Hours to change: ask the expert

I have worked for the same company for over two years on a part-time basis for three days. I’ve had set days for the last 18+ months. I’ve just been told I have to now work a late shift also up to 8 o’ clock. When I applied closing time was 17.30. I have no childcare for a different shift. My rota only says my amount of contracted hours – nothing about set shifts or my shift changing. Just my hours are to be agreed and advice on overtime. Any help?

Woman working at home


In order to properly advise you on this matter I would need to consider your contract of employment. The contract may include provisions allowing your employer to make reasonable changes to your shift patterns if there is a genuine business need requiring this.

If there are no provisions in your contract enabling your employer to change your hours of work, then you may have grounds to argue that any change to your hours would be unlawful without your consent.

You may be able to argue that it has become a specific term of your contract that you finish at 17.30, either on the basis that this was expressly agreed with your employer 18+ months ago, or that it has become implied by custom and practice.

Even if you are unsuccessful in the above arguments, if the proposed new shift impacts on your childcare responsibilities, you could make a flexible working request to change your hours to fit in with your childcare responsibilities. Your employer would have to follow a set procedure to deal with such a request.

If your request was refused then your employer would be obliged to objectively justify the reasons for the change in your shift patterns weighing up the advantages to the business with the disadvantages to you, specifically relating to childcare.

If, following an open and fair discussion with your employer, they continue to insist that you undertake the new shift pattern regardless of the impact on your childcare responsibilities and are also unable to objectively justify this, this could form the basis of an indirect sex discrimination claim.

In the worst case scenario, if you lose your job because you are unable to work the new shift because of your reasonable childcare responsibilities, you may also have a claim for unfair dismissal.

Open communication with your employer is important and having a conversation to explain your situation may suffice in helping you reach a mutually beneficial solution but if this does not satisfactorily resolve matters I would recommend that you seek specialist legal advice to discuss the appropriate action.

Comments [11]

  • Lacra says:

    Hello ,
    For the past 3 years I’ve been working 4 days a week ,each day different shift.
    I’m on flexible contract .
    I’ve got a son and I need to do a school run and pick him up from school,so in past my manager gave me the hours that were ok for me to work.
    Now she said I have to move my hours from Tuesday into Wednesday and Friday to do a long shift.
    730 start till 330 or 130 till 2200,unfortunately I can’t do the hours because my son is depending on me he is 7 years old.
    I asked her if are any chance to do a different shift or to be transferred to a different department, her answer was ::::if you can’t do the hours you know where the exit door is.
    So now she’s waiting for my answer, I don’t know what to do.
    Thank you

  • Anonymous says:

    For the past 10yrs I’ve worked Mon-Fri 8am-5pm. Due to Covid many of us were sent home. They’ve started to call us back to work one by one. My turn has come and now I am being told to work 10am-7pm. I told them that I could not work an evening schedule because this cuts into my evening responsibilities as a parent and I couldn’t leave my daughter alone on such late a schedule. I asked for another possible schedule. I was told they don’t have another schedule available. I asked If I could maybe switch my schedule with another co-worker. I was later told they couldn’t find another co-worker to take on that schedule. But why is everyone else being given the option to choose if to take this schedule or not, but I am not being given that option? I think this is retaliation and infair treatment. I was also told if I don’t show up when scheduled it would be considered a no-call no-show. I am afraid of loosing my job. Help.

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi. You say that everyone else has been allowed to choose their shift and you haven’t. Do you have evidence of this so you might be able to support a claim of discrimination [you suggest that you may have been targeted for some reason – what might that be – depending on this you may be able to take out a discrimination claim based on your caring responsibilities. Are you a single parent so there is no-one else to look after your daughter?]? What does your contract say about your hours – does it allow your employer to change your hours for business reasons, etc? You could consider taking out a flexible working application to fix your hours at an earlier time, as stated in this answer.

  • Kert says:

    In in a union & have been working on 3rd shift for 5yrs. But because of covid19 my supervisor has cut my shift down to 4/5ppl All have more seniority. I work 3rd cuz of sick elderly& my kids need me there during the day.can Supervisor just tell me Fri night/ Saturday morning to come in on 1st Monday?? (5:30am) 3rd is 10:30pm start…..help I have verry little time left

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, It depends what your contract says about changing shifts. Have you spoken to your union about this? Could you email [email protected] with more information? Are you a single parent? Are you the main carer? What does your contract say about your hours – is there a clause about being able to change shifts due to demand, etc?

  • Daniela says:

    hi, i work at Starbucks and i have sign a shift rotation contract when i started but i got pregnant and when i went back to work they said that i have to work weekends. I just asked not to but my manager told that is completely impossible. what can i do now?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      If your contract says you may have to do weekends, your only resort would be to file a flexible working request, asking for fixed hours. How long have you worked there? see https://www.workingmums.co.uk/flexible-working-a-guide/. They are likely to come up with a reason for turning down your request eg inability to reorganise work among other staff so if you can anticipate any reason they might give and think of a way around it for them, eg, is there anyone who might be prepared to cover the weekend shift regularly that would increase your chances of getting them to agree to your request.

  • Mike says:

    For the past 3 months, our warehouse has been working 16 hour+ days . People are getting tired of it. There is no end in sight and our busy season isn’t even here yet. Can they fire you if you tell them your not working more than 13 hours a day anymore?

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi I have joined a company through a transfer and where my hours were to stay as Mon to Friday 7am to 3pm. I have now had to change my shift as request from my new site to 6 am to 2pm I have had to do childcare for the afternoons and have done a flexiable working application as advised by my human resources at the time, as i cannot do shift patterns in which they are trying to enforce on me know. I have done 17 years of 7am till 3pm Mon to fri. I even compromised with the company and said that i can do any 5 out of 7 but still they are saying that i will be going to shift work. I feel that i am being discriminated too when others are okay to stick to 6 am to 2pm Monday to friday. Don't understand why I am being dealt with differently. Please advise

    Editor: Are you already doing the new hours and for how long have you been doing so? Were you consulted on the change to your hours?

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