to make up hours and it is causing a lot of tension and friction in the staff room when the new rota comes out, is there anything we can do about this?
Yoda - 6-Mar-17 @ 11:45 PM
I have a 24hr contract for 2 specific nights a week in a private hospital. Recently they changed our hours from 19-7 to 20-8 They then introduced 1\2 hr unpaid break even though we are unable to leave the ward. This brought my hours down by 1 hr a week that I was able to make up through training throughout the year. (If sick or on AL still get full 24hrs) I have now received notice from April the shift will reduce to 20.30-8 with 1 hrs unpaid break. This means I will be down 3 hrs a week, 12 a month. I was told I would need to do extra to make up my hours which is not possible and why I was given the contract I have. Do I ask to reduce the contracted hrs, do I have any rights regarding this?
Lou - 2-Mar-17 @ 8:15 PM
HelloS I have a contract of 30 hours and my holiday is based in this. Yet I have been working an average of 38-40 hours a week for the last year. Do they have to up my contract? And what are my rihts regarding my holidays? Many thanks
Julie - 25-Feb-17 @ 10:42 AM
And they dont lisen to what you want i have done so much for them but no respect no nothing of them the managers ther all the same its diagusting.
Faz - 23-Feb-17 @ 5:38 PM
Hi, i currently work in a nursing home and just today i dont have a contract or anything since i startid june 2016 an today i was asked if i could do a 121 for a resident at the hospital because the service user has been in hospital for a few days and i refused to go because i didnt want to go there i dont mind doing it at the home but hospital i dont so the manager messaged me an said the 2 days that im meant to work she cant give it me an shes got cover just because i didnt do 121 at the hospital but before all that they kept pestering me and forcing me saying i have to go, so can you tel me what i can do i dont know??
Faz - 23-Feb-17 @ 5:35 PM
My son is working for a leisure activity company and is concerned that the hours he is being given don’t match his contract. Currently he is only receiving 8 hours per week (32 hours per 4-week period) but he believes he should be receiving a minimum of 80 hours per 4-week period. He checked his contract which states the following: 3.You are contracted to work a minimum of 80 hours per 4 weekly pay period. You will need to complete 16 hours/4 weeks to ensure you remain trained in your role. You may be offered enhanced contracted hours after successful completion of the Company's training programme and/or during the school & public holidays. 4.Your working hours and days of work will be set in advance by your Site Manager and you will be required to work weekends and bank holidays for the proper performance of your duties and to meet the needs of the Company's business. You are not obliged to accept the hours of work offered, but if you do not accept the hours of work offered, or if you are absent for any reason, the number of contracted hours will reduce at rate of 8 hours/day. Before any rota is created, he is required to inform the company on which days he is available. He is always available 4 days of each 7-day period. The clause in point 4 is confusing in relation to minimum contracted hours that he is actually entitled to. The company informed him that he is not entitled to the minimum 80 hours. I looked at this but cant figure it out?? What is he entitled to based on what I've described?
Scottishbadger - 17-Feb-17 @ 11:00 AM
Pike - Your Question:
I have worked the same hours and shifts for my employer over 2 years as it fits around my commitments outside of work. These were agreed on my employment with the company. However I have aired some worries about my new manager with our area manager and she is now threatening to reduce my hours and change my working shifts, knowing I wouldn't be able to fulfill them. Can this be done?

Our Response:
Much depends upon what type of contract you are on. If you are on a permanent contract with set hours, then your employer cannot change your hours without your authorisation. However, if you are on a zero hours contract, then your employer/boss can change your hours to suit. I advise you read your contract through to see of there are any clauses to say your employer can make these changes.
WorkingRights - 10-Feb-17 @ 12:46 PM
I have worked the same hours and shifts for my employer over 2 years as it fits around my commitments outside of work. These were agreed on my employment with the company. However I have aired some worries about my new manager with our area manager and she is now threatening to reduce my hours and change my working shifts, knowing I wouldn't be able to fulfill them. Can this be done?
Pike - 9-Feb-17 @ 12:10 PM
I dont know if i am right to put the comment here, I work self employees and work at private residental home, that last year, I work 60 hours a week without no problem, because I not get paid holiday or sickness. Now my line manager cut hours (4 staffs of us) We all self employees. I explained why, they saying because Essex County Council say that cut the hours and change 3 shifts a day, I live far away about 50 mins to get there at work. Does the ECC say that, or just line managers decide to choose herself cut us hours? Does line managers have right to choose rota shifts, or Self employers (meself) choose what am I available to work the day and hours.? I cannot afford to lose hours, because i not entitled get paid holiday and sickness. I need your advise.
PA - 3-Feb-17 @ 9:36 AM
SL - Your Question:
A friend of mine works in a hairdressers, she's been there 6 years, is aged over 25. She hasn't got a contract of employment so I'm not sure she can do much about this, but any advise would be greatly appreciated.She currently gets paid the national living wage of £7.20 p/h for 36 hours per week, although she works 38 hours (2 hours are deducted for breaks). There's only her and her boss working there and she's not allowed to take her lunch break and just works through this. When the living wage is due to increase in April, she fully expects her boss to reduce her hours, claiming she can't afford to pay her more (it's what she's did when the minimum wage increased last time).Without an employment contract, does she have any right to stop this happening? Her boss treats her terribly, making her work when shes ill etc, and I just think it's so wrong.Her boss also owes her several thousand punds in back pay from when she wasn't paid the minimum wage for the first couple of years she worked there. Her boss again claiming she can't afford to pay her this just yet (which is rubbish as she has several foreign holidays per year).Any advise on the hours reduction would be greatly appreciated, thanks.

Our Response:
You don't say whether her employer is paying National Insurance or tax on her behalf. If he is, then she has a contract and she should ask her employer to supply her with a written one (it is illegal to refuse). She should also insist on a break as refusing one is flouting the European working time directive laws. With regards to back pay etc, and any further information she needs, I can only suggest she gives ACAS a call in order to explore her options and rights.
WorkingRights - 2-Feb-17 @ 11:52 AM
Jane - Your Question:
I have been contracted for 37.5 hours per week for about 5 years now. After xmas break we all came back to be told they had to cut our hours and take 20 percent off us. I always thought we needed 28 days notice but they have told me that is not the case! We are still going ahead with cut hours through February possibly longer but I have recently found out they are giving other members off staff overtime! Although someone has gone off sick so they needed cover but are still giving certain people overtime when everyone else is still struggling. Where do I stand on this? Are they allowed to do this? Thanks

Our Response:
Much depends upon the terms of your contract if you wish to see what your employer is entitled to do. If you and the other staff think you are being treated unfairly with regards to overtime etc, then you would have to broach this with your employer directly.
WorkingRights - 2-Feb-17 @ 10:59 AM
A friend of mine works in a hairdressers, she's been there 6 years, is aged over 25. She hasn't got a contract of employment so I'm not sure she can do much about this, but any advise would be greatly appreciated. She currently gets paid the national living wage of £7.20 p/h for 36 hours per week, although she works 38 hours (2 hours are deducted for breaks). There's only her and her boss working there and she's not allowed to take her lunch break and just works through this. When the living wage is due to increase in April, she fully expects her boss to reduce her hours, claiming she can't afford to pay her more (it's what she's did when the minimum wage increased last time). Without an employment contract, does she have any right to stop this happening? Her boss treats her terribly, making her work when shes ill etc, and I just think it's so wrong. Her boss also owes her several thousand punds in back pay from when she wasn't paid the minimum wage for the first couple of years she worked there. Her boss again claiming she can't afford to pay her this just yet (which is rubbish as she has several foreign holidays per year). Any advise on the hours reduction would be greatly appreciated, thanks.
SL - 1-Feb-17 @ 10:52 AM
i have been contracted for 37.5 hours per week for about 5 years now. After xmas break we all came back to be told they had to cut our hours and take 20 percent off us. I always thought we needed 28 days notice but they have told me that is not the case! We are still going ahead with cut hours through February possibly longer but i have recently found out they are giving other members off staff overtime! Although someone has gone off sick so they needed cover but are still giving certain people overtime when everyone else is still struggling. Where do i stand on this? Are they allowed to do this? Thanks
Jane - 1-Feb-17 @ 10:11 AM
10 months of maternity leave I was asking my boss for my wages every month & when I went back to work he said the Government owe him money as he had to pay me himself while on maternity!! Also my contract is for 25.5 hours and having gone back to work we had a discussion and I was happy working 16.Now all of a sudden he is saying I'm slacking with my work and he's not happy and now he is cutting my hours down to 7 per week is this allowed?Also since being back at work my wages have been late sometimes isn't this illegal?Ive been at the same company for 14 years but my new boss took over just over 2 years ago.I have never had a complaint in all the years I've worked there..I'm getting depressed through his behaviour and I don't look forward to work anymore.
SC - 27-Jan-17 @ 8:26 PM
Hi I currently work 17.5hours a week and my company has won the tender contract for another 4 year and have said that they want to change and reduce my contract hours and times of work from 17.5hours to 15 hours. I have been working on this contract for 24years and have had no problems before. I am one of 3 people on this old contract of 17.5hours, can they make the change to my contract legally. Regards Wallo
Wallo - 19-Jan-17 @ 5:19 PM
I have been working for my current employer for about 21 months, and during that most of period I have been covering the same shifts every week over a 2 week rotation (i.e I alternate covering the saturday day and saturday night shift with another member of staff but cover the same shifts for the rest of the week). My contract does not make any mention of minimum or maximum working hours, and there are no clauses covering a change of hours. I do however have several text messages from both the company general manager and the office manager relating to a previous issue over a re-allocation of shifts and a request from me to have my hours increased, that state that I am allocated 30 hours a week, and that I am not under any obligation to give up or swap any shifts if I do not wish to. Most days, the working day is split between 3 shifts with the exception of saturday and sunday which are split between 2 shifts. My employer has recently taken on a new general manager and they have mentioned that they would like to change the saturday into 3 shifts as the current arrangement of 2 x 10 hour shifts is rather demanding on the staff that do it and makes it difficult to find cover for sickness and holiday. I don't have a problem with my saturday working hours being changed, but I can't afford to take any fewer hours. What obligation is my employer under to make sure that I still get 30 hours per week if there is a change to the shift pattern?
Funkleton - 13-Jan-17 @ 5:24 PM
sue - Your Question:
I have worked for a company that contracts through the state and I have been here for 7 years at 37.5 hours a week and now the supervisor needs more hours and there going to take two of my days can they do this please help thank you

Our Response:
Much depends upon the type of contract you are on. You would have to read the terms of your contarct to see whether your employer can change your hours.
WorkingRights - 11-Jan-17 @ 3:07 PM
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