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Can My Employer Reduce My Working Hours

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 23 Jan 2020 | comments*Discuss
Employment Legal Advice Employee


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)


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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Hello, the NGO where I work in the UK is experiencing financial difficulties and decided to cut down my hours from 33 to 15. They have given me a month's notice and I am not quering about that. What I am concerned with is whether it is legal for them to cut down more than 50% of my hours and expect me to work the same workload as they stated that I will be doing the same duties now with reduced hours as I was with 33. Are there any Legal Acts in the UK that protect the employee against this? I would really appreciate your legal advice regarding this.
Patiperra - 5-Nov-19 @ 10:12 AM
Hi I am a childminder and I have contacted hours of 30 per week, my employer has said she doesn’t need me on half term week , does she still have to pay me , thanks
Rae - 17-Oct-19 @ 7:47 AM
My work want me do to one night a week. Ive allready told them i cant do that coz ive got 2 kids and my partner works nights. So they saying if i dont they wll reduced my contact hours from 16,to 12. Can they do that.
Mel - 16-Jul-19 @ 9:14 PM
This is going to be my 5th year working for this company. Started on 20 hours first two years then gradually doing longer as got very busy so doing 30hours up until now. But my boss just told me i would now just be doing 10hours with no discussion or warning.. he says cuts are being made but as far as i see its only myself. I feel ive been singled out. Im also 71.
Ju - 7-Mar-19 @ 9:43 AM
I started working with an Ip law firm 8-1-1977.We have 5 0ffices snd our NYO was starting a computer ptogram and moving trustrd employees into a position called leg Assts.After 4 wks with the firm, I was ask if i would like a promotion to take this newly created position of prep & filingTM renewal apps worldwide. After about six months I was told i could start signing my own work because was excelling at the job. After 10 years i was eligable for 20 days vacation.All employees were on salary& worked 9 to 5 with an ched 1 hr lunch. We were also paid for OT.As time went on I took over more and more responibilty.The managing partner told us old timers would not loose our vac time or hours.As time went on gray davis changed laws and we were all switched houly & required to work 37.5 hrs & only allowed 1/2 hr hunch.Those of us of the old timers did not receive any any compansation for the chg in hrs.In1999 eas going to quit to spend time with my son but the mng partner ask if I would work part time. I accepted and worked 30 hours a week for 9 years and went back to 37.5. 2010 my husband died after after 66 wk illness.When I came back the trademark dept lost at least plus employees because of the new mng partner.She cut my hrs to 30 a wk and i had no assistant but was expected to do the same job. I was back full to full time for a few years.I/1/18 i was informed my vac pay was cut to 3wks frm 4. A week later the my hours were cut to 30 and vac time cut again. I started fainting 8/11/18, was hospitalized & put on disibility until 9/14/18. I rec'd an email saying if my disability was extended, i would be laid off. Dr said 8/29/18 my disabilty was extended to 10/14/18.I have been with the firm 41 yrs & I'm a 64 yr old widow.I sent in the order for the ext of disabiliy today.No response so far.
Gizmo - 30-Aug-18 @ 10:15 PM
I have been on sap for 28 weeks before my return to work I received a letter saying the rota has changed and hours reduced . This is not only on me but each employee.Can they do this. They say the budget has been reduced and the circumstances of the client have been changed
Mother Hen - 27-Aug-18 @ 6:25 AM
i have just been told that my hours have been cut .not because the company is suffering because they have decided to start new staff and are giving them the hours .not just me other employees too
jamesyboy - 10-Aug-18 @ 4:43 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
please could you tell me my rights as i work in a school as a cleaner meaning that i have to do the same hrs in term time and during holidays so for example if i work 15hrs per week i have to work 15hrs per week during a school holiday.When i started employment i could work 8-9hrs per day during school holidays to get my work done meaning as long as my 15hrs were done this was fine .Since the last holidays my line manager has told us that due to cut backs we can no longer work for more than 5hrs at a time and are no longer entitled to a paid break of any sort .Since being told this i have been told that my boss above my line manager knew nothing about this and as far as she is concerned said we can work 8hrs per day very confused what can i do as i think my line manager has made this rule up to suit herself .
jules - 29-Jan-18 @ 1:17 PM
I have just had my hours cut from 40 per week to 25 per week losing me £112.50 a week can I claim compensation for my loss
Baz - 4-Jan-18 @ 5:45 PM
@tez Unless redundancy/voluntary redundancy is on the table, I'm not sure requesting it is a good idea. It means your employer knows you want to leave and will probably stall hoping you'll leave yourself if they ramp up the pressure. It all depends on how long you've been there and whether it might not be easier for you to look for another job while you're still in work. Your company might have a genuine reason for having to lower the hours- which is sounds like it does if there is no work coming in. If you don't see any future work coming in, then you can either stick it out hoping redundancies might be made if your employer can't sustain the workforce, or leave before. I really feel for you..it's a horrible limbo-like place to be in :(
Fee63 - 19-Dec-17 @ 10:06 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
No reply to my question yet November 17th please reply
Shazzzie - 29-Nov-17 @ 1:04 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
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
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
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
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?
Aj123 - 28-Aug-17 @ 3:00 PM
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