If your work hours change does it require a new contract?

I am returning to work after two months off due to illness. I want to reduce my hours by one hour each day. I currently have a good contract (from previous employer; we have been taken over by another) and would like to keep it. I have been advised that changing my hours will force me to enter a new contract with the new company. Is this correct?

I understand you wish to reduce your hours by one hour a day – in order to do so you should make a formal flexible working request. If the request is accepted by the company and they do not wish to make any other changes to your contract then there are two ways of formalising your new working arrangement. The company can provide you with a new contract to reflect the reduction of your hours, and confirm the pro-rata reduction to your pay, provided that your continuous service is protected. Alternatively, they can issue you with a contract variation letter confirming your new hours and pay, which you would need to sign and return so a copy can be kept on your personnel file. It is not clear whether you wish to reduce your hours permanently. If it is a temporary request whilst you recover from your illness absence then it would not need require any changes to your contract and I would suggest a temporary variation to your contract would be more appropriate.

Technically, due to the transfer from a previously employer, the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (“TUPE”) would apply to your employment, meaning that your employer cannot seek to vary your contract for reasons relating to the transfer. However, as the change to your hours is at your request, they are entitled to offer you a new contract, potentially on less favourable terms, and given that you have requested the variation, the less favourable contract is not as a result of the transfer so you would not be likely to have a claim under TUPE.

If the company are making any other changes to your contract then they would need to consult with you, then cannot force contract changes on you. If you were not willing to agree any such changes then the company may require you to continue working under your current contract, and as such, under your current hours.

Where an employer wishes to change an employee’s contract, they can in some cases inform you that if the new contract is not accepted then you will be dismissed, although this is only really in circumstances where the change is required for organisational / business reasons. Where an employee is dismissed for not accepting changes to their contract, the employer usually immediately offers to reemploy them on the new terms as this is a way of negating the potential for the employee to bring a claim of unfair dismissal.

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