Should my contract of employment specify what hours I should work?

Yes. The written statement of particulars of employment, which should be given to employees within two months of starting work, should include "details of terms and conditions of employment relating to hours of work and normal working hours."

In order to avoid confusion, normal hours should be specified, such as '8 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday excluding an hour for lunch'. Sometimes the employer may wish to retain some flexibility and add something like "or any other such hours as the company reasonably deems necessary". It is in your interests that the contract is as specific as possible. The policy on overtime should also be made clear.

The precise details of the hours of work are between you and your employer, as long as they comply with the Working Time Regulations and the obligation to pay you at least the National Minimum Wage.

If you work annualised hours, a normal working week's hours should still be stated so that, for example, holiday pay can be correctly calculated.

Recent years have seen an explosion in employment contracts without a minimum number of guaranteed hours (including ‘zero hour’ contracts), up from 1.7 million in 2016 to 1.8 million in 2017. In this type of arrangement, “normal working hours” are typically described as “to be agreed”, “as required”, or even “zero”, leaving workers with no ability to predict their hours or earnings from one week to the next, and at the mercy of bad employers.

Two-thirds of workers polled by the TUC would prefer a contract with guaranteed hours, and almost three-quarters have been offered hours with less than 24 hours’ notice. If you feel insecure at work, it is a good idea to join a union. The best way to deal with bad treatment at work is often to work together with other workers to get a better deal. Browse our Unionfinder tool to find the most appropriate union for you.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.