Can my employer force me to work Saturdays or long hours?

I am a single working mum of two children, 12 and 11. I currently work for a supermarket 3 days in the week 9-3. My manager has informed me that I have to start working Saturdays 12-6 which I have explained I can’t do as I have no childcare. I was then told to go away and think of a compromise or find someone to have my children. In a further meeting they hinted that I could keep my current days, but stay till 6pm but again I have no childcare for the few hours and my local childminders won’t have them for 2 hours plus the cost is more than I would be earning so also defeats the object of working those extra hours. Can my employer force me to work Saturdays or long hours?

I am sorry to hear about the difficulties that you are currently having. It is not clear to me what hours you actually want to work and it sounds like you have been very accommodating to your employer and colleagues. Now what I need you to do is to consider yourself and your needs. Once you know what you want you can do the following things.

Arrange a Meeting with Your Employer

Ask to speak with your employer privately, requesting a work life balance meeting expressing your needs. Show them how you have been accommodating by working in the weekdays and how you have adjusted your life to suit the needs of the business already.

Learn to Negotiate

Your contract can change with agreement but if you don’t agree you need to clearly state why. Learn how to negotiate. Come up with a solution yourself and put that solution to your employer. For example, if weekdays are better for you then say so and maybe suggest that you can do Saturdays once in a while with proper warning so you can accommodate childcare issues. Please don’t be the person that allows everyone else to get what they want and you be left worrying about your needs.

Your Rights As An Employee

  • Your employer may be in breach of contact if they want to change your contract and you may be able to argue against the change for that reason.
  • Try to negotiate as stated above This will show that you are being reasonable.
  • Suggest a trial with the new changes to see if it works for both of you.
  • You can consider insisting on keeping your old hours as a carer/parent.

Your Legal Rights

Even if your employer gives you something official looking saying “notice of variation of your contract” or something similar they usually still need to get your agreement to the change, or give you notice to end your old contract.

If there is no agreement; you could pursue this through employment tribunal, but with minimal compensation. It is for you to consider if it is worth it.

If you are dismissed because you refused to agree to a change in your contract or you refuse to sign a new contract, and you have a year or more of service, you may have a claim for unfair dismissal. If your employment started on or after 6 April 2012, you must have two years of service to claim unfair dismissal.

If may be necessary to get legal advice should it get to this stage, but hopefully by using your negotiation skills you will be able to manage the situation.

Indirect Sex Discrimination

If your employer tries to make you work different hours or in a different place and you cannot comply because of your childcare responsibilities then you may have a claim for indirect sex discrimination if you are a woman. The reason for this is that statistics show that more women than men take the main responsibility for childcare in society in general. As a result, a change in hours of work may have a worse effect on women employees than it does on men. If this is the case for you, you may be able to argue that your employer is indirectly discriminating against you by insisting you change your hours. There are exceptions below.

Your Employer’s Rights

If your employer can show there is a really good business reason for the change and that their actions are a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim then your claim would not be successful. To do this, they would have to clearly show:

  • that there was a genuine business reason for the change, and
  • that it was necessary to change your particular way of working, taking into account the effect on you personally, of the proposed change.

In conclusion, even if there was a genuine need for the change your employer would need to look at other ways of organising the work so that you personally did not have to change, for example, employing an additional part-timer to work on Saturdays instead of requiring you to do it.

Comments [50]

  • Sally says:

    I work 4 shifts a week I am a carer so it is any days out of 7 my boss puts me on 6 or 8 shifts weekends a month whilst other colleagues do 2 or 3 shifts I have offered to work 4 shifts a month on weekends as I think this is reasonable is my boss being Unreasonable putting me on 6 or 8 shifts at weekends per month

  • Jack says:

    Hi I currently have a part time job and work Thursday to Sunday but these are not my contracted days I’m just contracted thr hours, every week without fail they’re the shifts I’m put on however I’ve just took on another part time job and have being asked if Friday saturday and Sunday would be okay, I said yes and told my other job I could no longer do those days as they weren’t contracted to me and that they should share them out and they refused and said I would have to not take the other job, what can I do

  • Anon says:

    Hi There

    I’m due my baby in November and will take my 9 months maternity and return full time. My current contract (been working to this for last 6 years) requires me to work 2 weekends in 6. Ive been informally told that any new requests to leave weekends shifts will be turned down as theyve allowed previous staff this request and they will no longer be able to cover the weekend work. It’s causing a lot of bad feeling between staff as those remaining on this contract are aggreived that they might be refused this request. I have no issues with childcare mon to Fri it’s the weekends that I will have problems with. I’m wondering where I stand. thanks

    • Mandy Garner says:

      You can put in a formal flexible working request for fixed week-day shifts and they can turn this down on any of eight reasons – see Each request is taken on its own merits. One reason for turning down requests is that the employer is unable to cover the work among existing staff. When you make the request you have to put a case for your flexible working which shows that you have through through the possible impact on the business and how this can be covered so if you can address this in some way your request is more likely to be successful, for instance, can you talk to colleagues about swapping shifts, etc, even if only for a temporary period?

  • R says:

    I am a father looking after my children on the weekends and my wife is working. My new boss want me to sign a contract saying I have to work on the weekends. I have been working for 3 and half months with no contact but my national insurance and tax is been deducted as normal. How to persuade the boss to change the contract before I can sign it ?

    I have explained my situation to my boss about I have no choice of working on the weekends.

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, What hours were you hired to work? Is your boss changing those hours? Whatever verbal contract you were offered on being hired would be valid, although your employer should issue a written contract confirming the hours agreed. If you were hired to work weekends, legally you would be in a more difficult situation as you can only apply to change your hours under a formal flexible working request after six months in the job. If you have any further details which would help our experts to advise you email [email protected].

  • Shaz says:

    I’m a single parent of 2 children and I work 4 hour contract when I was called in for the job I told them my availability was 10 till 2 Monday to Friday and even filled out a form for my availability now my manager is trying to force me to work 2 till 6 and when I told her I can’t do it due to jobs childcare she told me I would have to leave. where do I stand with this?

  • Yvonne Morgan says:

    I work an eight hour contract a week Monday to Friday can they make me go on courses on a saturday

  • carolyn Hemingway says:

    I work in the care sector and where I work I am the only one that get put on the rota every weekend. I only get a weekend off if I request it. When I first excepted the job I said I would work every other weekend. Am I in my rights to say I won’t do every weekend

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi I have recently returned back to work after issues with my back, i still suffer with my back and asked to work mon to fri, and this was fine now im being asked to work one saturday out of the four, i am not going to be able to as i struggle doing the five days a week, please help as i am not very happy with my boss

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, Did you previously do Saturdays? Have you got a GP note with regard to your back or had any health assessment? How long were you off for? Any additional information you could provide would help our advisers.

  • Anon anon says:

    I’ve been working for a national Chemist full time as a manager for almost 8 years. I have always worked mon- fri and had weekends off. They are now asking me to work 1 in 3 Saturdays. I have put in a flexible working request and stated childcare issues at the weekend. They have agreed to this but with the condition that I work at least 10 Saturday or Sundays each year. Are they allowed to do this? And what are my rights?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      They can make this suggestion, but you do not have to agree it. Also, when they asked you to work one in three Saturdays, did it state anywhere in your original contract that your hours could be changed for business reasons? If not, then they have to consult and get your agreement on any changes –

  • Kirstie Flemming says:

    I am a single working mum with a 5 year old child and I work in a care home. My boss has told me that I have to work Christmas day but I have no childcare ( plus who would want to have someones elses kid on xmas day and what kid would want to go anyway), so he’s told me to bring her in with me. Am I legally allowed to do this within this sort of setting??

  • julie johnson says:

    Hi I wonder if anyone can help. I accepted a job 20 weeks ago on a Monday to Friday contract. There is a sentence which states they can alter my working hours. However I also work at the weekend as being on call by telephone and do some site visits with my children should I need. I have been told today by my new boss of 1 week that I will now be required to work every weekend (Thursday through to Monday) THis will be an issue as I have sold care for my 2 children and will add considerable costs to my childcare bill as well as meaning I wont get to spend any whole days with my children other than holidays. My children have not seen their father for the last 10 years and so this is an issue. is there anything I can do as I am only 20 weeks in and as this will provide financial hardship as well as emotional issues.

  • Anonymous says:

    I work in a care home and I am contracted for 30 hours a week which is 4 days over 7. I work alternative weekends but do have to do a split weekend when required. A split weekend is when you work your weekend off but only one of the days and it’s to cover sickness or holidays. Today I got my rota and I am on for a split weekend and then my normal working weekend and this is for 6 weeks. I was told by my senior management that if they want me to work every weekend then they can. I contacted personnel who could not confirm this or help me as my terms and conditions do not specify my working weekends. I was advised that this is because I am on a rota basis. I am going to see the manager but I am looking for advise before I see them.

    • Mandy Garner says:

      How long have you done this work pattern and up to now how often have you had to do a split weekend? Was this agreed verbally with a manager?
      Best wishes.

  • Nell says:

    I’m a medical receptionist. When my colleague or I have holidays we have to cover for each other without pay. My days are Monday to Friday, but I’m expected to work some Saturday’s without pay too. I only get the minimum paid holiday allowance – surely working extra hours and days unpaid cancels my leave out? Is this right?

  • C Culy says:

    Hi, I currently work for an insurance company for the last 19 years, my contact doesn’t state I work any Saturday’s, but I have always worked 1 in 6 the same as the other part timers. They are now trying to make me work 1 in 3 but my husband now works away from home 2 weeks and home for 1 week and I am finding this a struggle as they temporarily have me working 1 in 4. It’s causing me stress and financially to get a childminder from 8 to 1 would cost me Apox £75- £100. Can this be done

  • Brianna Blythe says:

    I’ve been working part time for a retail company going on 4 months and I’m now 8 months pregnant and will be going on maternity leave in late Feb. My agreed scheduled hours and days are Monday, Wednesday and Friday 10-3 and they know I have some obgyn appointments I just could not get on a Tuesday or Thursday so had to request off a day or two in a span of 3 months. They recently stopped scheduling me to work, this coming week will be the 3rd week in a row that I have not been worked. Prior to not being schedule for the 1st week, I had to request the 21st off due to my obgyn appointment being the only one available before Christmas, then they do not schedule me this week or next week. I asked one of the managers why I was not working that week and they told me it was due to sales being down. I went with it then, but I am beginning to think it is something else. I am now a high risk pregnancy due to gestational diabetes and will be seeing a high risk doctor as well as a dietician and my regular OB-GYN every week. I have a feeling they are trying to get me to quit or not schedule me for up to 12 weeks so the system kicks me out. What should I do? I know they will fuss since I will have to request other days off due to my appointments now. Would it be better for me to talk to them about leaving and then reapplying after my daughter is born?

  • Anne-marie says:

    Hi I have been working in a bar for 13 months 20 hrs a week for last 9 months staff have came and went during this time as the boss humiliates them in front of customers
    Every time a new member of staff joins the team he reduces the hours of the other to give to the new members and all overtime is given to them
    A new member of staff has just joined the team taken on to work weekends now she is asking for more hours so he’s now threatening staff with the sack if they don’t cover some of the weekend shifts for her and give up some of their week nights for her to work

    My husband works weekends so when I applied for the job it was weekdays only due to childcare however when short staff I have helped cover where I can get childcare, as it is late evening shifts childcare is difficult as someone has to stay over or I have to ship my children out to stay at someone’s house

    Is my boss being unreasonable can he legally do this to me I have done everything else he has ever asked of me covering shifts etc with only 10 mins notice staying half an hour later on my own to lock up the building being humiliated In front of customers for his mistakes I have been fair is he??

  • Lisa says:

    i have held my position as a server for about 2 years, my availability is 7:00am-4:00 pm 7 days. I was in a pretty bad car accident in March of 2015 and was off work also at the time was almost 5 months pregnant just 2 weeks ago was aloud to return to work on light hours 20 hours a week per dr’s orders. Last weeks schedule my boss had me scheduled 28. Hours when I brought it to his attention that I was over my hours he said “find someone to take ur days” so I did… The next schedule I was scheduled 25 hours and 2 of the days I’m scheduled are for night turn which is not of the availability that I have had for 2 years of day turn only. Not to mention he asked me to cover someone’s night turn shift and I told him I couldn’t cuz I have no sitter past 6:00 pm. What can I do

  • aloupy says:

    does work have to give you a proper copy of the business contract or one they made themselves

  • Amy mundy says:


    I work for a super market and have contracted set hours which includes days and hours I work. I work every other weekend at the mo, but I have been told that I will have to work every Saturday or loose my job. Can they do this I have 15 years service

  • anna springett says:

    I work for a care company with a guaranteed hours contract. my roistered days off are every Friday and every other weekend – ive just been told that if they cant meet my guaranteed hours during my set working days I have to work my roistered days off or they will only pay for the hours ive worked during my set days which may be less than the guaranteed hours – is this legal?

  • Heather Mcmann says:

    I have just started a job which was advertised as 20 hours over 5 days (4 hour shifts), to get the job I said I was very flexible as i am as i do not have child care but my husband does not work weekends and i do have grandchildren i normally see every sun, I am happy to do my share of weekend work but when we got the 4 weekly schedule i have been given Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun & Mon shifts most of late afternoons (days off Tues and Wed) which means I have no proper time off at weekends, I have been told i cannot do anything about it as i said i was flexible, is this fair

  • Daniel Parrish says:

    I have been working Mon-Fri 8:30-4:30pm for the last 10yrs. I have been recently told i will start having to work one weekend a month and cover a shift pattern starting in September (this is not possible for numerous reasons. There is nothing in my contract regards hours but my terms and conditions say the following.

    5. Duties and Hours of Work
    5.1. The normal working week is 35 hours, exclusive of one hour per day for lunch. The services of a
    member of the full-time clerical staff are at the reasonable disposal of the University for ten sessions
    per week (a session being a morning, afternoon or evening). The normal office hours are from 9 am
    to 5 pm; the Secretary of the University must be kept informed whenever the pattern is varied.

    Can they make me do this? surely this is not reasonable. someone mentioned to me custom and practice?
    Any help much appreciated.

  • kirsty says:

    I am contracted to work 16 hours per week. Can my manager give me less hours some weeks then more the next weeks, so that it averages out at 64 hours per month?

  • Anonymous says:

    I currently work 2 days a week Monday and Tuesdays, i use family for child care. Can my contract be changed to spread the hours over 5 days when i have no child care? I'm a single parent of a 9 and 4 year old and have worked for the company for 17 years.

    Editor: Does your contract say your hours can be changed for business reasons? If not, you would have to be consulted on any changes to your terms and conditions and your agreement obtained – see If it does, you would still need to be consulted. Are you able to negotiate an agreement with your employer, for instance, if your children are in school, could you work reduced hours over the five days, but revert to two days a week during holidays?

  • Anonymous says:

    Can my employer make me change my working days. I have worked there for 6 years originally on a 2 day week working weds/ thurs, then in 2010 I changed my contract to 3dats working the extra day on a Tues. In September 2014, I reduced my working days back to 2 days for childcare issues, working a Tues/weds. I have never had a new contract for this change. My employer has now asked me to change my days which I have said I am unable to commit to due to childcare arrangements. Can he force me to change my 2 working days?

    Editor: What does it say in your contract about changing hours for business reasons, etc? It sounds as if your employer has been quite accommodating up to now so it might be worth trying to work out a compromise.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have an employee that has been inherited by every other location in company as branded a difficult cookie to accomadate. She is a single mum with 2 children and mental health issues. I have tried to accommodate her by giving her working hours of 9-3 or 10-3 and 1 saturday shift a month which puts all other staff working evenings and weekends in care work sector, but shes rude, constantly late 20-90 mins late and ringing to say she can't come in today,( usually on days to her advantage and you can suspiciously predict which days she can't do) which has a massive detrimental effect on clients and staff. I have tried to be sympathetic and accommodating but at end of my teather, she saying she doesn't have any family support as a back up emergency plan. Where legally do I stand?

    Editor: You could consider taking disciplinary action against her for bad time-keeping etc. This would involve a series of warnings initially which may make her aware of the impact of her behaviour on your organisation and on other staff – see

  • Anonymous says:

    My boss had asked me to do 1 in 4 Saturdays which I don't want to do. My agreed hours are 9.30am to 2.30pm Monday to Friday. I regularly work to 5pm every day because work is really busy, I am happy doing this 50 hours over my agreed hours but not happy to Work a Saturday which I have said no to. I have been threatened with notice to terminate my employment if I do not voluntary agree I have put forward an alternative proposal and am in a consultation period at the moment – where do I stand/what should I be doing/what are my rights?

    Editor: see

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi i work every sat and have done for 6 years now im
    Starting uni and its a mature student course in a sat my employer wont let me change my day from sat to tues any ideas?

    Editor: Have you filed a flexible work request? This would force your employer to give your request due consideration and to back it up with a sound business reason rather than dismissing it out of hand, but they can still turn it down if there is a good business reason to do so.

  • Anonymous says:

    my emploer wants me to train on checkouts .i dont want this can i refuse ?

    Editor: Is this part of your contract?

  • Anonymous says:

    Does my employer have to notify me if they want to change my Hours and working days?
    I am the only member in my office that has not had a meeting with senior management due to the impact on me with the extra work, my employer is recruiting new staff too.

    Please advise.

    Editor: What does it say in your contract about changing hours? Do you have fixed hours agreed in your contract? If so you should be consulted on any change to your terms and conditions

  • Anonymous says:

    My Manager is the Director of our company's UK office, we're part of a privately owned international group with HQ in Germany. My Director is new and my current contract terms were agreed by the previous Director who employed me. My issue is the new Director is clearly not happy with my working agreement and want to write up a new contract which changed many of the implied terms which I do not agree to as it will effect my current working conditions which are flexible around the care for my child, who is four. It also stated I can be asked ot work abroad, anywhere in the UK, travel at weekends etc… Do I have to sign the contract? Does this take away my right as a working Mother?. He also states my contract must state my plave of work is the office as my role is "admin" althoug I work and agreed to 80% from home. Also his sontract states his place of work is home. Is this fair?

    One last point, I would like to raise a grienavce but the Handbook states I should raise it to the Director, which ofcourse is the person I have the grievance with, do I have to raise it to him, or can I raise it directly with his Manager in HQ or the HR Dept at HQ. We don't have HR is UK.

    Editor: You do not have to sign the contract if you do not agree to the terms. The grievance process would be whatever is written in the particular organisation's policy, but you could copy HR in.

  • Anonymous says:

    Ive been asked to work one in 4 saturdays ihave worked every 4th one since the change now i have been told itcan be any saturday within a 4 week period i have already made plans for the saturdays i dont work is this true.

    Editor: What does your contract state about working Saturdays? Is the Saturday working something that was negotiated with you recently as a change to your contract? If so, your employer cannot just enforce a change without consultation

  • Anonymous says:

    i have been asked to go on a training course for work(first aid) over 2 saturdays 6 hours each time but i wont be paid can they do this.

    Editor: Employment lawyer Tracey Guest says: Whether or not your employer can insist that you attend the training course depends on the terms of your contract of employment and you should check this in detail. Under normal circumstances, your contract of employment would set out the hours that you are required to work (your ‘normal working hours’) and would state that you will be paid for the hours that you work at an agreed rate. If the courses then fall outside of your agreed hours, you would not be obliged to attend.

    However, your contract may state that your employer may require you to work extra hours and/or attend training courses (perhaps because this is a requirement for your job role) and that you will receive no additional remuneration for attending. If this is the case, then unfortunately your employer can require you to attend and you may face disciplinary action if you do not attend, especially if this is a job requirement. There may be an argument that the requirement to insist that you work on a Saturday is indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex if you are unable to attend due to childcare commitments. If this is the case, you should raise this with your employer and see if your attendance at the course can be rescheduled to a time when you are able to attend.

    Please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 975 3823 if you would like further advice in relation to this matter.

  • Anonymous says:

    Ive been and seen my manager as im due to go back after maternity leave, shes telling me I have to work a Saturday that its the legal law for retail?.. But I can due to childcare.. ive given her the option of monday to friday. Then comprised and said id work till 10ish on the saturday, but now has said no one is answering the pho e to her and shes asked her manager and said ive got to move departments… but all im asking is, is it really the legal law to have to work weekends???

    Editor: It is not the law that you have to work Saturdays. What does your contract say about changing your hours of working?

  • Anonymous says:

    I am a part time manager at a big supermarket and I am currently doing a full time secondment for 12 weeks at a different store. While I can fulfil the full time commitment of 36 hours the store manager is expecting me to work extra hours and sundays neither of which I will be paid for, I have explained that I am unable to do this as I have a young child of 16 months to which he has implied that only people who can do extra hours should work full time is this unfair discrimination as I feel I am being penalised for having a child? I have explained that I can fulfil my contracted hours but due to child care issues I cannot do more. I feel that this will not be acceptable to him and is going to cause me problems?

    Editor: Do the terms of your secondment state you may be required to do overttime? If not, you cannot be forced to do overtime and coiuld lodge a grievance. The following gives information on your rights regarding overtime –

  • Anonymous says:

    I work part time as a medical receptionist and my contract is renewed every year. I have been employed with this employer for just over 2 years. I am constantly belittled and threatened that i mustnt answer back as im on a yearly contract. I am scheduled to work every 3rd saturday and this easter was not my saturday and so have booked the easter break at eurodisney with my family. Over the weekend I was bombarded with texts, very bullying texts, to say the woman who should be on, has announced she is going abroad even though she knew both myself and the other worker had both booked to go away as it wasnt our saturday. My manager sent me the texts which i have kept on my phone, saying shes not my social worker and i will do that saturday. The texts carried on until I agreed to do the saturday. I was told I cant do anything on saturdays as it goes against my contract. I will now have to lose my part of the money and my family are going without me. Am I obliged to do this saturday and is it legal to receive threatening texts. The other employee was not sent the same kind of texts that were sent to me.

    Editor: Does your contract say that your days can be subject to change? If not and you are scheduled to do every third Saturday then your employer cannot force you to work that Saturday. They would have to get your agreement.  You are correct to keep a record of treatment you consider to be bullying. Acas has advice on how to deal with bullying in the workplace -

  • Anonymous says:

    my boss wants me to to do 1,in 4 sats a month,but cant afford to pay me,he wants me to take a day off in the week,i chose the mon after i work sat,but he said i cant i have to take the day i choose before i work sat,im a single mum of a 14yr old,i dont want to work sat,but he said this big pharmacy company will show me the door,iwas employed for mon-fri,he said ive got away with it to long,not working sat,because he has to,what can i do,nowhere to go for help……………..

    Editor: I don't understand the bit about not choosing the day. This sounds like a change to your terms and conditions in that your boss is changing your working hours which he cannot do without proper consultation. You do not say how long  you have worked these hours. Could you provide more information via our Advice & Support Q & A page box.


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