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Can My Employer Reduce My Working Hours

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 17 Aug 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 been working in a hotel for 8 months. Working 5 days a week as I had a verbal agreement with my previos manager. Now we have a new manager that just cut my hours to 4 and give 5 to a girl that just started a month ago. Is that right? What can I do? He tells me that he can not promise me my 5 hours back. But is not fair that he will give that to a girl that just started
Maria26 - 17-Aug-17 @ 11:27 PM
I have been in my present job just 6 weeks. I have no contract, but presume I am contracted to zero hours. Each week, so far, I have been given 32.5 - 35 hours. This week my hours have been cut by nearly ten, yet the Managers Husband and Son, who both work for her, have seen an irregular increase of 30 and 10 hours, respectively. Normally I would presume business is slow, and am not guaranteed any hours, however the fact that the hours are still there and have been given to her husband who normally does 10 and actually has a main, if not regular, other job, makes me suspicious of her intentions. My suspicion been he has no other work on this week, so she is giving him extra hours.
AdamS - 12-Aug-17 @ 12:52 AM
Bell - Your Question:
I work in a Post office (not Crown Post Office} am on minimum wage, the last 2 pay rises the government gave us my working hours were reduced both times, and we have just heard we have to lose more hours because a couple of the tills have been short, the Manager has been told to take the hours off of the people whose tills are short, we have only ever been given a couple days notice when the reduction in the hours starts.We are a very very busy Post Office, and with local banks closing our work load increases dramatically and all Management do is cut hours can they do this with no specific reason.

Our Response:
If you’re a worker and you’ve tried solving a problem or concern informally by talking to your manager but you’re not satisfied, you can make a formal grievance complaint in writing. Please see link here.
WorkingRights - 24-Jul-17 @ 11:35 AM
I work in a Post office (not Crown Post Office} am on minimum wage, the last 2 pay rises the government gave us my working hours were reduced both times, andwe have just heard we have to lose more hours because a couple of the tills have been short, the Manager has been told to take the hours off of the people whose tills are short, we have only ever been given a couple days notice when the reduction in the hours starts. We are a very very busy Post Office, and with local banks closing our work load increasesdramatically andall Management do is cut hourscan they do thiswith no specific reason.
Bell - 21-Jul-17 @ 9:23 PM
unhappy - Your Question:
Hi,not sure where I stand on payment,i have a contract for 15hrs a week, however I get called and told not to go in when theres supposedly no work.therefore I am not getting paid for the hours I am not in, this is causing me financial issues as well as personal problems with my other half.he says you should be paid for 15hour a week as that is agreed wether I go in or not.I have had a meeting with the owner who says she doesn't need to pay?thanksN

Our Response:
If you have a permanent contract for 15 hours, then you should be paid for 15 hours per week even if you work less. Only if you have a 'zero hours' contract can your employer dictate the hours you work. If you are on a permanent contract and your employer has not been paying you as your contract stipulates, you may be able to apply to have the outstanding wages repaid. However, I would read your contract fully first and double check with ACAS to see if this is the case.
WorkingRights - 11-Jul-17 @ 12:43 PM
Hi, not sure where I stand on payment,i have a contract for 15hrs a week, however I get called and told not to go in when theres supposedly no work. therefore I am not getting paid for the hours I am not in, this is causing me financial issues as well as personal problems with my other half. he says you should be paid for 15hour a week as that is agreed wether I go in or not. I have had a meeting with the owner who says she doesn't need to pay? thanks N
unhappy - 10-Jul-17 @ 10:14 PM
doris - Your Question:
I have no contract but I working for the company together with my boyfriend over a year. Always was working 40-48 hours per week (5-6 days). Lately my boyfriend quit to another job and my manager cut my hours to 24, sometimes 29 per week. It is look like he punishing me for my boyfriend quiting. Can he cut my hours like that? Withou any warning or consultation with me

Our Response:
You do not say whether you are employed or classed as self-employed and whether you were offered full contracted hours. Therefore, you would have to give ACAS a call to see if you have any rights.
WorkingRights - 7-Jul-17 @ 3:36 PM
Wizzy - Your Question:
I have been contracted on salary for 60 hrs a week and now one of the managers had left, and being replaced by a colleague. My colleague worked less hours than me. My colleagues replacement is to be put on the same hours as me. So to balance the hours I'm being reduced from 12 to 11 and my colleagues replacement is being brought up from 10 to 11 hrs. My colleague that is being promoted could never do 11 hrs so I made up the extra time and this was amended to the salary. End result I'm losing £200 per month. They say this allowed under the flexible conditions in my contract. Is this correct

Our Response:
You would have to read your contract in order to find out whether this is correct. If there is a flexible clause in the terms of your contract saying your employer can do this, then your employer can.
WorkingRights - 4-Jul-17 @ 12:10 PM
I have been contracted on salary for 60 hrs a week and now one of themanagers had left, and being replaced by a colleague. My colleague worked less hours than me. My colleagues replacement is to be put on the same hours as me. So to balance the hoursI'm being reduced from 12 to 11 and my colleagues replacement is being brought up from 10 to 11 hrs. My colleague that is being promoted could never do 11 hrs so I made up the extra time and this was amended to the salary. End result I'm losing £200 per month. They say this allowed under the flexible conditionsin my contract. Is this correct
Wizzy - 3-Jul-17 @ 7:39 PM
I have been working 40 hours per week for over 3.5 years and Been told they are cutting my hours to 25 to 27 per week my contract of employment states 20 hours and may get more depends on the business needs I through that there's a employment law saying if your contract states 10-20hours Working and you work full time for a Over 12 months this is your contract can you please confirm this
Paul - 28-Jun-17 @ 10:17 AM
I have no contract but I working for the company together with my boyfriend over a year. Always was working 40-48 hours per week (5-6 days). Lately my boyfriend quit to another job and my manager cut my hours to 24, sometimes 29 per week. It is look like he punishing me for my boyfriend quiting. Can he cut my hours like that? Withou any warning or consultation with me
doris - 24-Jun-17 @ 5:36 PM
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
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