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Can My Employer Reduce My Working Hours

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 14 May 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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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
Hi. I work in a hotel as a head housekeeper. The first job of the day is to organise the room attendants scheduals and to organise who will be cleaning what rooms. I have now been told that my hours will be cut as the reception team will now be doing the room attendants scheduals instead. Can they do this? Thank you on advance
karenm111 - 6-Mar-18 @ 5:53 PM
Anna - Your Question:
Hi. I have recently asked to reduce my hours from 8 shifts roughly 56 hours a week to 7, roughly 49. I have been told this is an unacceptable number of hours worked for a manger and will be demoted accordingly. Is this ok considering my new number of hours is still quiet high and I am paid hourly anyway?

Our Response:
Much depends upon what your contracted hours specify. If you wish to renegotiate your contract, your employer has the right to refuse. If you have opted out of the maximum 48 hour week by signing the contract, then there is little you can do. Therefore, you would need to read the terms of your contract and give ACAS a call if you are still unsure.
WorkingRights - 6-Mar-18 @ 11:01 AM
Hi. I have recently asked to reduce my hours from 8 shifts roughly 56 hours a week to 7, roughly 49. I have been told this is an unacceptable number of hours worked for a manger and will be demoted accordingly. Is this ok considering my new number of hours is still quiet high and I am paid hourly anyway?
Anna - 5-Mar-18 @ 4:35 PM
Louise - Your Question:
Hi there, at the end of last year members of staff were individually met to discuss ways in which the company could save money. A reduction in working hours is what was asked of us. We care very much about where we work and volunteered to lose hours. Consequently within a month of doing so another person was employed on the same collective hours we had given up. Is this fair considering we were told there was no money.

Our Response:
You would have to try to resolve this matter with your employer directly. However, if you’re not satisfied or the issue is not resolved by way of exlanation or action, you can make a formal grievance complaint in writing. Please see link here.
WorkingRights - 26-Feb-18 @ 2:51 PM
Hi there, at the end of last year members of staff were individually met to discuss ways in which the company could save money. A reduction in working hours is what was asked of us. We care very much about where we work and volunteered to lose hours. Consequently within a month of doing so another person was employed on the same collective hours we had given up. Is this fair considering we were told there was no money.
Louise - 26-Feb-18 @ 8:36 AM
Greenie- Your Question:
Hi two years ago I was on a 40h contract then I took up the supervisor roll 2years later I'm still doing it and I'm thinking of stepping down will I still be entitled to still work my 40 or is there a possibility of them dropping my contracted hours down and if they do drop my hours down is this legal ?

Our Response:
You would have to discuss this directly with your employer, as your contract would have to be renegotiated. It's a tricky question to answer, as much depends upon whether a non-supervisory roll is still available for you to step in to.
WorkingRights - 23-Feb-18 @ 11:57 AM
Hi two years ago i was on a 40h contract then I took up the supervisor roll 2years later I'm still doing it and I'm thinking of stepping down will I still be entitled to still work my 40 or is there a possibility of them dropping my contracted hours down and if they do drop my hours down is this legal ?
Greenie - 22-Feb-18 @ 9:45 PM
ginge - Your Question:
I have a contract for 15 hours per week I I had to take time off work because my partner was undergoing treatment for lung cancer I have returned to work but on a 9 hour a week phase return my partner has terminal cancer my employer which my employer is well aware of they have now told me because I cannot do my 15 hours I will have to sign a new contact for the 9 hours I told them if anything happens with my partner in the future I am not going to be able to manage on financially on 9 hours can they force me to sign this new contract

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. Unfortunately, if you cannot do your contracted hours your employer can ask you to change your contract in line with this. Contractually, it means there will be no obligation on the employer to continue full-time pay if the job is being done part time. Your pay may therefore be reduced proportionately and contractually in accordance with the reduction in your working hours. You would have to speak to your employer directly regarding whether you would continue to work the nine hours per week, or whether your hours would return to 15 at some point in the future. A written agreement could be arranged between you. However, your employer cannot make changes your contract unilaterally. A contract can generally only be amended according to its terms, or with the agreement of both parties. If you need to clarify this matter, you may wish to read the terms of your contract and give ACAS a call.
WorkingRights - 13-Feb-18 @ 10:52 AM
pink - Your Question:
Hi I have worked for 18 years at the same place my boss called me to a meeting to say they were having to reduce my hour I asked where the other employee was and he said it didn't affect her hours who is employed on a 0hour contract can a employer cut a 28hour contract and not change the 0hour contract

Our Response:
A zero hour contract is just that, you employer does not have to give the zero hour contracted employer any set hours. Therefore, the hours can change without any contracts having to be signed or changed. Your employer can reduce your hours if there is a clause in your contract to say your employer can do this. Much depends on the reasons why your employer wishes to change your contract and whether this is deemed fair.
WorkingRights - 12-Feb-18 @ 2:29 PM
i have a contract for 15 hours per week II hadto take time off work because my partner was undergoing treatment for lung cancer I have returned to work but on a 9 hour a week phase return my partner has terminal cancer my employer which my employer is well aware of they have now told me because I cannot do my 15 hours I will have to sign a new contact for the9 hours I told them if anything happens with my partner in the future I am not going to be able to manage on financially on 9 hours can they force me to sign this new contract
ginge - 12-Feb-18 @ 11:32 AM
hi I have worked for 18 years at the same place my boss called me to a meeting to say they were having to reduce my hour I asked where the other employee was and he said it didn't affect her hours who is employed on a 0hour contract can a employer cut a 28hour contract and not change the 0hour contract
pink - 10-Feb-18 @ 2:11 AM
Hi I was working a 37hr week before I had my total replacement. I was then requested to work on a phased return, I said I would see how I got on as I have been experiencing knee pain since my operation causing me lack of sleep & a lot of pain. As the weeks went on I could not see myself returning to my full 37hours so I requested to drop to 24hrs over a three day period. I have been doing so for the past month. My manager has now told me that there isn't enough work for my previous role & they want to reduce my hours to 14hours a week. I cannot live on this financially. The new tasks I have been given are quite vast & I am struggling to see where I can achieve all my tasks in 14hours. Other staff have requested to reduce their hours & they have been granted them with no issues. I would appreciate your advice on this matter. Thank you
Baz - 9-Feb-18 @ 11:14 AM
I work part time on a rota basis in a convenience store open 7 days per week from 7am - 10pm, My hours are on a fortnightly work rota.I am contracted to work 18 hours per week. It has recently been decided by head office that employees will now commence working at 6.45am each day instead of 6.30am.And also no overlap of staff finishing work/staff commencing their work during the day.I appreciate and acknowledge that the company has to make cutbacks in this tough economic climate.However, it has been suggested to me by my immediate manager that the Area Manager has been looking to cut my hours on a Friday which is 10am - 3pm as he wants everyone within the store to work 1 on 1.Instead of a Manager, Supervisor and 1 sales assistant.So if he cut my hours on a Friday it would be 1 x Manager and 1 x supervisor.However my grievance is that on a Mondaym Tuesday and Wednesday morning there is 1 Manager, 1 x supevisor and 1 sales assistant on from 6.45am - 12.30pmThere is no talk/mention of this sales assistant losing any of his hours, nor the Supevisor losing the hours relevant to 6.45am - 12.30pm.Can the firm do this cut my hours per week by 5 making me lose 20 hours of the 4 weekly pay as with the cuts already made the most any employee is losing is approx 8 per month.I wouldn't mind having hours reduced the same as the rest of my colleagues but I do object to the difference of 12 hours per 4 weeks.
Angies21 - 3-Feb-18 @ 7:44 PM
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