Can flexible hours be changed?

My husband and I work for the same company. My mum passed away in 2017 so we had nobody to look after our son. after having some discussions with our managers I was able to transfer to a different branch working only mornings with my husband staying in the same branch but working flexibly in the evenings which allow us to look after our son and keeps us both working. However, we just had a big meeting and because the company is not doing too well we were informed of many changes and one of them is that a flexible rota will be implemented. This is worrying me so much because this means my husband and my role in this company will be badly affected because they only want to keep people who can work any hours and have no constraints.  I am so worried and not sleeping well because I think it will inevitably mean both of us changing jobs or asking for voluntary redundancy. I want to know do we both have a right to keep our current working hours?

woman at laptop working at desk


I understand that you and your husband both work for the same company and that the company has indicated that it is not performing well and may impose some changes, including a flexible rota.  You are concerned about how this may affect your ability to carry on with your current childcare arrangements and are also concerned that you may both end up being made redundant.

An employer can only change terms and conditions of employment with the agreement of the employee.  As such, a change cannot be forced upon you.

However, if, after a period of consultation, the employee and employer cannot agree a change (in this case, a change to working hours) then an employer may decide to dismiss with notice those employees who do not agree to a change and offer re-engagement on the new terms, i.e. on the new hours.

It is then up to the employee to decide to either accept or to leave. If an employer can show it has a genuine business reason to change the terms (i.e. as a way to avoid redundancies), that it has consulted with the employees and followed a fair process then an employment tribunal is likely to conclude that the employer acted reasonably in the circumstances.

If an employer needs to make redundancies then again, as long as it follows a fair process; i.e. consults with its employees, considers alternatives, and fairly selects employees for redundancy and pays redundancy payments then, again, such actions may be considered reasonable in all the circumstances.

If you are selected for redundancy based on your part-time hours, or the changes to the contracts detrimentally affect, say, women (who have child-caring responsibilities) more than men, then there may be an argument that the decisions are discriminatory on the grounds of sex.

However, without a better understanding of what is being done (as these are just suggestions at the moment) it is difficult to advise you fully.  My advice would be to speak with HR once your employer’s plans are finalised to express your concerns if you still have any and thereafter seek further advice if this does not resolve matters.

I hope that this assists in the interim.

*Lucy Flynn assisted in answering this question.

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