Advice on Reducing Staff Hours and Laying Off

Advice on Reducing Staff Hours and Laying Off

Your duty when reducing hours, and options for temporary cuts.

By Marcia Smith

What are my obligations when taking an employee from full-time to part-time?

If you wish to make a change to an employee’s hours of work, you’re legally required to gain their agreement first. If you try to make changes without the employee’s consent, you may leave yourself open to a legal challenge before an employment tribunal. The employee could also sue for unpaid wages, or allege discrimination.

You’re also obliged to explain your reasons for the changes, to discuss these with the employee or their representative, and to listen to any alternative suggestions they may propose. Additionally, if the former full-time role is redundant, specific rules apply including giving notice, conducting a consultation and making statutory redundancy payments.

What are lay-offs and short-time working?

Lay-offs and short-time working are measures that an employer may take in response to a need to lower the running costs of the business, or due to a lack of available work. They are commonly used as alternatives to permanent redundancy, where an employer believes that business conditions may improve in the future.

Laying staff off means temporarily suspending their employment for at least one full day. Depending on their terms of employment, they could receive full or partial payment of their wages during this time.

Short-time working means reducing the normal working hours of employees. Staff may have their pay reduced proportionately, but again this will depend on their terms of employment.

There are also statutory minimum requirements for pay during lay-offs or short-time working, with which employers must compl