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What to Do If Your Employer Cuts Your Hours

Has your employer recently reduced your hours at your hourly or part-time job? You’re not alone. In this recession, reduced hours are affecting young workers more than any other age group. If your boss cuts your hours, it’s not an easy time to pick up and find new work. There are, however, a few steps you can take to try to win some hours back.

1. Be Flexible

The most important thing you can do to show your boss you want more hours is to be available to take them. Of course, you may not be able to skip a college class to pick up an extra shift. On the other hand, if you’ve taken Saturday nights off for social reasons, consider amending your availability. Also, if your employer has multiple locations, indicate that you’re willing to work at more than one if it means a fuller schedule.

2. Be Better Than Your Coworkers

Employers often cut everybody’s hours in lieu of laying off a small number of employees. That saves a few jobs, but it hurts everybody’s budgets. At any job, and in this economy more than ever, you must look out for yourself. That means you must do excellent work, show enthusiasm, and go above and beyond. (And make sure your boss knows about it.) If you stand out among your peers at work, you’ll be first in line when hours come back.

3. Be Persistent

Never assume that your boss knows you want more hours. Believe it or not, she may just assume that if nobody says anything, everybody’s okay with the cutbacks. Tell your boss regularly that you’re looking for extra hours. Do it every week, or even every shift. Don’t be a nag, but slide it into conversation whenever you can. The squeaky wheel does get the grease.

4. Be Creative

Think outside of your job description. Ask your boss—or even your company’s owner (if it’s a small business)—if there are additional responsibilities you could take on a few hours a week. This can be an especially smart strategy if you have specific skills that your current position doesn’t take advantage of, but you think the company could use. Sell your boss or the company’s owner on how paying you a few extra hours could increase business.

What About You? Have you had your hours cut? How has it affected you, and what do you plan to do about it?

Published or updated on April 6, 2009

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


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  1. Stephen says:

    My boss requested that I take a voluntary hour cut at the end of last year and since I had already considered the idea I obliged. But this past Friday my boss came to me and said my hours were focibly getting cut, so I went from 40 hours to 24 (voluntarily), then down to 16. I am the only employee getting this paycut, does anyone know if there is anything I can do about this? It seems a little ridiculous that I am the only one targeted here.

  2. Another side effect of a major cut in hours could be loss of benefits. If some employees are cut from full time hours to part time, they may lose benefits such as health insurance. If this does happen, your employer is REQUIRED to give you COBRA though many employees do not even realize their entitled. As you may know, the law, such as COBRA, is only enforced if you know to fight for it. If you as an employee do not know that you are entitled to COBRA and you have a bad or ill-informed employer, you may be wrongfully denied.

  3. Jason Unger says:

    I had my hours cut at the end of December — 10% to 36 hours a week. It saved a number of jobs, but brought up a different issue: it turned salaried employees into hourly employees.

    It doesn’t really have an effect on output, but on mentality, as in: “If they’re only paying us for 36 hours, then that’s all I’m going to work for.” It’s a weird side effect I don’t think management was expecting.

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