Can my contract hours be changed?
The short answer is no. Management can not change your contracted hours without your approval.
Although it is illegal, it still happens, as Kelsie* found out:
For over 5 years Kelsie has been working at a major fast food restaurant on a part-time contract. The contract, which she received at the start of her employment, was for 25 hours per week working nights.
After years of working nights, Kelsie asked to be moved to days. However, when this happened her contracted hours were slashed to just 10 hours a week because the employer said they ‘did not have the hours available’ for her during days.
After chatting with management, Kelsie was also promised casual hours on top of her contracted 10 hours to make up the difference, but this did not happen.
At no point did Kelsie agree to a reduction in her contracted hours and she had not signed anything. With a drastically reduced income and no extra casual hours Kelsie was unable to pay her bills and her car was repossessed. At this point Kelsie contacted her Union, the SDA, for help.
With the support and presence of Union representation, Kelsie had a meeting with her Manager to discuss the reinstatement of her 25 hour contract. She was initially offered 20 hours but, after privately discussing this option with her SDA representative, she decided to pursue the 25 hours to which she was entitled. Kelsie and her Union representative re-entered the meeting and her Manager immediately reinstated her 25 hours.
Kelsie’s Manager accepted that they were in the wrong and Kelsie was rightfully entitled to her 25 hour contract because the reduction in hours was never agreed.
Kelsie was also reimbursed over $4,000 in lost earnings during this period and has now returned to her 25 hour contract - allowing her to retrieve her car.
Employer’s cannot change your contract hours without your permission
It is unlawful for an employer to change contracted hours without it being mutually agreed on by both the employer and employee. If you have not agreed to and signed a contract to change your contracted hours (full-time or part-time) your employer has no right to make that unilateral change.
The reliability of contracted hours gives you financial stability. Working additional casual hours is great but the amount available may vary, leaving you vulnerable.
The SDA has helped many members, in fast food and retail, facing similar contract issues as Kelsie suffered. If you have experienced this or anything similar, please speak to your Delegate immediately or contact the SDA on 1300 SDA HELP (1300 732 4357).
*Name changed for the privacy of the member.