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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.