Can I be asked to work nights?

I have been working for the past three years on  extended days from 7am to 7pm. My boss says I will be required to do some nights. I have a young child and would only get two hours sleep when on nights because of childcare etc. I have told them this, but they still insist on me changing. I was originally on this shift pattern with regular night shifts, but this was changed after I had my child. I’m a single mum with no family support.



As I don’t know the full detail of how your current work pattern came to be agreed or what the reasoning is for your employer insisting upon this change, I can’t be very specific in my advice here. But I can say that, if I have understood correctly that you are an employee of the business and have been for more than two years continuously, you will have a good level of protection under UK employment law.

Generally speaking, an employer cannot simply tell you that it is going to fundamentally change your terms and conditions of employment.  The change must either be agreed with you or there must be, for example, consultation over a specific business need for this change with a chance for you to feed back on such proposals before they proceed further.  As a single mum who is likely to be significantly impacted by this decision, you may also have grounds to challenge your employer under the Equality Act 2010, as their actions may be discriminatory (sex discrimination) if they fail to take your personal circumstances into consideration.  Male colleagues without childcare responsibilities are far less likely to be as adversely affected by the proposed change than you are.

At this stage, I would suggest that you raise a formal grievance about the plans and give the company the opportunity to look at matters more carefully through that process.  If you have a staff handbook at work, the grievance policy is likely to be in there.  If not, just write an email/letter to the most appropriate person with authority over the individual who is proposing this change to your terms.  If that person is at the “top”, is there another senior manager at the same level?  You should ensure you exhaust the grievance process to try to get the situation resolved (using the appeal process too).  If you have no luck internally, you might want to speak to ACAS about commencing early conciliation.  You should do this promptly after getting the decision from your employers (as there are very strict time limits for doing this) and it may be helpful to obtain bespoke advice from an employment solicitor at that stage too.

I wish you the best of luck in getting the matter resolved amicably with your employer.

*Marie Horner is an experienced senior employment law specialist at ALT Legal in Wetherby.

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