Can my employer change my hours?

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Q:  I work in an office for a professional services firm south of Boston.  When I was hired three years ago, my hours were discussed as 8:00 am – 4:30 pm.  My hours are important to me because I have to pick up my child at 5:00 pm.  If I leave my office later, I am often late and our daycare charges extra fees if I arrive late.

I have a new supervisor now and she asked that I work 8:30 am – 5:00 pm.  One of the reasons I accepted this job was because of the hours, and the ability to leave at 4:30 pm.

Do you have any advice for me?

A: Thanks for submitting your question.  Hours can be critically important to employees who are often juggling other commitments like children, taking classes, elderly parents, or other responsibilities.

My recommendation would be to first request a brief meeting with your new supervisor.  Ask her if there is a reason your hours need to change, and explain your need to leave at 4:30 pm.  Most supervisors will understand this need and hopefully accommodate it.  What I don’t know is if there are other employees who have asked that they also leave at 4:30 pm.  Your supervisor may be trying to balance business needs with the needs of employees.  If everyone leaves at 4:30 pm and your office closes at 5:00 pm, that is a bit of a challenge.

Some of my clients are very flexible with employees but others are not because of business needs like telephone coverage, store hours or that is the time of day when they need office coverage the most.  However, most of my clients will try to offer an option that works for both the needs of the business as well as the needs of the employee.

I would explain that you were hired with the understanding of being able to leave at 4:30 pm so you are able to pick up your child from daycare.  Your supervisor may be able to offer a compromise.  Some of the compromises might be – are you willing to work through lunch or can you check emails later that evening?

Good luck with your conversation.  I hope you can retain your original schedule.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.