Employment law SOS: Shift Start Times

1 min read

I manage a 70-employee site where we operate on two shifts. I want to move the shift times back by one hour – is this a small enough change to bring in without formal notification?

The shift pattern is probably a contractual term and although it is possible to make the change without consulting, this is a high-risk strategy as you run the risk of employment tribunal claims if you don't, based on constructive dismissal. You might also risk a possible sex discrimination claim if this change adversely affected women with child-caring responsibilities or even a race/religious one if the effect impacted on employees who wished to make religious observations and these were not accommodated. You should look at your contracts, handbooks or collective agreements to see whether there are any existing rights to change the hours of work. An employee's contract may contain flexibility clauses which allow for variations but you should check this carefully as such clauses might be more limited in terms of the changes that can be made and also set out the degree of consultation that is required to do this. Otherwise you will need to reach agreement with your staff. If you recognise a trade union, you will have to discuss matters with them before taking any action. You may be required to do this in any event as part of any collective agreement reached with trade unions or where you have a works council. You should also check whether starting earlier would have an impact on employees' rights under the Working Time Regulations and, if night working is involved, to see whether the limits on the number of night hours would be reduced.