Employer's right to change my shifts?

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kramer81 | 23:03 Tue 09th Dec 2008 | Law
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Ive been working the same dayshifts Monday to Friday for several months but my employer is now telling me I am working on a Saturday instead of one of the days during the week. When I started my job 18 months ago I told them at my interview I wasn't available on a Saturday.

Whats the legal position on this? I think if I refuse my employer will take more shifts off me or give me evening shifts instead of dayshifts. There is nothing in my contract about how many hours I work.



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If you have been working the same shifts for several months, then you have what is called an implied contract that those are your hours of work - irrespective of what the employer may claim.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that the employer can consult with you to seek your agreement to change the shifts - giving you your notice period of the proposed change - which is probably 4 weeks notice.
You do not have to accept, but you run the risk that the employer then says it has no work for you - and wants to declare you redundant. Much depends on your organisation, whether it is just you being singled out, whether there are others doing the same work and shifts as you, and what is happening to them.
In summary, is this part of some wider communications about the need to reorganise because of a downturn in business, or just you being picked upon?
You can refuse to change to the new shift pattern but your employer can forcibly change your contract as long as he gives you 12 weeks notice. If he sacks you for refusing to change at short notice you can sue for unfair dismissal. I don't really think this is desirable though as it stays on your employment record and doesn't look good to any potential employer. Also, in the current climate, any job is worth hanging on to.
when you took the job, were you asked about flexibility or was it mentioned that on occasion you might have to cover shifts for the needs of the business? what is worng with working on a saturday? maybe there is another member of staff with really serious problems who is needing to change their shift. there is no I in team
Not sure where your 12 weeks comes from.
Question Author
I am an unskilled worker in a fast food chain, so he doesn't specifically need me on a saturday, he just can't be bothered employing new staff.

There are some others in the same situation, some have been given saturdays, others have managed to avoid it.

When I took the job I was told I have to be available atleast one weekend shift (Fri/sat/sun). It says the same in my contract.

I take it everyone in the same position would need to be given a new contract madmaggot? I don't think my manager has the authority to do that anyway.

The thing is I would do the odd shift as a favour, but Im concerned that would adversely effect me if I wanted to go down the implied contract route.

Thanks for your quick answers.

I assumed (wrongly) that your contract said nothing about weekends.
If it is said in the contract but your employer just hasn't asked you get, you can't now refuse to work 'one weekend shift'. That could include a Saturday, and your employer can decide when - irrespective of what you said at interview.
Question Author
But it doesn't say I need to be available to work for the whole weekend. I'm not sure of the exact wording of it but I dont see why that clause means he can change things after all this time.
maybe you should think you have been lucky to get away without working any shifts over weekends so far. it really boils down to how badly you need to keep your job.
Question Author
thanks for the helpful legal advice busybee.

PS I didn't say I haven't worked at the weekend so far
Ok, I'm not an expert in employment law (apart from anything else every time I try to book a course in it it ends up cancelled but I digress!).

The goalposts keep getting moved here. You told them at interview you weren't available to work Saturdays but you now claim that you have worked "weekends" (which granted may not be Saturdays, which football team is it you support by the way? ;-) ) since. You also accept your contract, notwithstanding what you said at interview, appears to say that you must be available to work 'one weekend shift' (what, ever? or one per month? Or what?).

I'd suggest that if you agreed to a contract that say you need to work occasional weekend shifts then you would obviously be in breech of it to refuse based on a verbal conversation at interview that preceded signing that contract. You could have gone back to them and pointed out that you couldn't comply with that clause when they gave you contract surely? You may have lost your job of course but that's the choice you make. Looks like you've been lucky so far to avoid Saturday work. If they dig their heels in then I'd guess you won't have a legal leg to stand on so will either have to comply or resign.
Question Author
sorry, I think I must have been unclear. I mean the contract says you must be able to work atleast one day of the weekend per week (friday is specified as being a weekend as its the busiest day), and I could work sunday anyway. Basically so people can't expext to do a a few shifts monday to thursday and have the whole weekend off.

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