Changing shifts ruined my childcare arrangements: Ask the expert

Question about changing shifts at work

My contract of employment states that I work Mon-Fri nine-three. I have worked these hours for the last five years, and have been able to take both my children-aged 10 & seven,to and from school daily. My dept which worked Mon-Fri nine-five was closed down, the files were transferred to another region, and with only eight days notice, all 21 staff were transferred to the call centre which worked seven days a week 8am-8pm. We were informed that after six months we would have to work shifts. I advised my employer that I could not do it, due to my child care commitments. They bought in a shift review and changed everyone’s shift pattern, due to business needs, and now I am told I have to work nine-five one Saturday per month, one week in four 9.30-3.30, and one week in four 12-6pm. The other two weeks in the month I can remain working nine-three. Obviously I can not find child care to cover my children for 30 mins per day one week a month, and then for three hrs per day another week in the month. I raised a grievance and took it to an appeal but they state that due to the ‘contractual change’ie bringing in the shift review, I have to change my working hours. I explained that I simply cannot get childcare cover and they advised me that it is not their problem. I have worked for this company 23 years.

If an employer wants to change any parts of an employee’s employment contract then they have to consult with them about the changes and gain the employee’s agreement. You state that your employer closed down your department and relocated you and your colleagues with only eight days notice.

While it is not clear geographically how far the relocation was, this move is still quite a substantial change to your terms and conditions and eight days consultation does not sound like time for discussion to take place. On top of this, your employer has also substantially changed your working pattern which is another change in your contractual terms. In terms of your working hours, employees with children under 18 have a right to formally request more flexible working arrangements.

Employers have the duty to consider requests properly. An employer can refuse a request for flexible working if they can demonstrate: an inability to rearrange work among existing staff; the burden of additional costs; a detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand; an inability to recruit additional staff or a detrimental impact on quality or performance. You state that your employer’s reason for turning down your appeal against the change in contractual hours was due to “contractual changes” via the shift review.

However, it seems as though by failing to sufficiently consult with you around this change at the outset, they have not followed legal procedures sufficiently. It does sound like you may have a legal case for breach of contract and/or potentially discrimination. However, you need further legal advice and so I would suggest you contact either the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation & Arbitration Service) who provide clear, confidential, independent and impartial advice. Their number is 08457 47 47 47. ( Good luck.

Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this answer, WorkingMums cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice.

Comments [30]

  • Sarah Zempashi says:

    Hi ive worked for same company for 12years on nights I cut my hours down from 36 hours to 24 a year ago but keeping 2 of the same nights I have done for years I have 2 children with special needs and have to be watched all the time to keep them safe my work now wants to put me on a rota that changes my nights from week to week but I can not do this because of my child care needs

  • Ramona Camelia says:

    Hi ,
    I have recently finished my maternal leave. 3 months ago I have emailed my HR Manager letting them now that I will be returning to work but on a different shift and Rota .(previously was working night shift Sunday to Thursday ) I have requested to be transferred to morning shift Monday to Friday ( altought they keep hiring people on that Rota) they’ve said no without any reason given what so ever. So I have told them that I could start on late shift Monday Friday and they accepted to be transferred on late shift and to wait for the confirmation for the days I will be working.
    Yesterday on the 18th I have started to work and today received the answer that I will be working either Sunday Thursday , either Saturday Wednesday . During the week days we have our son at the nursery , but during the weekends we have no nurseries and have told that my hubby is working on weekends they are still not approving after telling them that I have no one to leave my son with which they seem not to be bothered as they will not accept my transfer for Monday to Friday. I am working with a contract with 5 of 7 days a week but they seem to care less that I can work only in weekdays , as I’ve stated before they are hiring new staff on Monday to Friday! Please help!

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi Ramona,
      Did you apply for the fixed hours under a formal flexible working application? This would mean your employer has to give a reason for rejection and has a duty to consider your request reasonably. Also, if it is agreed it is a permanent change to your terms and conditions.
      Best wishes.

  • Sarah jones says:

    I work in retail and live qu8te a distance from my workplace i have worked there 5 year and used to have great shifts to work around my child although my child is 17 they want me to work until 9pm but theres domeone works with me full time and the manager keeps saying because this person is full time and i am only part they dont have to work until that time is this true?

  • Michelle says:

    My husband is a night worker working 12 hour rolling shifts 4 on 4 off. He is due to be on shift Christmas day, however the warehouse is closed. He has been asked to go in for one of his nights off the week prior to Christmas. He has been working for the company for 14 years and this has never happened in the past. Can they do this?

  • Tina Smith says:

    Hi I have worked for my company for a yr and am currently on night shift. I have requested to do to day shift. I have changed my mind about my request. Will I be forced to go to day shift now or can I remain on night shift? I

  • alan mclaughlin says:

    I have recently applied for flexible working to spend the weekend with my children and been denied on the basis that if I was to get monday to friday everybody else would want it too I asked what would it take as one other person does monday to friday they replied court order wouldnt be argued with my ex partner wants me too have thte children and would help me in any way possible how would I get a court order thanks

  • jason. says:

    Hi I have been working in retail shop now for 18 month and always had every second Saturday and Sunday of to have my kids now my boss has put a rota so I can’t see my kids and I spoke to him and he won’t change it what should I do now I can’t see my sons at all

  • Felicia Manning says:

    When I hired on at my current job, I was hired on working 42 hours a week. I explained to them up front that I was a single mother with a small child. In the year and a half I have been working there, they have had five to six different people take over staffing and each time a new person takes over staffing, they try changing everyone’s schedule sometimes without even a full weeks notice. In that time frame they have changed my schedule at least three to four times and even caused me to have to pull my child from daycare because it was required that she had to attend at least two days a week and they changed my schedule to where I only got to work on one of the weekdays as well as cut me down to ten hours less than what I was hired on working. Now I was just informed last night (Friday) that they have changed the schedule again and it will take affect on Sunday, two days away. They didn’t ask my permission or even send out a very reasonable notice and this interferes with my childcare once again. Keep in mind they know I’m a single parent and that I have requested for them to work with my childcare schedule but they keep changing my hours last minute. The change they want to enforce on Sunday also drops my hours two more…that is twelve hours less a week that I was originally hired on to work. I’m barely making it on what little hours I get to work now and they want to make night shift only ten hours and give day shift fourteen hours and split it up between a week shift and then a weekend shift so that weekend gets even less hours than week shift and weekend nights gets even less than day shift. Is there a breach here or do I have to work these hours and be shorted so many hours after originally being hired on and signing on starting out at 42 hours a week?

  • Lauren says:

    I wonder if your could help me, I have worked for my company for 8.5 years starting as full time then after having two children I returned part time and applied for flexible hours which were agreed (7-2 fri&sat) I returned to work after two weeks off to find out not only the shift I was in for and going forward has changed to finish at 2.30 no one even bother to inform me. Apparently the manager and the 4 other members of staff all talked about it and agreed while I was away. However I am the only one with kids so it’s only me that’s really affected. I know this might sound ridiculous as its only half hour, but as my company are aware I don’t drive. I have to walk home pick up my youngest then walk to school for 3.30 My job is often hard to get out on time (busy reception) meaning I quite often don’t leave till after 2 anyway but I can not afford to do this if my shift finishes at 2.30. What rights do I have?

  • Carly says:

    Hi there
    I have been working at the same place for nearly 4 years. Used to work 2 evenings and Sunday but got changed to 4 4hour shifts over the week which is not beneficial to me but I agreed. Now a colleague is on holiday and I’ve been put in for a shift I don’t usually do and have previously informed management this day is not easy for me to commit to due to childcare. But as I’ve had 4 weeks notice I’m told I have to work it. I have no childcare and have offered alternate work, such as switching the late shift I’m on for the early but have basically been told this is not good enough, even though it seems it could easily be changed just not willing to. I have a 16 hour contract which I’m informed is fully flexible but I have just put in for a flexible working contract because of this situation. I’m told if I don’t go in further action will be taken but there’s no way I can make it. Please advise

  • Anonymous says:

    I have asked my work if I can stay on nites for a month or so while I find child care as my girlfriend is going back to work after Xmas but ther saying no are they ment to work with you and change shifts to help until you sort your childcare .

    Editor: The only thing you could do would be to take unpaid parental leave – see - since it is a short-term thing.

  • Anonymous says:

    I work nights can I pick what nights I want to do because I have to get child care.can my employer refuse to give me the nights I can do.

    Editor: You would have to negotiate with your employer on your work hours when you accept the job or you could put in a flexible work application if you are already more than six months into your job.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi. I have been working for current employer for 12 years. I work 9-5 out in the community but am based at a static project which needs staff 24 hrs a day.
    Our company changed our contracts- leaving me 4k down and agreeing to be available in my current role from 7am – 11am. During the consultation process we were told that if we were asked to work in other projects it would be to cover sick/a/l and it would be rare.
    They threatened and bullied us into signing new contracts saying we would lose all entitlements such as pay protection (that we only get for 6 months) if we didn't sign. We signed with words under protest. We were bullied into signing again.
    Now I have been told I will go on the static project rota which includes evenings weekends nights etc. I cannot do this because of childcare. I work 18 hours and only recently went PT as I saw this coming.
    There has been no official consultation regarding these changes. My area manager has ordered it. Where do I stand?
    Thank you!

    Editor: Do you have the new contract in writing and does it say that you can be asked to work regular weekend, etc, shifts?

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi can my work make me work 4 days on 3 days off to do this i have to do all 4 shifts as a carer i dint do the evening run can they make me do it also i'm diabetic need to take injections and have a meal first ' i also babysit after work for hour do i'm unable yo do night run can i be made to . Thx also i never signed a contract when i transfered from another care agency and dint sign one there either.

    Editor: Can you provide more details? How long have your worked there? Have you always worked the same shifts or do they vary? 

  • Anonymous says:

    I have been working for my employeer for 9 years. Before leaving for maternity I worked 40 hours a week in the premises closest to my home. There are several locations. I used to work at one of the other locations untill the place i currently work in opened. After my child was born my employer made a verbal contract that I was to return on reduced hours, however less than a week before I was to return, this was changed. I was informed that I had to return to 40hours at a different location or the posision was no longer available. I spoke to a solicitor and eventually returned to work at the current location. Things have been made very difficult since then. I have had 4 different rotas since returning 7 months ago,all last minute, all of which I done, I am not allowed to claim overtime unless its over 30min and must be taken as time in leu only if they authorise this, I have been told my taking time off for my child being unwell which is the case, is inconvienant to them and reduced to tears. They now want to change my rota yet again and to work at a different location. Was informed that I must do this as this is where I origionaly worked and that is in my terms and conditions. I do not have a contract. I have never signed a contract and was informed by a solicitor not to sign one without a solicitor checking it.Please help me, I was advised to resign previously but I wanted to return to work as I have been there so long and had loyalty to the company, however I feel bullied and discriminated against. I feel I am being pushed out and thngs are being made so hard for me. They even demoted me and did not inform me for several weeks dispite giving my possition to someone else.

    Editor: It sounds as if you need legal help. Please do write via our Advice & Support/Q & A page box and we will pass on to one of our lawyers. You should be entitled to a written contract and you should ask for one. This should specify, for instance, if your employer can change your shifts. Have you formally applied for flexible working? If so, your employer would have to give a reason [only eight are allowed under the legislation] and explain it in full if they reject your request. Can you explain more about your child's sickness? You can take time off for dependants for emergencies – see – or unpaid parental leave if your child is under five -

  • Anonymous says:

    I am a contract worker, I have been working from 7 to 330 Monday thur Friday for the past two years. My employer is changing our schedule to 7 to 530 Monday thur Wednesday then Friday. I spoke with HR and she stated they are unwilling to work with the schedule. I have court order child custody half of the time. Our daycare closes at 530, which makes it impossible from me to get him in time. It is responible for them to state that I need to find another daycare. I have present them with different schedules that would work for both of us but they have been shot down. I am unsure what my options are now.

    Editor: The following answer should help you -

  • Anonymous says:

    I work full time (37) hours. I have a 1 year old whose nursery doesn't open until 8am, meaning I cannot start work until 9am due to the commute. I had been allowed to work 8-6 shift, but with leeway to start at 9 , but now I've asked to firmally reduce my hours to 34 , they wo'nt let me saying it's not a shift they offer. I cannot start at 8am and I have always been clear about that. I can start at 10am, but this means finishing at 8pm and that's not an option due to public transport issues. Surely it's not unreasonable of me to ask for a 3-hour a week reduction and for them to accommodate??? It's not my fault nursery starts at 8am. Please help.

    Editor: Did you put in a formal request for flexible working? If so, your employer has to arrange a meeting with you within a certain timeframe and then to reply in writing, giving their reasons for rejecting your request. They can only reject your request on eight grounds and they must show that they have given it due consideration, not just dismissed it out of hand without looking at ways to accommodate it. If you do not believe that the reasons given show this then you can appeal. See – for full details.

  • Anonymous says:

    hi i have been working in my current employment for 11 years and went on maternity and came back 2 years ago with a verbal agreement for child friendly hours with a previous manager. my new manager has just taken over doing our rota and without telling me totally changed my working hours. it took a colluege to inform me. when i phoned him he was so rude he reduced me to tears and said he only has to give me 48 hours notice. i havent put anything in writing to him as ive been on same shifts for 2 years with no problem. do i have any rights as i love my job and dont want to leave but literally has no childcare other than what ive been doing.

    Editor: In law, a verbal agreement can be binding on both parties. However, it may be harder to prove. In any event, if your contract does not include wording to the effect that your employer has the right to change your shift pattern or hours of work, your employer cannot unilaterally change the terms of your contract concerning your working hours without your consent. If they do, then they would be in breach and you would have a legitimate case to put to them that they are not contractually entitled to change your hours. If they push forward regardless of this, and you are forced to terminate your employment as a result, you may have grounds to pursue a claim for unfair constructive dismissal.

    Your employer may be entitled to terminate your existing contractual arrangement by giving you the appropriate notice set out in your contract and offering you new employment on the new shift pattern. However, they would be expected to fully consult with you before doing this and you may still have grounds to pursue a claim for unfair dismissal, particularly if you can establish your employers have acted unreasonably.

    Even if your written contract states that they have a right to change your shift pattern or working hours, the fact that you have worked fixed hours for a lengthy period of time would mean that you would be entitled to being consulted before any changes were imposed. Otherwise, your employers may be in breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, which would again give you grounds to pursue a claim for unfair constructive dismissal.

    If the new proposed hours have a detrimental impact on childcare, you may also have a claim for indirect sex discrimination unless your employer can objectively justify the changes. You could also consider lodging a formal request for flexible working. Your employer could only turn this down on one of eight grounds and would have to show that they had given the request due consideration and not just dismissed it out of hand – see

  • Anonymous says:

    hi,I have been working at my present workplace for over eleven years doing all late shifts till ten o clock pm,however my husband has a knew job so I have no childcare in place for evenings.I have put an official letter in asking for some school hours or hours in day as my children are at school and there is childcare options available in the day but have recently been rejected.There are many other colleauges working just daytime hours with no no children and I feel it is unreasenoble not to consider my request after eleven years.I feel I am being treeted unfairly .what can I do?.thanks in advance.

    Editor: Did you make this as a flexible working request? If so, your employer should outline the reasons in writing why they have turned down your request. If you do not agree that they have dully considered your request you can appeal – see

  • Anonymous says:

    I work part time 16 hours a week as far as I'm aware my contract states 16 hours per week and not certain days and times. I only have my mother in law to collect my children after school but she has now become a foster carer and can no longer do the school runs for me. I have tried all other routes of child care but have come to a dead end as it will cost more than what I am being paid and 2 children double up the costs. I have had an informal chat at work with my manager but the response was not encouraging. I have yet to write a letter of flexible working hours request through fear of making things more formal and being officially declined, but will use this channel as a last resort. A co worker started university in September 2013 and we all as a team of 4 had to re juggle our unofficial working hours so that she could still work and study which I feel is unfair due to the fact that they have not been very understanding with me. Does anyone know my rights here. When I started the job 18 months ago they asked me what hours I could work which I filled in a form for but once I had been offered the job they said that they lost that part and gave me shifts that didn't fit in with picking up the children, they said that this wouldn't be forever but here I am 18 months down the line in dire straits! If they do not help can have them on discrimination for working parents??

    Editor: Your best route, since you have been doing this shift up until now, is to apply for flexible working formally and they will have to give one of eight grounds for refusal and will have to justify this. The fact that your colleague has got flexibility to do her studies should go in your favour as it shows they are able to be flexible and they should be consistent as is the fact that you asked for certain hours and they said that your current hours are not permanent – see

  • Anonymous says:

    I work nights,so my wife works an 8 hour contract on days.Her work has always been sympathetic of childcare issues i.e. the school run.She is now expected to work hours she cannot possibly do. Her contract says she has to be flexible, but for 2 years this has not been a problem. We are currently on tax credits but would not qualify with 1 wage. If she left work would she be entitled to any benefits?

    Editor: Are you talking about support for childcare or general support? Have you checked if your workplace offers childcare vouchers? You can also check on other benefits at where you can enter all your details and find out what you are entitled to. Also, please do get in touch with our legal experts about the flexibility issue. You can do this via our Advice & Support/Q & A page box. Please do detail the flexibility she was given and how long she worked in this way and when this was changed and what she is expected to do now.

  • Anonymous says:

    Can my work change my shift at work which might mean my wife losing her job because she can’t change her work pattern plus it will mess my childcare up?

    Editor: You will need to give a little more information for our legal experts to answer fully. Does your contract specify that your shift patterns may change? What kind of change is envisaged? Whether or not your employer is legally able to change your working pattern without your agreement will depend on the terms of your contract of employment. You may have a claim for breach of contract if your employer is not entitled to make such changes under the terms of your contract. Could you provide more information via the Advice & Support/Q & A page box.

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