Q&A: Can my employer insist I work longer hours for no extra pay?

Q. I work for a small printing company as an office junior.  My hours are 9.00 to 5.30.  Last week I received an email from my manager saying that with immediate effect I was expected to stay behind each evening until all the work was completed.  My manager anticipated that this would mean me working an extra one to two hours a week for no extra pay.  I have small children and will have to pay additional childcare costs.  Is there anything I can do?

A.  The first thing you should do is check your employment contract to see if there is any particular term within it that enables your employer to make changes to your hours.  Even if there is such a term, your employer should be acting in a reasonable fashion.  If there is no such term and you are not willing to agree to the change or your employer is acting unreasonably this may give you grounds to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.  If you refuse to work the extra hours and your employer moves to dismiss you it may be an unfair dismissal.  You may also have a claim for indirect sex discrimination if the difficulty in agreeing to the changes is because of your childcare requirements.  I would urge you to seek further legal advice about your position.

Emma Carter, Solicitor

This article was previously published in the Stamford Mercury.