Lockdown Lowdown: How Londoners are Managing — Variations in Hours or Pay

Posted on Wednesday, May 13, 2020 by The Workplace AdvisorNo comments

Welcome to the last in our Lockdown Lowdown series, looking at how London’s office support workers are managing the impact of the current situation on their employment. We’ve considered the benefits of homeworking, why furlough can be beneficial, and considered how to be positive about unavoidable redundancy. Finally, we look at those affected by employers making changes to their hours or pay.

Can an employer change my hours or pay?

Generally, unless stipulated in your contract, an employer cannot change your hours or lower your pay below the national minimum wage (currently £10.75 per hour in London, £9.30 in the rest of the UK). However, we all know that these are exceptional times and the pressure that workers feel from employers (in a climate where they fear for any genuine options) means many are accepting changes.

Fewer hours and/or less pay may be the best and most sensible option for enabling a business to survive and for your long-term future with them. You should consider any changes to your pay within the wider framework of your finances. If you’re now working from home instead of commuting into central London, you’re probably making significant savings on your travel expenses and all those ad hoc purchases, such as coffee and office wear.

“My employer cut my working week by one day,” Alex told us. “Effectively, that’s one-fifth less pay. I sat down, did the maths, and discovered that I’d only be marginally worse off, because of how much my train fare is. I was still a bit worried, but nearly a month in, I’ve discovered I’m just not spending much in lockdown, so things have actually worked out okay.”

Refusing changes to your hours and pay

Unless your contract states otherwise, you can refuse to accept the changes. However, you should be aware that if your employer has done this for legitimate reasons (as is the case for many), they may choose to make your role redundant. It can also result in an environment of poor relations between you.

Generally speaking, pay cuts are being used in predominantly senior positions, not in more junior office support roles. Examples include senior executives in the Stobart Group taking a 20% pay cut, and Andy Hornby, CEO of the restaurant group in charge of Garfunkel’s and Wagamama, taking a 40% pay cut. But, if you feel that such a situation doesn’t work for you, don’t feel that you’re closing the door on opportunity.

Opportunities during coronavirus

If you’d like to look for another job because your hours or pay have been cut, then we’re still open as usual. Additionally, we’ve created a Virtual Support Service, which is providing many with temporary jobs in London within office support.

Try to consider the best decisions for the medium to long term. It’s most likely that the difficulties experienced by employers due to lockdown, such as cutting hours or pay, will be relatively temporary. If you need advice on what to do, then give us a call on 020 7870 7177.


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