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Changes to Working Hours

As the government’s job retention scheme is phased out over the coming months, according to recent reports, 12% of the UK’s workforce are currently still on furlough leave.  Many employers who currently have employees on furlough leave are therefore likely to be considering what options they have to reduce costs before the end of the job retention scheme on 31st October 2020.

Here at ViewHR we have been producing a series of blogs on cost saving options for employers, covering topics such as asking employees to undertake alternative duties and voluntary redundancy.  In this latest blog, we will be looking at proposing changes to employee hours of work.

A recent CIPD publication urges employers to consider cutting hours rather than employees.  But employees may understandably have concerns, in particular about a reduction in their income.  So how can employers go about achieving changes?  Here are some top tips:

  1. Check employment contracts – do they contain a variation clause?  You will still need to consult with employees to obtain their agreement to any changes, however, this clause will set helpful parameters.
  2. Be clear on the reasons for the proposed changes – what do you want to change and why?  Helping employees to understand these things, and that you are genuinely trying to safeguard the future of the business (and therefore their jobs) is key.
  3. Consider alternatives and incentives – such as inviting applications for voluntary redundancy or offering a slightly higher hourly rate for a reduced number of hours. 
  4. Listen to employee ideas and questions – employees may have good ideas for cost savings, and so it is important to be open to these and given them due consideration before responding.  Employees may also have concerns specific to their personal circumstances, which doesn’t automatically mean they are being difficult, just that they want to consider how proposals personally affect them and their livelihoods and families.
  5. Consult collectively, with trade unions where applicable – ACAS set out guidelines on when this applies here:
  6. Ensure agreed changes are accurately recorded – once you have reached agreement with an employee, a simple contract variation letter, signed by the employee as a record of their consent, can help reduce the potential for future confusion or disputes.
  7. Only dismiss and re-engage as a last resort – this can be legally risky and damage morale, which may cost more in the long run, so this should only be done with advice and extreme care.

If you are an employer considering a reduction or other changes to working hours for your team, a member of the View HR team will be happy to support you.  Please contact us for an initial conversation.