Home > Ask Our Experts > Can My Employer Reduce My Working Hours

Can My Employer Reduce My Working Hours

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 11 Dec 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.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Kenny - Your Question:
Hi.I have had a whole new knee last year and I am on reduced hours for the last 2months and work are asking me too drop my hours I have a contract for 37hours can they finish me or reduce my hours ?

Our Response:
Much depends on what your contract says. As specified in the article, your contract says your employer can reduce your hours, then your employer can. Much also depends upon the reason why your employer is doing this. If there is a genuine reason (such as to avoid redundancy) and other employees are having their hours reduced in tandem, then your employer can do this, please see link here. However, if you feel you are being singled out, then you may wish to give ACAS a call for further advice.
WorkingRights - 12-Dec-17 @ 10:00 AM
Hi. I have had a whole new knee last year and I am on reduced hours for the last 2months and work are asking me too drop my hours I have a contract for 37hours can they finish me or reduce my hours ?
Kenny - 11-Dec-17 @ 12:46 PM
Wraith - Your Question:
I signed a contract stating 35+ hours minimum per week, and have been doing over this for the 3 months I've currently Bern with my employer. Recently, I received a group message sent to all members of staff stating as of Jan 2018, every member of full time staff will be doing 29 hours per week, thus losing 6+ hours per week, which equates to £140 a month defecit. can they do this?

Our Response:
As specified in the article, much depends upon what the reason is for reducing your hours are. If it is because work is slack, then rather than face being laid off, then you may wish to make such a compromise. The fact you have been with your employer such a short time, means that you are still in your probationary period (if you are on a permanent contract) and your employer does not have to give a reason to dismiss you. Therefore, you may wish to take the advice of the article when deciding what you should do.
WorkingRights - 8-Dec-17 @ 3:46 PM
Charlie - Your Question:
My employer has said that they want us to reduce our Friday hours when it is a quiet period and work the accumulated hours during bust periods without any overtime.Can they enforce this policy?Thanks

Our Response:
Much depends upon what the terms and conditions of your current contract are. You do not have to agree to these changes as neither you or your employer can change your employment contract without each others' agreement. You can see more via the Worksmart link here.
WorkingRights - 7-Dec-17 @ 10:14 AM
My employer has said that they want us to reduce our Friday hours when it is a quiet period and work the accumulated hours during bust periods without any overtime. Can they enforce this policy? Thanks
Charlie - 6-Dec-17 @ 11:38 AM
I signed a contract stating 35+ hours minimum per week, and have been doing over this for the 3 months I've currently Bern with my employer. Recently, I received a group message sent to all members of staff stating as of Jan 2018, every member of full time staff will be doing 29 hours per week, thus losing 6+ hours per week, which equates to £140 a month defecit.. can they do this?
Wraith - 5-Dec-17 @ 11:06 PM
Shazzzie - Your Question:
No reply to my question yet November 17th please reply

Our Response:
In this case, I'd give ACAS a call, given the contract has been verbal for two years and you have been working set hours (which form the basis of the contract). Plus, by law, an employer must provide the written statement within two months of the start of employment, please see link here .
WorkingRights - 30-Nov-17 @ 9:40 AM
No reply to my question yet November 17th please reply
Shazzzie - 29-Nov-17 @ 1:04 PM
I'm on a 16 hour contract but for the last 4 years I've worked upwards of 30 hours, I requested an increase in my contracted hours and my manager was told by our area manager that they were going to give me a 32 hour per week contract over a week later I'm still waiting for an email confirming this, have I got a verbal agreement and can they go back on this?
Ali - 29-Nov-17 @ 12:41 PM
I have worked for the same company for 32 years , always worked 45 hours per week The boss has now stuck up a list for everyone to see reducing all our hours by 10 hours per week. Can he do this without notice or without our agreement?
Nick - 25-Nov-17 @ 11:29 AM
Hin - Your Question:
I'm on a 30 hour contract and I never seem to get my full hours each week can they do this some times I go in work for only 2-3 hours a day when I'm full time is this right and can they do this

Our Response:
If you are on a 30 hour contract, you should get your full hours, unless your contract specifies otherwise (so you may wish to read the terms). If you are contracted for 30 hours and not being paid, then you may be able to claim the underpayment back from your employer. If you are still unsure whether you can claim the outstanding money, you may wish to give ACAS a call in order to explore your options.
WorkingRights - 17-Nov-17 @ 3:55 PM
I have been working without a contract for 2 years my hours are 25 a week now that i have a contract it states that my hour's are now 15 from next month(Jan 2018 ) is it fair to just deduct hours&getting a contract this late,Hours were talked about verbally by employer prior to receiving contract
Missyk - 17-Nov-17 @ 2:19 PM
I am working on a 15 hour cleaning contract there was another cleaner doing 15 hours too but she left now my boss wants to change us from 2 cleaners on a 15 hour a week contract to 3 cleaners on a 10 hour contract that means i lose 20 hours a month work and pay ....is the acceptable
Shazzzie - 17-Nov-17 @ 11:23 AM
I'm on a 30 hour contract and I never seem to get my full hours each week can they do this some times I go in work for only 2-3 hours a day when I'm full time is this right and can they do this
Hin - 14-Nov-17 @ 11:57 AM
Kourts321 - Your Question:
So when I went to the interview the manger made me sign the contract but he didn’t fill in his gaps but he said “this will say 16 hours when I fill it out later”, so this is my first job and I was doing 16 hours but then the other manager dropped it to 13 hours, I then found out my contract was not filled in and she tried to say I signed a zero hours contract I then deny it and got her to write 16 in it. Do I have the right to go and ask for my 16 hours if my contract is 16

Our Response:
If you have a job offer stating that you would be working 16 hours, then you have recourse to complain to your boss. If your contract says 16 hours, then you should be given 16 hours work.
WorkingRights - 10-Nov-17 @ 2:42 PM
So when I went to the interview the manger made me sign the contract but he didn’t fill in his gaps but he said “this will say 16 hours when I fill it out later”, so this is my first job and I was doing 16 hours but then the other manager dropped it to 13 hours, I then found out my contract was not filled in and she tried to say I signed a zero hourscontract I then deny it and got her to write 16 in it. Do I have the right to go and ask for my 16 hours if my contract is 16
Kourts321 - 10-Nov-17 @ 8:52 AM
i have worked as a sales assistant for 12 years my employer has closed one dept which was part of my job but not on my contract now he has put me on web site but is saying there are not enough hours for me and is reducing my hours from 39 to 30 a week now I still do the same sales assistant job and he has hired new staff for the job I am doing all the other staff have had new contracts and have had there hours increased but mine have been cut now all the other staff are young in their 20's but I am 50 I do think he is trying to force me out because of my age what rights do I have.
am - 8-Nov-17 @ 8:29 AM
BMW lady- Your Question:
I was employed on a zero hour contract to do driving then I was asked to go in a iffice and work 5 days a week from 7.30 am till 6 pm and I work on some Saturdays too, but they won’t put me on a proper contract ? My college is on a contract and works 7.30 till 4.30 I’ve been doing this for 2 years now and I feel it’s discrimination!!! Please can you tell me how to go about this please

Our Response:
It's up to your employer what contract they wish to place you on. You would have to discuss this directly with your employer. However, your employer is under no obligation to change your contract.
WorkingRights - 6-Nov-17 @ 3:02 PM
I was employed on a zero hour contract to do driving then I was asked to go in a iffice and work 5 days a week from 7.30 am till 6 pm and I work on some Saturdays too, but they won’t put me on a proper contract ? My college is on a contract and works 7.30 till 4.30 I’ve been doing this for 2 years now and I feel it’s discrimination!!! Please can you tell me how to go about this please
BMW lady - 5-Nov-17 @ 8:22 PM
I have a 20 hour contract I have worked 30 for 2 years I have asked on several occasions for this to change to 30 and now 2 new members of staff and another on way and I have been dropped to 20 hours with 6 days notice told it was needs of the business but these people are in the same time as I am or was,they said it because I have family and am not flexible enough but others with no family have dictated their shifts. What can I do if anything please help
Drum - 31-Oct-17 @ 12:39 AM
@Deedee - yes, if you are contracted to those hours you can ask for them to be honoured. You can also claim back pay for the five years you have been underpaid your contracted hours.
IssyMK - 30-Oct-17 @ 3:26 PM
Hi can you please help I have a signed contract for 30 hours a week in my employment, I have worked for 5 years and the next month my employer has only given me 23hours a week can I still ask for the other 7hours a week even thow I don't work it
Deedee - 27-Oct-17 @ 4:30 PM
I have been working for my employee s approx 8 years I was prom for a year with an increase in my hourly pay and hours to 26 due to financial difficulties my pay was cut to min rate but I kept the 26 hoursthat was in April this year I have now been told the shifts I have worked the last 18 month s no longer exist therefore next week I will be working 10 hours less isn't there a period of time I must be given before these changes my most recent contract is zero hours but it was meant to have changed to state 26 hours per week I have never nor has any other staff been given these contractsI do however have a letter stating the changes in pay from April but will still beworking the 26 hours giving me a month s notice of the change
Bessie - 25-Oct-17 @ 11:27 PM
can my employee cut my working hours. then give overtime to others doing the samejob. they all work 4 hrs a day, i work 8. hrs.
sliding down - 13-Oct-17 @ 11:16 AM
Hi I worked for a company for 8 years. I worked Monday to Friday 9 to 5:30 and 1 in 3 Sundays a month and travel pay every week . This is all on my wage slips. When I was put on suspension for no unjustiviable reason part way trough when I called them I was tolled my pay was being reduced pay andthey no longer paid me for Sundays as well as my travel pay. They tolled me I was due to financial difficulties but I found out that they had not done this to any of my of the people I worked with so I never believe they were just trying to get rid of me. They also asked me to get some help and which I did I tolled my employer I would pay half if they let me go back to work once it was finished. This took so long that after a couple of months they allowed me to go back go work payed me my full wage again and my travel. But after few week I was tolled to home again. I was with a client who was spending allot of money for his house I was with him a long time has was asking me for advice and he was taking so long to make up his mind what he wanted to buy .Then the manager came in and tolled me I was taking so long and the client said to my manger its not him its me and the boss also tolled the manger off for being nasty to me. The manger got upset walked out rang head office who tolled me I suspended again I could not believe it I was upset as they client spend allot of money I felt like calling him and telling him I checked the stock but for the next 2 months and I don't when be anymore but I do not not do this,I was on suspension again they reduced my pay and did not pay me travelor Sunday pay. I completed my course which I said I would do. Then when they got the result they called me and tolled where making me redundant . They did not give pay for notice leave holiday pay and redundancy and travel. I also found they also put my name on the bill without asking me I tolled i was not happy about this and I would take them to court so they paying of the bill but have not paid my pay entitlements. I also read the report and it jugested s given support and alternative position in the company to make life easier but they did not do this they just made me redundant and still have not paid me. Al the time I worked for thr company I have not had a contract. Please help
Johnny - 9-Oct-17 @ 9:37 PM
My employer (small business) is due to be taking on another member of staff.He knew this over a month ago and the new employee doesn't start until next month.Today, he informed a colleague that they are to have working day reduced from 9-5 to 9-1. The reason stated was that they needed to fund the new employees wage.They also mentioned an incident when the employer came to talk to me about something, the colleague looked at me as if I'd been reprimanded.I smiled as I hadn't.This was seen and misinterpreted.Are they allowed to do this? This is a small business and jobs all overlap.The new starter doesn't have skills that are not held by current employees.There is a connection between the employer and the new staff member. When staff comment on things, the employer becomes passive aggressive and makes peoples lives difficult so my colleague doesn't want to do anything.
Philip - 5-Oct-17 @ 12:29 AM
Hi, I'm working in a pub for almost a year. According to my contract I should be working 24 hours weekly Monday to Sunday. My boss wanted to change my day of work but as I couldn't come in my day off he told me not to come. In the end I've done only 18 hours without any over hours. As my relation with my boss are not great because he is feeling really offended that I couldn't come in my day off I don't know what to do now. Should he pay me off the rest of the hours that I should be working or work it next month? Thank you
Alex - 22-Sep-17 @ 1:59 PM
Ckm - Your Question:
I have been working in a pub kitchen as a chef for over six months mon to thurs 10 - 3pm (20 hours in total). Can only work these hours as have disabled child that needs my care. I have complained to the owner for the state of the kitchen as it breaks all health & safety rules. Had a holiday at the beginning of august and that my holiday pay was incorrect, checked in government holiday calculator (after arguing with him he paid the extra) also monthly wage slip are always wrong (tax code). Always chasing wage slips never get them in time (still waiting for augusts wage slip). Now only given one day this week of 5 hours. Asked why said KP wants extra hours and learn the role. (KP does not have any kitchen qualifications, no basic food hygiene cert level 2)They have also not provided me with any contact of employment. What are my rights please.

Our Response:
I'm afraid you have few rights if you do not have a specific contract and you have been working for less than two years. You would need to speak to your employer directly and request a contract outlining your hours and terms. You don't say whether you were offered a zero hour contract or permanent one at the start of the job. If you have proof you were offered a fixed-hour contract at 20 hours per week (i.e when you were offered your job) you may be able to claim pay for the hours not given via the small claims court. If your tax code is wrong, you would need to chase this up directly with HMRC.
WorkingRights - 5-Sep-17 @ 10:41 AM
I have been working in a pub kitchen as a chef for over six months mon to thurs 10 - 3pm (20 hours in total). Can only work these hours as have disabled child that needs my care. I have complained to the owner for the state of the kitchen as it breaks all health & safety rules. Had a holiday at the beginning of august and that my holiday pay was incorrect, checked in government holiday calculator (after arguing with him he paid the extra) also monthly wage slip are always wrong (tax code). Always chasing wage slips never get them in time (still waiting for augusts wage slip). Now only given one day this week of 5 hours. Asked why said KP wants extra hours and learn the role. (KP does not have any kitchen qualifications, no basic food hygiene cert level 2) They have also not provided me with any contact of employment. What are my rights please.
Ckm - 4-Sep-17 @ 4:14 PM
Aj123 - Your Question:
Hi, I've been working in a salon for nearly 2 years as an apprentice. I was working 39 hours a week. However then my boss advertised we needed another junior and she dropped myself and my colleagues hours to 30! As you can imagine this is a lot of hours and money we have lost. Is there anything I can do?

Our Response:
You would have to have a look at the terms and conditions of your contract and what your set hours are. If you are contracted for 39 hours per week then you would be entitled to claim the money back whether you have worked for it or not. However, if you are contracted for 30 hours and you work nine hours per week flexible overtime, then your employer can drop your hours back to 30 and there is little you can do.
WorkingRights - 29-Aug-17 @ 2:41 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the WorkingRights website. Please read our Disclaimer.