I have worked at my present workplace for almost three years. In that time, my shift pattern has been changed 10 times, from the original school hours I was offered to working weekends and out of school hours. I have never made an issue of this, despite being a lone parent and it causing me difficulties childcare wise. I’ve just coped. However, yesterday I went into work and noticed my shifts starting next week were completely changed, working different days and until 6pm. I went to discuss this with my manager as, due to there being no available childcare after 6pm I am unable to work past 5.30pm and having a commitment on one of the days I’ve been changed to, I am unable to work this shift pattern. I’ve been told that this is what the business requires and the only other alternative would be a temporary weekend job (I am permanent staff at present). I’ve pointed out that this isn’t the correct procedure for a proposed change of work pattern and after being responded to with ‘if you want to go down the formal route then we can’ I now have a 30-day notice of change of working pattern. My contract does have a clause about being reasonably flexible. I believe I am. On average I have worked beyond my contract over the three years, have covered for sickness and holidays at short notice and on the TEN previous occasions have changed my shift pattern without complaint. However, I now feel that this is getting ridiculous. I am unable to work the shift until 6pm full stop because of childcare issues, but also mine and my child’s home life is constantly disrupted by the constant changes. What are my options here? I’ve been told that unless I agree to the hours I will be made redundant and offered hours on their terms. I’m stuck, because I really can’t agree to them.
I understand that you have worked for your current employer for almost three years and have had your shift patterns changed 10 times in this time, but that you have never complained about this. I understand that your shifts starting next week have completely changed and that you are unable to work these shifts due to childcare commitments. Your employer has now given you a 30-day notice of a formal change to your working pattern.
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 and also for indirect sex discrimination if the reason you can’t comply with the new working pattern is sex (i.e. that you have childcare commitments). Such claims must be submitted within three months of the breach/change to your working pattern. If the change does constitute a breach of contract and you felt that you had no alternative but to resign as a result of your employer’s conduct, you may also have a claim for constructive unfair dismissal and this claim must be submitted within three months of your resignation.
My advice is that as a first step, you submit a formal grievance setting out your concerns with your employer’s proposed change to your working patterns. You should make it clear that you do not agree to the change and that the reason you will be unable to comply with the proposed shift pattern is due to your childcare responsibilities. You should comply with any grievance procedure your employer has in force. If your grievance does not produce a positive outcome for you, please feel free to call us for further advice on next steps.
If you would like any further information, or if you would like to discuss next steps following your grievance, please do not hesitate to contact Tracey Guest on 0161 975 3823.