Advice about rights at work?


So I work part time in a supermarket while studying at university, I also care for my wife who has MS. When I was hired at the supermarket I was told that I would be doing 4 nights a week at 4 hours each which fit perfectly around my other responsibilities. However since I started it’s been one thing after another, they constantly put me in for overtime that I can’t do as I can’t leave my wife with no one available for her. Do I have the right to refuse the overtime because of this? What should I do? I’ve tried to speak to my manager but it’s like talking to a brick wall.

Thank you!

Talk to ACAS about your employment rights.
Find out about being “disabled by association”.
Find out more about “constructive dismissal”.

Your employer needs to deal with this.

Hello, Megan. You say that you cannot leave your wife. I presume that you can leave her to do your night shifts, because she will be asleep.

Supermarkets have done well out of COVID-19, because they have picked up sales of merchandise normally sold by other shops not allowed to open. This may be the reason why you are being asked to put in more time than originally agreed. You cannot be forced to do overtime, but if you refuse it could prejudice you chance of employment progression in that organisation.

Do you belong to a trades union? If so, discuss this with your local representative.

If you can’t come to a satisfactory arrangement, you are in the wrong job and you need to look elsewhere. The local Job Centre can probably help. There are not so many people willing to work nights only.

Hi Megan,

It is difficult for any of us to give an entirely accurate response without seeing your contract. Does your contract state that you need to work overtime if required? As a carer, you do have some rights as you are “disabled by association”. You would be entitled to time off for emergencies, for example, but that does not mean you are not bound by what your contract says.

If your supermarket has an HR department, I would explain the situation to them, stating that you are happy to work the hours previously agreed but are unable to work extra, and see what they say. ACAS has a Helpline which may be able to assist you further.

Do not even consider going down the constructive dismissal route. From my personal experience (20 years in HR), it is almost impossible to prove and for a part time role in a supermarket, would be more hassle than it is worth.

So, in short, check what your contract says, speak to HR and flag that you are a carer and if this fails, speak to Acas. In fact, I would get advice from Acas before speaking to HR.

Good luck, Anne