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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: UK Employment Law
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i work a four on four off 12 hr shift pattern, our company

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i work a four on four off 12 hr shift pattern, our company pays us an average 42hr week, we have eight factory day shut downs. the shut down days are designed so the company dont have to pay us continental shift priemums. Now the want us to work these days and not pay shift premiums. Is this lawfully correct?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: UK Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 6 years ago.

Thanks for your question. Please don't forget to press Accept once you get my answer. For now please let me know:


1. Is all of this mentioned in your contract?


Customer: replied 6 years ago.
no this will change our contract, but we have had no mention of a change in contract. we have our next managers meeting next week, but it looks like they will force us to work the extra shifts for basic pay and no premiums.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 6 years ago.

Can you please expand on the continental shift pay system – is that just a company entitlement?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

No we get paid for a average 42hr week, as we work 4 x 12 hour shifts and 4 x 12 shifts off. with the shutdown days this averages us to a normal 40hr working week, but without the days as they want us to work this puts us on full continental shifts and i think i am right in saying they should pay the shift premiums for this

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 6 years ago.

So essentially they are going to increase your working hours but at the same time keep you on the same pay and in turn this will change your existing contract?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
they are increasing our hours, they will pay us for the extra shifts but will not pay any shift premiums as we will effectivly be working a full continental shift pattern
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 6 years ago.

OK, but this shift premium – where are you getting that from, is it a company policy?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

i have worked these shifts in the past for another company and the premiums were paid. but this company only wants to pay us basic hours with no premium


Expert:  Ben Jones replied 6 years ago.
The first consideration is that shift premiums are not a legal right – they are a contractual entitlement and it is down to each employer to decide whether they want to pay them or not. But they are not obliged to pay them by law – it is essentially an incentive that they can offer their employees should they choose to do so.

So by changing your shifts they are not obliged to pay you any shift allowances. You will however have rights if these changes are going to result in a change to your contracts because your employer can only change your contractual terms in the following ways:

1. By receiving your express approval to the changes;
2. By consulting with you and forcefully introducing the changes (called unilateral change of contract);
3. By giving you notice to terminate your employment and then re-engaging you on a new contract, which incorporates the changes.

If the changes are introduced forcefully then you have the following options:

1. Accept them, start working on the new terms and don’t take the matter any further.

2. Start working on the new terms but making it clear to your employer (preferably in writing) that you are ‘working under protest’. This means that you do not agree to the changes but are only working them because you are forced to. In the meantime try and resolve the issue with your employer either by informal discussions or by raising a formal grievance.

3. If Option 2 does not get you anywhere then you may wish to consider taking the final step and resigning without notice. If you do so, you would need to resign without undue delay so as not to give an impression that you had accepted the changes. Then you can claim constructive unfair dismissal in an employment tribunal, subject to having at least 1 year continuous service with your employer. You would have to argue that your employer had committed a fundamental breach of contract and that you were left with no other option but to resign. Remember that you only have 3 months from the date you resign to submit your claim.

If your contract is terminated and then you are re-engaged on the new terms, then that could potentially amount to an unfair dismissal and you can make a claim for it in the employment tribunal. The same rules of 1 year’s continuous service and the 3 month time limit to submit your claim would apply.

I hope this helps. Please press the ACCEPT button. You would still be free to ask any follow up questions and I will continue my advice for free. Thank you
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