What can I do if my employer refuses to reduce my hours for health reasons?

I am contractually required to work nine hours per day but, due to health reasons (osteoarthritis), I’ve asked my employer to reduce my hours to seven per day. I have a letter from my GP which states that ‘a reduction would be beneficial to my health’ etc. I’ve had two operations (lower back & left hip) in the past few years. I fear that my employer won’t budge, citing needs of the business etc. Do you think that I would succeed in claiming ‘constructive dismissal’ if they decline my request and I resign? And if they offer me a different (not so interesting) position with less pay, would it exonerate them from any potential claim?

If your illness amounts to a disability, which is a mental or physical impairment that affects your day to day abilities and lasts for a substantial period of time, your employer is obliged to make reasonable adjustments to enable you to continue working. If it is not possible to adjust your hours or make physical adjustments should these be needed, your employer will then need to consider any alternative roles that you may be able to perform. At this stage it does not sound like this is necessary if your doctor’s advice is a small reduction in hours. It may be necessary to obtain a report from your doctor confirming that s/he believes your condition amounts to a disability and reiterating the adjustments that are required.

I would advise seeking professional advice before resigning and if your request is unreasonably refused the next step is to raise a formal grievance with your employer and in line with their grievance procedure.

In order to be able to claim constructive dismissal you need to have been continuously employed for two years. Any unreasonable refusal by your employer to make reasonable adjustments could amount to disability discrimination which is a separate claim to constructive dismissal.

Comments [18]

  • Dawn Taylor says:

    Hi I work 3x 12 hour shifts at work , is there any possibility I could go to my doctor s and ask him for a note or something to reduce my hours to
    6 hour a day . I know that I would have to work more days but 12 is to much as I have arthritis in both knees and have to have injections ?

  • Shirley Cahill says:

    Hi I work 7 hours a day for 4 days and I did have 30 mins paid break. They said I can have only 15 mins paid and if I want the other 15 mins unpaid I have to stay an extra at the end of my shift. Due to a back condition I want to reduce my days down by 45 mins each day to included a 20 min break a flexible working request ?

  • Stephanie says:

    Hi I am struggling in work with copd back pain and limphodema I need to cut my days down I am 64 and need advice

  • Jeanette S says:

    I have M.E. which affects me daily but I am still able to work full time. Due to my condition I take strong pain killers twice a day which enables me to be relatively comfortable but as they wear off my pain increases until my evening tablets. I do not want to increase my medication as they are an addictive controlled drug so to suit my hours of being comfortable I have asked my workplace to alter the hours from 8.30am till 4.30 to 8am till 4pm. This will not affect my job or the work that I do but they have said no. I am registered disabled and my job is only in an office so can they refuse what I consider this reasonable request?

  • jen crisp says:

    I had a half knee replacement in November and had 3 months of work my surgeon and my occupational health manager has both said i need to have a staged return to work and over a 6 week start at 4 hrs a night up to my 8.5 hrs a night . But the HR manager has said no i am not allowed i must do my full hrs or only get paid for the hrs i do ,or go back on the sick i cant afford to ether of those so i started doing my 8.5 hrs but i am struggling . I am starting to feel very low about it all. My job is standing on my feel all night . what help can i get?

  • John says:

    Hi, I was on a 40hrs a week permanent contract, due to serious health conditions I wanted to reduce my hours to 20hrs a week. Am I entitled to still get paid the same amount as my full time hours or will my pay be reduced aswell?

    Thank you for you’re help

  • Deborah Bentley says:

    I have polyarthritis it is getting difficult to work because I am on my feet 8 hrs a day,my knees have really been hurting for a while, I can’t stand long and can’t sit long either. I want to cut my hours to 32 hours a week.since we are very short staff I am afraid that I will be turned down. I really need to do something soon because I can’t go much longer like this.

  • Michael says:

    Hi there,I returned to work at beginning of December after 10 month absence due to back surgery last year.I have been out of work again since new years eve as my lower back has swollen and gone into spasm.My doctor advised me to rest for at least a week to 2 weeks..He said it is work related as I am on my feet for 8-10 hours pw in a busy bar/restaurant. He has advised that for the immediate future I need to cut back on my hours.If I need to do this am I in anyway entitled to benefit to help make up my losses. Thank you

  • Anne-Marie Laurent says:


    I work 39hrs a week in 12hr shits. At the moment the I could be working long days then back on Wake-ins with now real consistency in the rota. Plus on the back to back wake-ins I’m lucky if a have two hits slee before the next next shift as my body doesn’t adjust that well.

    Lately in have become poorly for over a month with one illness after the other – my GP has stated I am rundown and it’s work related due to inconsistent shift patterns.

    Was wondering what are my rights to ask to reduce my hours to 30hrs two 12hrs shifts then a six hour shift, with a consistent rota pattern, so I have adequate rest on days off.

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