Can my employer change my working hours?
In general, an employer cannot change employees contracted working hours without it being mutually agreed.
An employee who has their working hours or rosters changed without consultation in the absence of a clause permitting their employer to do so may be able to make a claim for constructive dismissal or breach of contract. Constructive dismissal is the term used to describe a situation where an employee has no choice but to resign from their employment because of conduct, or a course of conduct, engaged in by their employer. For example, reducing a full-time employee’s hours to just one day per week.
Check your contract
Some contracts contain clauses that allow employers to change an employee’s roster, ordinary hours of work, or start and finish times without agreement. Check your contract for specific information regarding your employment. If no such clause exists, you have no legal obligation to agree to any proposed variation.
The Fair Work Act also requires consultation about changes to rosters and hours or work to be included as a term in modern awards. These terms must require employers to:
- Provide information about the change
- Invite employees to give their views about the impact of the change, including on their family or caring responsibilities
- Consider their employees’ views about the impact of the change.
Specific enterprise bargaining agreements or workplace instruments may also cover additional obligations and protections.
An employer cannot change or end an employee’s employment for a discriminatory reason, or because the employee has exercised a workplace right or for another reason protected by law. If the reason for the reduction is that a position is no longer required in the same capacity as it has previously been, a redundancy may occur.
My employer and I have agreed to change my hours
In some circumstances, a change in hours may suit both the employer and the employee. When the employer and the employee agree to change the employment relationship, for example, from full-time to part-time, the usual rules for ending employment apply, including giving or paying the employee the required notice and paying out leave and any other entitlements owed.
Given how varied employment contracts are, the best course of action if you are in a dispute over hours of work is to seek legal advice about your situation.
Written by Andrew Jewell
Disclaimer: This article should not be construed as legal advice and is not intended as such. If readers wish to obtain advice about anything contained in this article, they should speak with a lawyer and discuss their individual circumstances.