Can they force me to go full time?: ask the expert

I was recruited on a part-time basis just over a year ago. The opportunities in the team I’m responsible for have grown / my team are winning business and the company now either want me to go full-time, or are saying I need to resign..or they will make me redundant as the job is now full-time. They feel the COO should never have agreed to employee for this position part-time. The 3 days per week is proving a challenge (I’m always doing 4 days!). They are not open to exploring job share opportunities at all & dismiss it. I’d appreciate advice on where I stand on this and what approach I should take.

I understand that you were recruited on a part-time basis just over a year ago. Your employer now wants to change your role to full-time or wants you to resign because your job is now full-time. Your employer states that your part-time role is redundant.

Unless your employer has a contractual right to do this (which is unlikely), your employer cannot change your role from a part-time to a full-time role without your agreement. If your employer attempts to change your terms and conditions of employment without your consent, you have a number of options. You could work under the new terms and conditions but make it clear that you do not agree to the change. You could then submit a claim for breach of contract. It is unlikely that you would be able to show any financial losses resulting from the breach of contract and this would mean that your only remedy for breach of contract would be a declaration that the variation was a breach of your contract of employment or an injunction stopping your employer from breaching your contract of employment. Your other option would be to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal, but unfortunately you need two years’ continuous employment to submit this claim at an employment tribunal and therefore this avenue would not be available to you until you meet this requirement.

If your employer dismisses you for not agreeing to the change in your working hours, your remedy would be an unfair dismissal claim in the employment tribunal, but unfortunately, again, you need two years’ continuity of employment for this claim. Your employer should, however, pay you your contractual notice entitlement and if it does not, you would have a wrongful dismissal claim. Your employer has also mentioned redundancy. However, a need to increase working hours is not a redundancy situation, although it is possible that your employer mistakenly believes that it is. In any event, you are not legally entitled to a redundancy payment until you have two years’ continuity of employment.

It is generally acknowledged that a requirement to work full-time rather than part-time could be capable of amounting to indirect sex discrimination, as more women than men have family responsibilities that make full-time work more difficult. However, the requirement will not be discriminatory if it is objectively justified by your employer. In your case, your employer may be able to justify a requirement for full-time, rather than part-time hours, on the basis that the business is growing and your team are winning business.  When considering changing your role from part-time to full-time role, your employer should be clear about the aim they are seeking to achieve, and consider whether there are any less discriminatory ways of achieving it. It could, for example, consider job-share or splitting a full-time role into two part-time roles as potential ways of seeking to avoid indirect discrimination against you.

I would advise you as a first step to submit a grievance stating that you do not agree to your employer changing your hours and that you consider this is discriminatory on the grounds of sex. Depending on how your employer handles your grievance, you should then consider submitting a sex discrimination claim. This must be submitted at the employment tribunal within three months of the discriminatory act, which in your case, would be i) the change to your terms and conditions of employment from part-time to full-time, if you remain an employee or ii) the date you are dismissed for not agreeing to go full-time.

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




Comments [17]

  • Tony swanwick says:

    This is in behalf of my wife.

    Worked at the company for 24 years. 18 years full time and the last 6 part time. 5 hrs a day for 3 days a week.

    Been through a consultation period for this to be extended to 5hrs per day for 5 days to cover the increased work load.

    Options on the table from the company.

    1/ do the 5 days per week. This would mean earning less on a prorata per day due to tax, whereas currently under that taxable threshold. She does not really want to do 5 days in particular hard in the holiday period with child cover and makes 5hrs uneconomical

    2/ the terminology has been used as ‘restructed’ Position. Therefore no redundancy is on offer as this does not attract redundancy. An offer of a few £k has been made as goodwill.

    3/ decline and simply be dismissed.

    I can get my head around the ‘restructure’ element. Is this a loop hole term to avoid a redundancy payment? I see it differently, they require more hours to be worked and require a change to the hours as stated in the contract I.e 15 hours per week over 3 days. That role is now not a requirement and surely the role is being made redundant?

    Please could you advise your thoughts?

  • Lesley Davies says:

    I am on a 18 hour contract but my manager puts me on a.lot of weekends i don’t think this is fair what are my rights

    • Mandy Garner

      Mandy Garner says:

      Hi,
      Can you send more information on the type of contract you are on, how long you have been on this contract, what it specifies about shifts, if you have ever specified that you couldn’t work weekends, if this is because of childcare etc, to mandy@workingmums.co.uk.

  • Anon says:

    Hi
    My partner is currently working part time. She has been working for the same company for about 16 years full time. Last year she managed to get her contract and role changed to part time. It seems they want her back to full time and her manger is constantly hassling her at home by email and text on her non-working days, plus there is a level of subtle bullying whilst she is at work. She has stated that she cannot go back full time (because this would cause her stress which is why she went part time in the first place) and they are reviewing the situation later in the year. Her manager has made it clear that he does not want her around anymore if she is part time. What are her options? Thanks

  • Upset Part time worker says:

    I have been with a company for ten years and work part time (20hrs) a week over four days; they have said that my role will be full time as from the new year; that have offered the terms such as salary and holiday but bottom line is I do not want to work full time! Yes the business has grown and developed but I have always been part time and even increased hours at one point through the duration of working.

    Can you please advise on the way forward and likely outcome as I don’t want to do this!

  • Sara Adams says:

    I have been given 6 weeks notice from my job. I have been working part time, 3 days a week for 6 years, for a firm of solicitors in London. They have asked me a few times if I would go full time and I have said no as I have 2 children and I don’t want to work full time. I did say I would do 4 days if that helped them and they said no. Then I got told they were giving me notice and had already got a full time secretary lined up. I asked them if I was being made redundant and they said no as they had offered me the job and I had turned it down. They also referred me to a case of Barnes v Gilmartin and said the work had not diminished. Could you tell me if what they are saying is right and what I should do next as obviously I am up against experienced people who know the law inside out.

  • Roger says:

    I got a part time contract but have been working full time hours for the last 2yrs is there a law saying they must offer me a full time contract because of the lenth of time I have been doing full time hours

  • Michaela Tanner says:

    I am part time doing 5.5 hrs a day with 16 years service. We have 1team leader and 4 working people 2 which are full time (male) and then 2 female part timers. They have said the part time vacancies are up for redundancy . They have offered us full time and if except we then on a point system be rated down to two full time workers only with one team leader. My colleague suggested job share which they offered 4.25 hrs only which she rejected and has took the money. I now have two options full time or redundancy . How do I stand

  • Ann Leeming says:

    My boss asked me if I would go part time and I accepted it, but now due to a dishwasher being broken at work they are trying to force me to work more hours until it gets fixed (I work in a restaurant in a hotel) but since I’ve worked part time I have sorted all out with my housing benefit and so I can’t do the extra hours due to it disturbing my claim that is all sorted, but my boss doesn’t seem to care about that. Are they allowed to treat me this way since it was them that asked me to go part time?

  • Anonymous says:

    I work for a large retail company who are restructuring management roles at present, i currently work 25 hours part time and my job is increasing to 36 hours full time, the options open to me are take the full time role or resign, The company has deemed this as a minor change to working conditions therefore I am under no consultation period, have not been given the opportunity to apply for part time vacancies and no offer of redundancy. Other managers who's jobs have been restructured have all this on offer. I work part time to support my family and 25 hours works around our situation, working full time would incur child care costs and less time at home, where do I stand??

    Editor: You should definitely be consulted on any change to your hours and this is a substantial change – see https://www.gov.uk/your-employment-contract-how-it-can-be-changed/getting-agreement

  • Anonymous says:

    I read this article with interest as I work for a big financial institution which may change my role to include team leader responsibilities (by making the grade/role above me which currently has the team manager responsibilities redundant)and tell me i need to be full time to fulfil the new duties. I have a contract for 14 hours currently and as a single mum would struggle to work more than 21 hours, but the terms and conditions on my contract state 'the employer retains the right to alter my responsibilities and hours as required'- are they allowed to make so big a change to my role?

    Editor: Our HR expert Tara Daynes says: Just because an employer sticks a clause in a contract doesn´t mean they can get away with doing whatever they like/ It still needs to be fair & reasonable, & this sounds to me like it isn´t. It sounds like this is a general enquiry rather than something that is actually happening, so I would suggest you pre-empt the situation by flagging up with them that you have limitations & so would only be able to accept changes within certain parameters. You should make it clear to your employers that to make any unilateral changes that can´t be objectively justified could be tantamount to detrimental treatment & discrimination, so they should tread carefully before making any sweeping changes.


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