Can my employer reduce my hours at work?

I currently work full-time (40 hours) and earn £25,000 a year, but my employer has just told me he’s reducing my hours to 20 a week and halving my salary. On top of that, he's refusing to pay holidays. Can he do this and what are my options?

Unfortunately, in most cases your employer does have the right to reduce your hours at work. We know that having your employer tell you they are reducing your hours isn’t ideal since it’s almost certain to mean less money. Not to mention, it inevitably leads you to wonder whether a redundancy situation is round the corner. The only bit of good news is that there are usually strict conditions which they have to meet before they do.

Check your employment contract

So, we know that you’re probably frantically googling ‘Can my employer reduce my hours?’ right now, and we don’t blame you. But you need to take a break from the screen and re-enter the real world for a minute.

First things first, you’ll have to dig out your employment contract. Then you’ll have to see what it has to say on the matter. Your rights and obligations should be outlined in the terms section. In that, there should be something about your working hours and whether or not they can be reduced.

Remember the contract is a legally binding agreement between employer and employee. This means that they’ll have to comply with whatever’s written on the document. Fingers crossed it’s something helpful!

When your employer can reduce your hours

According to UK employment law, an employer can only reduce an employees’ hours if their contract allows it. If not, they would need to negotiate a new employment contract with you first, or they’ll be in breach of the contract. They also need to provide a legitimate reason for the reduction in hours. It might also help to see if there are any other affected employees and get them on your side so that you have some support throughout this situation. 

Sometimes contracts can have flexible working hours and certain sections may be at liberty to change at the discretion of the employer. In this case, they’ll still have to get in touch if they’re considering a lay off or shorter work hours, since you might be unhappy with their decision and deserve a chance to object. This applies in all workplaces, even if you work from home or are currently working under protest.

Learn more about employment contracts in this article.

Discussing reduced hours with your employer

It sounds as though you’re having difficulties communicating with your employer at the moment, so it might be a good idea to try and arrange a meeting with them. Perhaps you could ask another trusted colleague to be there to help to mediate and make detailed notes on what’s being discussed (in case you need them in the future) 

If you’ve tried all this and had no luck, it might be worth looking for another part-time job that’s more suited to your needs.

Your rights to paid holiday on reduced hours

Even on reduced hours, you’re still entitled to paid holiday unless you’re self-employed. The minimum entitlement for a full time employee is currently 5.6 weeks paid holiday per year. So if you work five days a week, that means you’re entitled to at least 28 days of paid holiday a year. If your hours are cut, your holiday will be calculated pro rata against full time hours.

But What exactly is pro rata? Learn more here. Otherwise, if you have more questions about how much holiday you’re entitled to you can Read this article.

Further help with problems at work

For professional legal advice regarding contracts and other employment issues, contact Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service on 0300 123 1100 from 8am to 6pm on weekdays.

I want to reduce my hours at work

We’ve covered what happens when your employer reduces your hours, but what if you’re finding work overwhelming and actually need to reduce your hours? 

Well, it’s definitely worth telling your boss you want to reduce your hours at work. Ultimately, though, it’s up to them whether or not to allow it. If you come to an agreement with your boss, your salary and holiday entitlement would likely be prorated to your reduced hours, so it’s important to make sure you’ve done your calculations and still have enough money to live off. Plus, your contract of employment would need to be changed to reflect your new hours. For more info, check out our article on part time jobs here.

You can also take a look at the rest of our articles on working life and getting a job here. Have you had your hours reduced at work or reduced them voluntarily? Share your experience on our discussion boards.

Answered by bss on 25-Sep-2012

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