Can I be forced to work weekends

I am currently on maternity leave and due to start back in November. My intention is to put in a request for flexible (and part-time) working. In my contract it states that my work must include some weekends. I have usually worked about 3 in 4 Saturdays and 1 to 2 in 4 Sundays before I became pregnant. Being a single mum I have been searching for childcare and have been unable to find any childminders/nurseries in my area that will mind my child on weekends. I have looked at 20 plus childminders/nurseries, calling all the childminders and asking them direct. There are no other childcare solutions for me (eg family/friends). In the circumstances can my employer refuse a request from me NOT to work any weekend shifts? It is not as though I can ‘compromise’ by even doing fewer weekends, as there is no childcare provision at all for weekends in my area.  Would I be able to force them in effect to not make me work weekends if I can prove there is no alternative solution for me? Many thanks.

There are two ways to ask for flexible hours when returning from maternity leave.  The first way is to make a general request (which can be done verbally at your return to work meeting or in writing).

Your employer is under a duty to consider the request and can only refuse the request if there are good reasons for not being able to accommodate the hours you asked for.

If their refusal of your request is unreasonable then you could claim sex discrimination.

The other way to request your change in hours is through the right to request flexible working under the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Employers must follow a set procedure and will only be able to refuse a request where there is a recognised business ground for doing so.

There are strict time limits that must be followed in this procedure and a meeting must be held with you to discuss your request.

If your employer fails to follow the procedure or does not give proper business reasons for refusing your request then you can claim compensation.

To make a flexible working request you must satisfy certain conditions

  1. You must be an employee,
  2. You must have worked for the employer continuously for 26 weeks at the date the application is made; and
  3. You must not have made another application to work flexibly under the right during the past 12 months.

To make the request you must make a dated written request to your employer setting out the following:-

  • That the application is made under the statutory right to request a flexible working pattern,
  • Confirmation that you meet the eligibility criteria,
  • The flexible work arrangements that you seek, ie to care for your child,
  • An explanation of what effect, if any, you think making the change would have on the employer and how in your opinion, any such effect might be dealt with,
  • The date on which the proposed change should become effective,
  • Whether a previous application has been made to the employer and if so, when it was made.

I recommend that you make a formal flexible working application as set out above and within this request, I also recommend that you explain exactly why you are making the request, ie, because you cannot find any childminders / nurseries that work weekends and explain the steps you have taken to date as set out in your question.

Once the formal flexible working request is submitted, your employer has to invite you to a meeting and offer you the right to be accompanied.

There are specific time limits they must follow in arranging the meeting and then providing you with their decision.

You will also have the right to appeal if you are unhappy with their decision.

Reasons for refusal of your request are limited

  1. The burden of additional costs,
  2. Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demands,
  3. Inability to reorganise work among existing staff,
  4. Inability to recruit additional staff,
  5. Detrimental impact on quality,
  6. Detrimental impact on performance,
  7. Insufficiency of work during the periods you are proposing to work, and/or
  8. Planned structural changes.

In summary, my advice is for you to lodge a formal application for flexible working to take effect upon your return to work in November.  You should submit this as soon as possible.

If your employer does not deal with your request properly or does not give reasons for refusal which fall into the above categories then you may have a claim for sex discrimination or failure to properly consider your flexible working request and you will also have the option to resign and bring a claim for constructive unfair dismissal.

If your employer does not agree to your formal flexible working request, please telephone Tracey Guest on 0161 975 3823 for further advice.

Comments [21]

  • Anon says:

    I returned to my work in November 2019 and my flexible working request was approved, but recently the department I work in has gone from the usual Monday to Friday office hours to operating 24/7 and each team member is expected to contribute to covering these hours, do I have any rights to refuse to work the hours outside of my flexible working agreement, this is causing me huge issues with childcare and I’m having to foot the bill of childcare even when my child is not in their care due to not enough notice being given to me to inform my childminder, and also causing issues at home due to constantly asking for ‘help with childcare’ when I’m asked to work as I’m a single parent living with parents who are now refusing to look after my child for me because I need to ‘put my foot down and say no’ any advise welcome.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi ive been working in my job for a year now, i work most saturdays than anyone other colleagues some have children which i understand but ive recently suffered some mental health issues ive started medications i never get anytime with my family or partner i was just wondering is there anyway to stop working weekends just to work monday to fridays could i acheieve this?

  • laura says:

    Hi, I have worked in my job for nearly 11 years, i do currently work a weekend but, we use to get one weekend off in four, now as they accommodated us hours in the week 9am to 6pm they are stating we have to work every single weekend for this, there is more than enough staff to accommodate us staff with children to have at least on weekend off. At the moment it is as if everyone within the contact center with children are being penalized, expecting us with children to get children up and out ready for us to be in work at 7am and taking kids home from child minders after 10pm is this fair ?

  • tiffany haddock says:

    I work my weekends to work but my workplace is say i have to work on my weekend off can they do that?

  • Rachel says:

    I’m a single mother to a 3year old

    I have worked for 10years at this job, I work 16hrs, 8hrs on a Sunday. I used to rely on family babysitters but now my mother has a job and is unable to take him anymore, there is no childcare available on a Sunday so I put in a request for flexible working hours,

    It went to a meeting where my union rep attending with me, we agreed on a new shift pattern although I had to really fight for it,

    Day one of that new shift pattern, in fact not even an hour into that new shift pattern and my manager tells it isn’t working out for the company,

    And that’s that since I’ve been scrounging for babysitters every Sunday for weeks causing me great stress and losing out on hours because I can’t make it in if I didn’t find anyone, I fear I may lose my job,

    I was told the only way to get-out of my Sunday shift was to opt out of Sundays which means I lose 32 hours a month which I cannot afford to lose I would have to give up my job,

    I don’t know what else to do
    I used to love my job and everyone there
    Now It just looks like I’m demanding special treatment to my other Co workers
    I just want to stay In work

  • Sarah says:

    I am currently on maternity leave and want to return to work in Feb. My hours pre baby were 37.5 a week and 1 in 5 weekends. I have asked for flexible working and they have agreed on my weekday hours but are saying I still have to work weekends even though I’ve said I have no childcare. Their only reason for this is because they said it wouldn’t be fair on other staff if I didn’t take part in the weekend rota. They are saying I will lose my job if I don’t work weekends. Is this legal?

  • zeki says:

    Hello please I need a help in this acossion. I have been working for the same companyover 10 years . resent change has put me in very difulty position that I can’t no longer work the sift pattern I am on due to court order with my children .I have put flexible working request refused to have every other weekend off.cone up with alternative shift that I only want to do weekend so can suggest it to court so I can have my children during the week court was not happy about sudden change of ruting.if my boss refuse to help me with my case what’s my right Please .they are making very difucult for me to Forse ne to leave my job

  • Anonymous says:

    I work nights Mon to Friday I have my son every weekend got told shift changing to thursday Friday Saturday finish Sunday 6am and will never be Abel to have my son again can they force me to work these

    Editor: What does it say in your contract about shifts? Can they be subject to change?

  • Anonymous says:

    I have worked in the same job for just over 3 years, on 23rd September I wrote a letter for a Request for flexible working arrangements, under section 65 of the fair work act 2009.I have a 12 hour contract. I have been told my availability at present is Mon, Tues, Wed, Thur, Fri sun.wanting to change it to 6.30am-6pm Mon to Fri no longer being able to work Sundays due to child care, but still being available for 52 and a half hours per week. In which I usually get around 20 hour a week.

    I am a married lady with a 10 year old. Child care wasn't a problem when I started the job , as my mother in law, the only person we have to help looked after him. With my mother in law having her own interests she no longer wants to have the responsibility to have our son on Sundays.

    My husband works most weekends, this whole year only having 18 Sundays off. I`ve enquired about a child minder but they don't work weekends, which I have mentioned to my boss. which she didn`t believe. I was told my request has been refused on the 25th September. when asked why, I was told it was a bad time as the business was going through a change.

    In the meeting I did ask for the refusal to be in writing stating why. I was told No. on the 26th I asked again for it in writing, still with no luck. On Fri 10th Oct I asked again for a letter , my boss asked me what she should put in the letter, which I replied the reason why my request has been refused.

    Since I asked for the request there has been two occasions in which I`ve had a problem with child care, which the first time the bosses were alright about it.

    The second time my boss wasn't too happy. I only had child care till 3pm and my shift was 1-15 till 6-45. My boss has got another employee to cover 3pm till 6-45pm in which I`m going in to work for 1 hour and 45 minutes which I was told that was my doing. Still no letter. just not sure what I should be doing about the situation now.Please help?

    Editor: It is your right to have a written reply telling you the reasons for refusal since requests can only be turned down on one of eight grounds. Have you pointed this out? The next step would be to take out a grievance as they have not kept to the flexible working legislation –

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi I have 5 children age 2 to 16 if I apply for flexable working hours is my employer allowed to reduce my contracted hours I am work 20 hours a week 4 hours a day but require a day of in the week for child care and have asked for my 20 hours to be put over 4 days they said that I can only do 16 can they reduce my hours

    Editor: Not without your consent. You have the right to retain your original hours if they give a good business reason for turning down your request.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have worked for my employee for the last 13 years and had a contract that stated I work lates and weekends, which was fine. I then took a new role which required me to work mon-fri 8am til 2.30pm. During this role I had a baby and returned to work on the same hours on mon-fri. I have worked these hours for 7 years but they have never given me a contract for the new role and new hours. They now want me to go back to my old contracted hours but remain in my current poistion. I have apply to keep my same hours under flexible working but they have said I will be forced to work lates and weekends as they only have to giveme 12 weeks notice. As I am unableto dothe hours it means I will have to quit my job. What are my rights? Please help

    Editor: If you have done these hours for seven years you could argue that this is custom and practice and that your employer would need to consult you to change your hours. Have they actually replied on the flexible work request? Under the flexible working legislation they should reply within 28 days, setting a meeting, and if they reject your request they must do so on one of eight grounds which they must explain and back up to show they have given it due consideration

  • Anonymous says:

    I have worked in the same place for nearly 4 years, for the first two years I worked every weekend, out of choice as it helped the company out, and then due to circumstances changing I could no longer do the weekends. My boss and me agreed on a set three days I would work, however I do not know if my contract was changed or not, but I have been working those three set days for about 9 months now and he has suddenly told me I have to do weekends. I have applied for flexible working, but after an initial meeting, I have heard nothing and its been 2months. He's now told me if he puts me in for a saturday, despite me giving him notice that I can't do it, he won't change the rota's to suit me. He's stated as long as he gives me 3 weeks notice, then it's up to me to make arrangements and do the shift. He said if I don't turn up it was go down as misconduct and I will have a disciplinary and maybe be fired! Is this allowed? I now have my daughter weekends with no child minding facilities, and unfortunately no family to ask for a hand, I literally would have to take my child to work, and have no idea what to do now! I have asked for a reply to my flexible working request but so far haven't got anything and I'm not sure if I can appeal until he does, but in the mean time, can I get in trouble and possibly fired for not doing the shift even if I notify him I cant?

    Editor: Your employer should reply to a request for flexible working within 28 days and you should follow this up. If after chasing this informally there is no action, you could consider lodging a grievance. Also a verbal agreement to change your hours is legally binding so, unless your contract allows for your shifts to change, then your employer should consult you on any change of days and get your agreement. You could also have a case for sex discrimination if your childcare duties are not taken into account

  • Anonymous says:

    I am currently on a 0 hour contract and my employer asked me to work day shifts so I have mon-fri school hours due to childcare. Now, however, they have put me on rota for one in four Sundays, but my verbal agreement was that I didn't have to work weekends. Can I get round this at all? It's so unfair.

    Editor: Our HR expert Tara Daynes says: When it comes to employment contracts, the contract is the agreement that is in place – not the piece of paper it is written on! All terms & conditions should be confirmed in writing, but lack of written confirmation doesn't negate the contract. It does, however, make it very difficult to prove an agreed arrangement in the event of a dispute. So if you had a verbal agreement not to work weekends, then this does form part of the terms & conditions of your employment contract – but you may have a tough time enforcing this with no proof! You can argue that if you have been working a set pattern for some time, that this is now custom & practice for you, so to change your working pattern without consultation, agreement & notice would still be tantamount to a unilateral change to your terms & conditions. Or simply explain that due to childcare arrangements you're unable to work weekends – maybe even use the flexible working legislation to request this. But I would strongly recommend that even if you are on a zero hours contract, any restrictions in working patterns should be clarified in writing to avoid this situation coming up again in the future!

    Could you possibly get in touch via as Channel 4 Dispatches are keen to contact parents who are on o hours contracts to find out what their experience is?


  • Anonymous says:

    I have two children aged 6 & 8. I work on a farm and my employer is using pressure tactics if I don’t work weekends. He has so far threatened me with a p45 if I don’t work weekends. The children have two separate mothers and my agreement is to get the children at the weekend. I have worked there for almost 4 years. What are my rights on this subject?

    Editor: Has your employer suddenly asked you to work weekends? Is this in your contract or a change to your terms and conditions as, if the latter, he is legally obliged to consult with you. If you require any response from our legal experts, please send a question via the Advice& Support/Q & A page box.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have worked in my current position for 3 years. I work Monday to Friday 9.30 to 3.30 as I have a 7 year old daughter and I am a single parent. My manager is new to our business and called me into his office to explain that as I work on the sales team, and there is no sales team cover at the weekend I would have to change my hours to work weekends. I explained this would not be possible due to child care. He replied that if there wasn’t another position available on the shop floor I would have to leave to the business. I have worked for the company for 10 years, the last 3 in my current position and hours. My current position will still exist and need to be covered on the days and hours I currently work. Our branch only has 2 members of the sales team whilst all other branches have 3/4 so it would be possible to employ new staff to cover weekend hour. Is it legal for my employer to do this?

    Editor: If an employer wants to change any parts of an employee’s employment contract then they have to consult with them about the changes and gain the employee’s agreement or there is a potential redundancy issue and there may be other legal ramifications, depending on the detail of your case – for instance, are you the only person in your team affected in this way?  Could you send your request via our Advice & Support/Q& A page box so we have your email and can contact you if our employment law experts need any follow-up details?

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your Franchise Selection

Click the button below to register your interest with all the franchises in your selection

Request FREE Information Now

Your Franchise Selection

This franchise opportunity has been added to your franchise selection



Click the button below to register your interest with all the franchises in your selection

Request FREE Information Now

You may be interested in these similar franchises