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Can My Employer Reduce My Working Hours

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 22 Jun 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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[Add a Comment]
Sock - Your Question:
Can my employer reduced my hour s contract from21 hours to zero contract

Our Response:
If you are employed on a permanent contract, your employer can only re-negotiate your hours if you agree. Much also depends upon how long you have been working for your employer with regards to claiming unfair dismissal if your employer attempts to dismiss you if you refuse to change. Please see link here .
WorkingRights - 23-Jun-17 @ 11:34 AM
Can my employer reduced my hour s contract from21 hours to zero contract
Sock - 22-Jun-17 @ 3:37 PM
i work 5 on5 off doing 30 hrs on my 5 in but get paid 21.5 hrs and same on my 5 off now my employer wants to just pay me for the hours worked can they do this
liz - 14-Jun-17 @ 6:45 AM
Joanne - Your Question:
I have 26 hour contract can my employer reduce my hours?

Our Response:
Much depends upon the type of contract you are on and the terms and conditions outlined in your employment contract. If there is a clause in the contract specifying your hours can be reduced then your employer can do this. Or if you are on a zero hour contract, there is no obligation by your employer to give you set hours.
WorkingRights - 13-Jun-17 @ 12:12 PM
I have 26 hour contract can my employer reduce my hours?
Joanne - 12-Jun-17 @ 8:05 PM
@Peter - If you are contracted on zero/variable hours, your contract will still stand and overrule and informal agreement, unless your employer changes the original terms and conditions.
Liz. - 31-May-17 @ 12:43 PM
I work in retail and have a contract that states 'anticipated' hours - 18 hours per week but it also says that hours may go up or down. I have an arrangement with the manager (confirmed in email) that i will work set days and times to make up the 18 hours but recently i have been sent home early or been told not to come in because work is quiet or they have too many staff. I am not paid for the short hours and this is causing problems with paying my rent - should i be paid for the 18 hours i was expecting to work or do i have to swallow this shortfall in wages? thanks
Peter - 30-May-17 @ 6:02 PM
Newschief - Your Question:
I work in a small call centre of around 40, working on a 'zero hours' type contract. Last week, when we all turned up for work, the computer systems? were not working and someone was attempting a repair. However after two hours, we were told the problem could not be fixed that day, and we were told that we would be paid for the two hours but not for the further hours we had been scheduled to work on that agreed shift, agreed previously as usual the previous week. Was that legal and where do we stand on this issue?

Our Response:
It is legal if you are on a zero hours contract and your contract says you are only paid for the hours worked. Therefore, you would need to read the terms and conditions of your contract in order to answer your question.
WorkingRights - 26-May-17 @ 12:52 PM
I work in a small call centre of around 40, working on a 'zero hours' type contract. Last week, when we all turned up for work, the computer systems? were not working and someone was attempting a repair. However after two hours, we were told the problem could not be fixed that day, and we were told that we would be paid for the two hours but not for the further hours we had been scheduled to work on that agreed shift, agreed previously as usual the previous week.Was that legal and where do we stand on this issue?
Newschief - 26-May-17 @ 8:17 AM
Sabs - Your Question:
Hi, I have a 8 hour contract in retail, always worked a 4 or 8 hours sifts, next week I've been asked to work, one day a 2 hours another day 3 hours and the last day 4 hours, I don't mind working 8 hours or more during the week, but I don't want to work only 2 or 3 hours sifts ! Can they make me work so little hours? Thank you

Our Response:
Much depends upon what contract you are on, whether you are contracted for specific hours, or whether you are on a zero hours contract (which means your employer can change the hours to suit). If you have a permanent contract, unless your contract states your hours can be changed if needed, then you can refuse.
WorkingRights - 2-May-17 @ 12:38 PM
Hi, I have a 8 hour contract in retail, always worked a 4 or 8 hours sifts, next week I've been asked to work, one day a 2 hours another day 3 hours and the last day 4 hours,I don't mind working 8 hours or more during the week,but I don't want to work only 2 or 3 hours sifts ! Can they make me work so little hours? Thank you
Sabs - 1-May-17 @ 8:53 PM
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
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