Can my employer reduce my hours and pay?

Note: the government announced new measures on Friday 20 March. We will update these pages once their full significance has been evaluated.

It will largely depend on the terms of your contract as to whether your employer can reduce your hours and pay.

If you are on a zero-hours contract for example, there is unlikely to be any rights to be provided with work or pay (even in these circumstances, you should seek advice).

If there is an express clause regarding “lay-off” or short-time working, see our article can I be ‘laid-off’ by my employer?

Generally, a term of the contract of employment cannot be lawfully unilaterally changed by one party. Agreement should usually be sought and consultation with affected individuals should take place.  However, given the nature of the situation, this may not be possible.

If an employer reduces an employees’ pay, without their agreement, this may be an unlawful deduction from wages. However, given the circumstances and the fact that the employer may move to dismiss instead, you would need to think carefully about whether to try and raise this.

Employees could resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal in response to the breach of contract. However, in unfair dismissal claims (including constructive dismissal) the tribunal will be considering the reasonableness of the employers’ actions.  In these circumstances, where there has been a reduction in the employers’ work, the decision to reduce hours and pay, may be seen as a reasonable one.  Alternatively, this could be a redundancy situation.

We would strongly recommend against this course of action, particularly because finding other work is likely to be difficult.  Therefore, any decision to terminate your contract of employment should not be taken lightly.  It would be better to remain in employment and consider claims for unlawful deductions from wages.

Get help

If you have further questions about this issue contact us for more help.