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?
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.