This article aims to help in answering the question of whether or not an individual can reduce their working hours. To answer this question, we will discuss the application process an employee must follow to request their employer for reduced working hours as well as the consequences of having reduced working hours; both on your income and the benefits you claim (if any).
Can I Reduce My Working Hours?
Yes, you can reduce your working hours. To get your working hours reduced, you will need to request formally to your employer with an application. Generally speaking, employees are required to have completed a minimum of 26 weeks into their employment before they can request their employer to reduce their working hours.
Based on your discussion with your employer, your new working hours can be agreed upon by either reducing the number of hours you work each day or reducing the number of days you work each week.
This is termed Flexible Working which is legally available as an option to all employees (and not just parents of young children or carers). Your working hours can be reduced in any of the following ways; as long as there is an agreement between you and your employer on the terms:
- Part-time work reduces your working hours from the usual full-time hours of employees
- Compressed hours reduce the number of days you work (usually 5) under full-time hours
- Flexitime allows employees to choose the start and end time of their working hours as long as they work the agreed number of hours and work during certain core hours
- Annualised hours encourage employees and employers to agree on an annual number of hours that the employee must work. The number of hours per day and the number of days per week that an employee works in such a case remains flexible
When you apply for reduced working hours at work, you must keep in mind that there is a strong likelihood that your wages may be reduced; especially if you are being paid on an hourly or daily basis. Additionally, if you become a part-time employee, you may have to forego some of the fringe benefits that are only offered to full-time employees.
If you are claiming certain welfare benefits, your payments can be affected if you reduce your working hours. On the other hand, if you are reducing your working hours due to a health condition or disability, you may be able to claim added elements of certain benefits as well as disability benefits in some cases.
Therefore, when you request your employer to reduce your working hours, you should (a) ask for a renewed contract of employment with the mutually agreed terms in writing and (b) check the employment contract for how your new working hours will affect entitlements such as the following:
- Pay related benefits
- Sick pay
- Employer’s pension contributions
- Future redundancy pay
- Fringe benefits
If your employer approves your request, they are required by law to apply the reduced working hours to your contract within 28 days. If your employer does not respond to your request, refuses to agree to it or both of you fail to agree on the terms regarding your request for reduced working hours, you can seek advice from the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 1100 if you are in England, Scotland or Wales and from the Labour Relations Agency Helpline on 028 9032 1442 if you are in Northern Ireland.
How Can I Apply For Reduced Working Hours?
You can apply for reduced working hours by writing an application addressed to your employer. You should state the reason(s) for your request, the current number of hours you work as well as the number of hours you are now requesting to work. You are also required to clearly state that this is a statutory request. Alternatively, you can use the flexible working application template to file a formal request.
It can usually take an employer three months to respond to your request for reduced working hours, but once they approve it, they must put it into action within 28 days of approval. They may ask you to discuss the terms of a new contract with them or simply have one issued to you. Once the two of you agree on the new terms of a reduced-hours employment contract and sign it, you can start working under it.
If your employer refuses your request for reduced working hours, they must give you a reason for doing so. In the case of a disagreement or conflict due to their refusal, either of you can apply for a workplace dispute resolution.
If your employer does not give you a reason for rejecting your application or you find their explanation to be unreasonable you can appeal to the employment tribunal.
How Will My Reduced Working Hours Affect The Benefits I Claim?
If you reduce your working hours, some of your benefits can be affected while others may not be. For instance, if you are claiming Working Tax Credits, you should be working at least 16 hours per week to claim the benefit.
Meanwhile, if you are claiming Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance, you can only work 16 hours or less per week so that you can continue claiming these benefits. If your working hours increase, you will no longer remain qualified for Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Jobseeker’s Allowance can be claimed by individuals who are capable of working; are either working less than 16 hours per week or are unemployed.
In the case of Employment and Support Allowance, one can only claim the benefit if they are not working at all. This means that ESA is only offered to individuals who are unable to work (while their partner can work up to 24 hours per week).
On the other hand, if you are a Universal Credit claimant, your payments will not be affected by the number of hours you work. The working hours for UC claimants are mutually agreed upon between the claimant and their work coach through a Claimant Commitment. This document states whether or not the claimant is expected to work or search for work while they receive benefits payments.
In contrast to this, should someone be claiming Disability Benefits such as Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Payment, their working hours or income will not affect their benefits claim.
The above discussion has highlighted that not only can an employee request their employer to reduce their working hours, but there are also options to do so by reducing the number of hours per day that they work, the number of days they work in a week (under usual working hours) or both. However, both employer and employee must agree to the terms of reduced working hours with a renewed employment contract.