changing employees' work schedules, workplace lawyers

Employers Making Changes to Employees’ Working Schedules

Many employees are surprised to learn that the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”) does not contain provisions that prevent an employer from adjusting an employee’s work schedule. However, employees do have certain rights in this situation.

What Are the Minimum Requirements for Employee Work Schedules?

The ESA sets out daily and weekly limits to hours of work. The maximum hours that most employees can be required to work is 8 hours in a regular workday, and 48 hours in a work week. However, employees can agree to work greater than these limits by agreeing to do so through a written agreement. Further, these limits on work hours do not apply to all jobs and industries so it is important to find out if you may fall under one of the numerous exceptions.

Other requirements relating to work schedules include employees having a certain amount of time each day free from having to work. For example, many employees are entitled to eating breaks, which we discussed in an earlier article found here.

Under What Circumstances Can Work Schedules Be Changed?

The ESA does not currently contain any provisions that regulate employee scheduling. As such, there is no legislated requirement that prevents an employer from changing an employee’s scheduled shift with little or no warning. 

An employer can set your regular working hours and make some changes to your work schedule, as may be needed. Many employment agreements contain provisions that permit employers to have this flexibility. However, there are limits to what an employer can do when it comes to changing their employees’ work schedules.

The ESA states that where an employee works a shift that is under 3 hours, s/he is still entitled to a minimum of 3 hours of pay. This is known as the “three-hour rule”. The three-hour rule also applies to employees who usually work greater than 3 hours per shift, but their shift ends up being less than this time on a particular day, despite the employee being available to continue working. In this case, an employee will be owed either:

  • His/her regular rate of three hours of work, or
  • The amount the employee earned for the time worked, and the wages equal to the employee’s regular rate for the remainder of the time.

The employee will be entitled to the whichever amount is greater.

Importantly, the ESA also contains an exception to the three-hour rule. This rule does not apply where the employee is unable to work for certain reasons beyond the employer’s control such as a power failure, storms, or a fire.

What Should You Do If Your Employer Makes Drastic Changes to Your Work Schedule?

Although an employer can generally move around an employee’s work schedule, the employer should not be making fundamental changes without your consent. Where an employer makes a significant change to your work schedule that you do not accept, it may amount to a constructive dismissal

Remember, an employee has the responsibility to demonstrate that s/he has been constructively dismissed. We recommend that you seeking legal advice as soon as you can if you believe you may have been constructively dismissed to understand your rights and obligations.

Contact Us 

If you are an employer and need advice regarding changing your employees’ work schedules or how to do so properly, or an employee who believes you have been constructively dismissed, our team of experienced workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at +1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.

If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service support with same day response, visit our CLO Program page for our strategic solutions.