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The company I am working for has now told us we must work 7.30am to 5.30pm everyday, even though we have had to work 6am to 4pm or 11.30am to 9.30pm, depending on what shift we were on.

Although working 7.30am to 5.30pm might sound nice to most people, it is not good for me personally.

Can they make you work the new shift paterns, or do they have to go through a consultation period?

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Question 1 will always be "What does your contract say about variation of hours"?

 

Questions 2 & 3 would be "How long have you worked there and are you in a Union"?

 

In general terms, unless you agree to it, then your contract cannot be varied, however the employer will always have the right to terminate your contract if the changes cannot be agreed. This would normally involve consultation - either individually, or where such an arrangement exists, through collective agreement, but where the change cannot be agreed, the employer could serve notice that your contract will be terminated.

 

In those circumstances, you would have a case for a breach of contract or constructive dismissal, however (as is usually the case) if the employer simultaneously offers to re-engage the employee(s) on the new terms, then this serves to mitigate any loss that you will have suffered, thus making legal action a fairly worthless exercise for you would only be able to claim for loss suffered and would have turned down a 'reasonable' offer to minimise that loss.

 

The short version of the above is that a contract is legally binding on both sides, but it can be terminated and you should be very careful about holding out for the employer to back down. You could be forced to accept the hours or be out of work with only minimal compensation. Far easier to try and negotiate, explain your difficulties with the new working pattern, and if in a Union, seek to engage their assistance at an early stage.

Any advice given is done so on the assumption that recipients will also take professional advice where appropriate.

 

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Then, by giving you reasonable notice they can change your hours. What constitutes reasonable notice is arguable but something more than a month would be generally acceptable for a small number of affected staff and 3 months for a large group. Your notice period for termination of employment will guide you there, commonly a month's notice so a month for changing terms.

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Have you an employee representation group or have management initiated a consultation period? If not, perhaps you can suggest one of these. You know more than me about your job and those in charge, but these days you'd be surprised how many bosses welcome such an employee group - saves them hassle, makes employees feel more involved and protected and certainly improves morale when you know you have a voice. Stand up and take the leap my man!

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