I am going back to work, but I have been told I will only be working 75% of my usual hours, can I challenge this?

Last updated: 27 May 2020

Whether an employer can lawfully reduce your hours largely depends on the terms of your employment contract.

If you are on a zero-hours contract for example, there is unlikely to be any right to be provided with a specific amount of work or pay (but seek advice as this can be complicated).  If there is an express clause regarding ‘lay-off’ or ‘short-time’ working, see our information on lay-off and short-time working.

Generally, a contractual term cannot be lawfully changed by one party.  The employer should consult with the workers and will try to reach agreement. In areas where Prospect is recognised, a collective response is a much better course of action.

If an employer reduces an employee’s pay, without their agreement, they could bring an unlawful deduction from wages or a breach of contract.  However, if the employee does not agree to the variation the employer may move to dismiss them instead. Although this could leave the employer open to unfair dismissal claims, it would all depend on the individual circumstances.

Employees could resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal in response to a breach of contract. We would rarely recommend this course of action, particularly in the current circumstances where finding alternative work is likely to be difficult.

It is also important to bear in mind that in unfair dismissal claims the tribunal will be considering how reasonable the employers’ actions are. In current circumstances, where there has been a reduction in the employers’ work, the decision to reduce hours might be seen as a reasonable one, but it will all depend on the individual circumstances.

Alternatively, this could be a redundancy situation and so individuals may be entitled to redundancy pay if they have been working for their employer for over two years.

This situation also needs to be considered in the light of any extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme after June, so do check with Prospect for advice on your individual circumstances.

This page is designed to give general information about members’ rights on returning to work. It does not cover all circumstances and should not be treated as a definitive answer. Members should contact Prospect either through the Member Contact Centre on 0300 600 1878 or contact their union rep or full-time officer for specific advice.