Can my boss increase my hours? Ask the expert

I started work with a firm 9 months ago and am contracted to work 3 days per week.  My bosses recently asked me to  work an extra day, but I said I couldn’t work a full day due to childcare commitments.  I agreed to work an extra half day.  They have now asked that I work a further extra day, saying the workload warrants more than 3 1/2 days in the office.  Can they force me to increase my hours?

You have made it clear that even when you started work for the firm 9 months ago, it was on a part-time three-day a week basis.  This was therefore not as a result of a flexible working request, but as a result of contracted agreed hours.

In order to change contractual terms, it is not possible for the firm simply to change your terms unilaterally.  The easiest way is by consent, which is what happened when you moved from your three day week to a three and a half day week.  If you consent to amend your terms then there is no problem since the firm can then just move you on to your revised terms.

The situation is, however, different if, as now, the proposal is to move you onto a four and a half day week.  There are several ways in which they could try to achieve this if you do not consent :

  • the firm could try to negotiate with you and perhaps offer you an additional benefit or additional holiday if you were to consent to that arrangement;
  • if, following consultation, you still said that you were not interested in moving to the new working arrangement, the firm could terminate your current contract on notice (to avoid any breach of contract/wrongful dismissal claim) and then offer to re-engage you on the new terms.  The firm would have to show that there was justification for changing the terms and that it had discussed this with you. However, you might then find it difficult to refuse the new terms, on the basis that the alternative would be no job;
  • the firm could simply try to impose the change unilaterally following a certain time frame of consultation or notification.  If they did this then this would entitle you to resign and claim breach of contract (constructive unfair dismissal not being available since you only have nine months’ service).  If you did not want to resign, then it might still be possible to claim breach of contract whilst you are still employed.  Also you might, depending upon the reason for you needing to work flexibly or part time, be able to claim that you had suffered a detriment as a result of this change of hours and that more women than men would suffer as a result, then it might be possible to claim indirect sex discrimination and/or breach of the part time workers regulations.  This would probably not be the most desirable course of action, however, since it would be difficult for you to continue working whilst at the same time bringing an action.

From a practical point of view, I would get together as many arguments as possible as to why you could not work four and a half days – for example, your childcare commitments would not allow it, you already have a season ticket for a shorter period, you want to spend more time with your child etc, and ask for a meeting to discuss your reasoning. You should also have prepared some arguments as to why you consider three and a half days are sufficient to carry out your workload and why the business would benefit from you remaining on your existing hours. You might want to consider offering to work slightly longer hours on the days that you do work in an effort to try to resolve matters. If they agree to the meeting but then do not take your arguments on board, you can indicate to them that you do not think that this is justified and that if they force you to do so you will register your protest and raise a formal grievance.  In that grievance I would make the arguments for justifying remaining on your existing hours, but also indicate how unfairly you consider you are being treated and that you consider it is due to being a working mother.  If that does not work, then you may have to resort to proceedings, but hopefully they will see sense before this.

Comments [23]

  • pamela says:

    hi when I started my job in 2014, they took me on to do 9.30 starts as I’m a single mum and got to take child to school I agreed to do 6.30 finishes. 4 days a week due to my son. one year later they asked me to do 5 days a week I said I cant due to my son but will do if I finished early every day so the agreement was 9.30 to 5pm now they are saying either I do periment 7.30 starts or 6.30 finishes or they write me a letter and give me 3 months notice. my contract says I have to be flexiable 8 to 6pm but before I signed I mentions that my hours are different cas of child comitments. they said they understand and still actknowledge this and verbal okayed so I signed . where do I stand

  • Samantha coulter says:

    Hi I am looking for advice I have been working as a cleaner at a school for 11 years now working 5pm till 7pm five days a week me and some other cleaners have just cane out of a meeting with our boss and he has said by April he would like us all to do an extra hour on top of our 2 hours per day and change our hours from 3.30pm to 6.30pm in stead of 5pm till 7pm can they just change this with out our consent and where do I stand as I have a young child and it would be impossible for me to arrange child care i have agreed I can change my hours from 4.30pm to 6.30pm but can not do the extra hour they are asking of me

  • Anonymous says:

    I have worked as a receptionist for the same company for many years. I have a young daughter and now job share 2 days a week. The company has recently been taken over by a much larger one and we were told that we would see very few changes. However, I now have a new boss who is insisting that our current working arrangements are not in line with company policy. She insists that morning/afternoon job share would be better than 3 days/2 days. I would need to be at my desk at 8am sharp. I told her this is not possible as the school breakfast club doesn't open until that time. I might be 5 mins late but she won't accept this. I would also have a problem with afternoons due to my daughter attending various holidays would also be very expensive as I'd end up paying for a whole day due to start and finish times. I've also been told I have to cover all holidays and sick leave for the lady I job share with. It will be impossible to achieve all of this and I've been getting very upset about it. I have explained all my reasons but have been made to feel as if I am being targeted. My contract states the hours and days I work but also says "and such hours as are necessary for the proper performance of your duties".

    I have tried ringing childminders and holiday clubs but am constantly getting the same replies, ie. They only cover certain schools, don't open until 8am, long waiting lists etc. Also that I will find it impossible for anyone to cover such ad hoc arrangements at sometimes very short notice.

    is there anything more I can do? I don't want to lose my job over this. Can they sack me?

    Editor: What are the reasons for saying that the old arrangement did not work? How long have you done the job share? Was it the result of a flexible working request in which case it is a permanent change to your contract and your employer would have to get your agreement to change it – see

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi. Ive been working set days and hours for amost 14 years. No weekends or evening's. Im a single mum to 2 children 10 and twelve. They now want me to do weekends. Evenings in another place doing a completely different job. I also care for my elderly disabled mum. Ive no childcare in these days. Ive told them I cantcan they sack me?

    Editor: What does it say in your contract about changing hours? You should be consulted on any change and you could argue that your set pattern is part of custom and practice. You could also consider lodging a flexible working request to work hours that fit with your care responsibilities and they could only turn this down on any of eight grounds and would have to justify these carefully – see

  • Anonymous says:

    I have been asked to work outside of my 38 hr week , 1 weekend a month , Friday evening 7 – 11 & saturday 10 – 7 , from home, I manage a health problem but manage my full week. Do I need a doctors note for declining from working the extra hours, which are outside of my contract.

    Editor: If it is not in your contract you could simply say that you have to decline for medical or personal reasons. It sounds like you have been consulted on this.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am on a 20 hrs per wk contract which over a month have been doing 87 to acrue the extra days in a month recently due to change our rota was changed but now monthly hrs comes to 95 my ex co workers comes to 93 and we are not being paid for it and being told that's what hrs mount to also was not asked about doing additional hrs any advice please.

    Editor: Are you basically talking about overtime and does your contract allow for unpaid overtime? How many of the hours are not being paid?

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi. My employer has entered into consultation on the terms and conditions of employment. One of the changes is to the working hours, 37.5 increasing to 45 hours per week. They are not proposing to increase the salary. The salary will remain the same. I have been with the company 2.5 years. Can they legally increase the hours without increasing the salary. Thank you for your help.

    Editor: Our HR expert Tara Daynes says: I don't know the reasons for the change, but assuming they are legitimate & they are following a reasonable consultation process, there is nothing unlawful about it. They aren't asking people to do anything unlawful (like work for less than minimum wage) – they are just varying the T&Cs relating to salary as well as hours of work. People can choose not to accept it, but that is tantamount to them resigning (they can claim constructive dismissal if they feel they have a case, e.g. if there is some discrimination, but if others have accepted the change that suggests it isn't unreasonable). The employer can potentially end the contract & rehire on the new T&Cs, in which case they have to follow the correct procedures (otherwise again someone can make a claim for unfair dismissal etc.)

    This gives more information: 

  • Anonymous says:

    My daughter works 3 days a week but her boss continuously phones her and expects her to do work on her days off. Tonight she has had to bring work home and will be working until around midnight, with no extra pay. Is this legal? How does she stop this. If she doesn't do it he shouts at her in front of everyone.

    Editor: What does her contract say about working extra hours? If it says occasionally, she could argue that it is becoming a regular occurence and that there is clearly a problem with workload in the office. It sounds like her boss is a bit of a bully. Is he victimising her in particular or is that the general culture of the place she works? The fact that he is doing it in front of everyone means there are a lot of witnesses, but whether they would be willing to support any grievance she might take is another matter. One of our experts has answered a similar question, which suggests negotiation, but this might not be possible if the boss is not amenable to this –

    Ultimately, if the company backs the manager she could face a long battle. She has to ask herself if she wants to go through this and if it is worth staying in such an unsupportive workplace.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have been working part time for the last 5 years on a 75% permanent contract. I have been with the company 20 years. I have asked my employer to increase my hours to 100%, as i need to pay for a nursing home for my dependent parent. The company has agreed to offer me an increase to 100% permanent contract, providing I change some of my terms and conditions of my current function. These changes would make my function and position within the company less favourable and less atractive. It is common practice for my colleagues to change percentatges of hours within their permanent contracts, without affecting their terms and conditions, although they have a different function to mine. My function comes with expensive rewards, and requesting this increase of hours, is giving the company the opportunity to amend my current priviledges. My question is: Can my employer change some of my terms and conditions because I have requested to go from part time to full time? Many thanks.

    Editor: Your terms and conditions can only be changed with your agreement. The increase in hours itself is a change to your terms and conditions. You would have to negotiate over these changes. Has your employer given any particular reasons for wanting to change your terms?

  • Anonymous says:

    I have been working 22.5 hours set days per week since 2009. I am a single mum with no local support other than childminder. I currently work early shifts as child minders dont work till 9 at night or night shifts, however i am now being expected to do this. I have also been told i would have to take a reduction in hours as they are changing their shift patterns ..where do i stand??

    Editor: Does it say anything in your contract about whether shifts can be changed for business reasons?

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi, I have two jobs, one for just 2 evenings a week – 6 hrs in total. They are now re organising, saying my job is the same for assimilation purposes, but changing the hours to 27!!! As I can't do that on top of my other job, where do I stand?

    Editor: You have the right to be consulted on any change to your terms and conditions – see

  • Anonymous says:

    I have been working fro this company for 5 years.
    I started part time 20 hrs per week 9.00 tp 13.00, then 2 years ago they wanted me to increase the hours from 20 to 33 per week.
    Now they are asking me for a full time, which I cannot do as I want to collect my daughter from school a least 3 times a week. I told them so and they said they need to think.
    If they would not accept my decision to stay on 33 hours, do I risk to loose my job?

    Editor: They cannot change your hours without consulting you and gaining your agreement – see

  • Anonymous says:

    My department within a large company has been put into consultation period to change all job titles (11 employees) and job descriptions to similar but different ones with longer hours and less pay, reducing everyone to the starting point of their pay scale. They are saying we are not entitled to redundancy as they are offering suitable alternatives. Can they do this?

    Editor: They would need to get your agreement to any changes to terms and conditions – see

  • Anonymous says:

    I work in a school. When I changed to part time hours we were on a one week timetable. We then changed to a 2 weeks timetable and I was given the same days each week. A year passed and on the next 2 week timetable I was given different days each week. This meant that I had to pay the full 5 days childcare while only working 3 days. In February I officially asked for a change to my contract to work fixed days so that I would be able to sort childcare for my daughter who is starting school in September. I was repeatedly told in the intervening time that I would know the decision by a fixed date but this date has kept moving.

    It is now June and I still do not have an official decision. From what I understand the fact that I have worked fixed days on a two week timetable before means it can be done. Other schools on two week timetables are able to offer their staff fixed day contracts.

    I have been unable to organise before and after school childcare for my daughter and have seriously considered handing in my notice over this as I feel as I am constantly being lied to and ignored.
    Can you please advise what I should do?

    Editor: Did you apply for fixed days under flexible working legislation? If so, your employer has to respond within a fixed timeframe. If not, it is worth doing so asap before the flexible working rules change at the end of June and there is no fixed timetable

  • Anonymous says:

    I am contracted to work 37.5hrs a week.(Night shift)My contract says I have 27days holidays and 8 days Bank holidays.
    However, my off days are Sundays and Mondays.
    Now since most Bank holidays falls on Mondays my Employers says I have no Bank holidays.
    Are they right?

    Editor: Bank holidays do not have to be given as extra to minimum annual leave. Minimum annual leave for full timers is 28 days. If bank holidays are given as extra, then they should be given across the board. What does it say in your contract?

  • Anonymous says:

    Regarding Trainee supervisor post and Justification is at present Supervisors not Trainees are contracted to work 45 Hours however it seems Company is trying to create 45 Hours for Trainees as opposed to 38.75!

    Editor: It is definitely a good idea to negotiate about this. It sounds as if they are expecting you to do more hours and are offering a promotion but on less pay per hour.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have held the position of Trainee supervisor for 2.5 years working 38.75 hours per week! However the Company have now suggested I Have the opportunity of Increasing my responsibility in 2 areas 1 being original work area/ 2 Other associated Area! They wish to increase my working Hours to 45 hours without any extra pay! Although I am prepared to work both areas on current terms and conditions with the view of review in 3 months! Can they enforce increase in hours or what could be their alternative legally! Many Thanks if you can help on this matter!

    Editor: They cannot change your hours without consulting with you and gaining your consent. They could dismiss you and rehire you on the new hours and terms & conditions, but would risk a claim of unfair dismissal. What is their justification for increasing the hours without paying any extra for the extra hours worked?

  • Anonymous says:

    I had flexible working hours agreed by my employer 3 years ago to enable me to take my children to and from school every day. I work two days a week 9.15 to 2.15. My employer has now told me I need to work til 8 pm one day every other week, which means starting later in the day so I still work the same amount of hours. Can they do this? Can they threaten to move me to another department? I have no one who can collect my children from 2 different schools and look after them for me during these hours.

    Editor: Your employer cannot change your terms and conditions without consulting you unless your contract states that your hours can be subject to change

  • Anonymous says:

    I am currently contracted to work 20 hours a week. My employer wants me to move my hours to 30 hours a week for 2 to 3 month. With a view then to increase to 37 again which i have no objection to. But at present they want to trial the 30 hours without changing my current terms and condition. I have requested for this to be a change to my contract so that I am entitled to additional holidays and bonus. I do not mind working the extra hours but would like to see this as an amendment to my contract. As I fear they are reducing agency heads and using my extra hours as a reserve. After the 'trial' and the bulk of the project is complete then they have the option of reverting back to my 20 hours. Where do I stand legally? Can they force me to enter a trial period under my current contract?

    Editor: You have to agree to any change otherwise if the employer forces the issue it is unfair dismissal.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am contracted 20 hours a week, my contract has been signed, but for 13 months now I have been doing paid overtime of an extra 20 hours a week. I have asked for a week of working my contracted hours as I have commitments and have been told by my manager that I can't as I have been doing full time for 12 months, I am now classed as full time. Is this true?

    Editor: If you are in the situation where your Employer has changed a term of your contract that is not expressly agreed, but you believe may have become implied over time through ‘custom and practice’, then the first thing you should do is raise a grievance with your Employer to see what their response is. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of this then your only other recourse is to take your Employer to an Employment Tribunal for a breach of an implied term of the contract.

    It also has to be said that if an Employer wishes to make a change to a term of a contract (whether it is an existing term or one implied by custom or practice) and justifies the need for this change as a necessary ‘business reason’, even if they are in breach of an employees contract by making the change, a Court may decide the Employers actions are justifiable for business reasons.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have been working as a receptionist and administration assistant for a firm for 50 weeks. I have always worked 09.00-15.30 – these were the hours advertised and the hours I applied for – I have been approached by the company and asked to take on extra work and as a result work full time 08.30-17.00 or alternatively suggest any additional hours I feel I can work to cover the extra work. My daughter begins full time education in September of this year. In order to be able to take her to and from school myself (as I have no childcare cover) I submitted a flexible working request to change my hours from 09.00-15.30 to 09.00-15.00 which has been refused. I have been given the option to appeal, but I was hoping for a little advice as to what appropriate action I should take going forward?
    Any help or advise would be most appreciated.

    Editor: As flexible working is a negotiation process, can you think of any ways you can meet the concerns of your work regarding the extra half hour a day? Is their concern linked to cover for reception duties for this half hour and is this a busy time of day for them? Who covers now from 3.30pm onwards? Is there some aspect of your administrative work you could offer to do from home? If you can show that you are taking into account their concerns and trying to find a solution a compromise may be more possible. 

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi, I hope you can help? I'm contracted to work 20 hours per week with 5 reserve hours per month as the business requires. I returned to work June 2012 when my son was 7 months old. I asked for flexible working hours part time. Since October 2012 I have been exceeding my reserve hours and have clocked up 20 on top. I was refused holiday because we were short staffed. I understood this, but did not expect to lose my holiday as this was not my fault. We are still short staffed and my employers are now demanding I work full time and expect me to work for less money for the extra hours. I have tried to speak with them about the hours and holiday to no avail. I feel like I am being treated unfairly and don't know where to turn. I hope you can offer me some advice as to my next steps to take.

    Editor: If your contract states certain hours any attempt to change this must be agreed with you as it changes your terms and conditions. They cannot just impose it on you. Regarding holiday, do you mean that you have lost the holiday because it is not carried over from one year to another? Can you respond via the Advice & Support Q & A page box as then we have your contact details so our experts can ask any follow-up questions and give the best advice. 


  • Anonymous says:

    I am contracted to a 16 hour week.I have held this position for 5yrs working a Sunday and two four hour shifts mid week during peak hours as I am in retail.The agreement was that as I work Sundays, I would not be required to work Saturdays.This worked for both parties as Saturdays were already covered and I had childcare for Sundays! The company that I work for are now trying to get me to work some Saturdays as well. I do not have childcare on a Saturday and also have comitments with my son who is 8. I am a single mum. Where do I stand?

    Editor: Are you the only person affected by this change of hours or is it part of a general restructure? Has any valid business reason been given for the change in hours? Could you write with more details via our Advice & Support/Q & A page box as then we can get back to you if we require more information for our legal experts.

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