I haven’t worked bank holidays for 15 years. Can they force me to do so now?

I have worked for a bank for 15 years.  My contract was for 140 hours between 8.00am and 6.00pm. It was a flexible contract.  However, for the last 15 years I have worked Monday to Friday 10.00am to 6.00pm. I have never worked Bank Holidays.  Now, after 15 years they are trying to force me to work Bank Holidays.  Can they do this?
I agree I signed the flexible contract and if it was enforced from day one then that is fine. But they have not done this and I need to know if legally they can do this. Or do they need to give 90 days notice and force a new contract on me?

I note that you have worked for your employer for 15 years on a flexible contract. Yet I understand that throughout this period you have worked Monday to Friday 10:00am to 6:00pm and have never worked a bank holiday. Now your employer is trying to force you to work bank holidays. You should review the terms and conditions of your contract of employment and check the hours of work clause as it may be that your employer can compel you to work the bank holidays. However, even if your contract does have such a clause, it may be that through custom and practice, it has been established you don’t work these days.

Imposing revised working hours without consent or a contractual right to do so is a breach of your contract and you may be able to resign and claim that you have been constructively dismissed by your employer. You could submit a claim to the employment tribunal for constructive unfair dismissal within three months of your resignation. You should however note that you must go through the Acas pre-conciliation procedure before submitting a claim in the employment tribunal. I would also advise you take specific legal advice before resigning from your employment.

Even if there is an express or implied contractual right for your employer to operate in this way, you may still be able to argue that such a policy/practice of requiring staff to work on bank holidays is indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex in that it disadvantages women with childcare responsibilities. If eligible, you could bring a claim for sex discrimination in an employment tribunal within a period of three months from the date of the act to which the complaint relates (in your case the ongoing requirement of your employer for you to work bank holidays). It would then be for your employer to establish justification and show that the change is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Again, you would need to go through the Acas pre-conciliation procedure before submitting a claim in the employment tribunal.

Before considering submitting an employment tribunal claim, I would suggest that you submit a written grievance to your employer stating that you consider the imposition of the bank holiday working to be unfair. If this does not resolve matters I would suggest you take specific legal advice on your next steps.

Should you require any further clarification on the above points please do not hesitate to contact Tracey Guest on 0161 975 3823.

*Helen Frankland assisted in answering this question.





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