Q&A: How to amend an employee's working hours

Q&A: How to amend an employee's working hours

Q. Can I make an employee redundant because they are refusing to switch to full-time work?

A. On occasion an employer may require staff to amend their working hours to accommodate changing business demands.

However, this is not a straightforward matter and can often be met with resistance.

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It would not be advisable to make an employee redundant for refusing to switch to full-time work as redundancies are reserved for occasions where work has reduced or is no longer available.

Therefore, it would be hard to justify a redundancy in this situation as asking someone to extend their working hours would suggest that there was in fact more work available.

Instead, in some circumstances employers may actually be able to legally amend working hours without the employee’s consent.

However, this is dependent on the wording of the employment contract.

For example, if staff were originally contracted to work full-time hours and an agreement to work part-time hours was temporary, or informal, they may be in a better position to change an employee’s working hours.

Prior to making any enforced change to working hours, employers should consider the risk of discrimination claims.

These could come either from staff with childcare responsibilities who may be disproportionately affected by a change to full-time work, or disabled staff whose health may suffer if asked to work additional hours.  

As an alternative, employers should hold a discussion with the affected individual and see if a solution can be agreed.

For example, those who are looking to extend working hours to meet increased customer demand may consider taking on an additional employee on a part time basis and making the role a job share.

During these meetings, it is important to give serious considerations to the suggestions of the employee and any reasons given as to why they are unable to change to full-time work.

If all the appropriate avenues have been explored, it may be possible to dismiss the individual for some other substantial reason under the Employment Right Act 1996.

For this to be fair the employer will need to justify a substantial business reason why they need an individual to work full time as opposed to part time.

This may be due to significantly increased demand coupled with the need for continuity.

Regardless, employers must still ensure that they follow the correct dismissal procedure to avoid the risk of tribunal claims.

It can be difficult when an employee is unwilling to change from part-time to full-time hours.

While dismissal may be an option, employers should not rush into this decision, given the risks associated with it.  

Instead they should take care and explore other potential solutions that will accommodate the needs of the business and the employee.  

Peter Done is managing director of Peninsula