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Cancellation of work

This is a guide for individuals who have had work cancelled. It includes information about pay, cancellation of agency/bank shifts and lay-offs.

Pay and cancellation of work

In law there is no general obligation for your employer to provide work so long as they pay your wages as outlined in your contract. 

Sometimes due to workload or patient need, an employer may ask you to reschedule your days off or your work days. Though this may not adhere strictly to the hours stated in your contract, it could be seen as a reasonable request. Your contract may also provide for such requests. These requests need to be reasonable and agreeable to both parties. 

Check your contract and contact us if your employer is:

  • cancelling work and refusing to pay you
  • rescheduling work unreasonably 
  • refusing to provide work over a long period of time.

Firstly check your contract and any relevant policy but in general, if you are ready, willing and able to get to work and your workplace or clinic is closed because of disruption, your employer should pay you. They may ask you to:

  • go to another workplace (only if it is safe to do so)
  • work from home (only if you normally do this)
  • take annual leave (see our note below).*

*The RCN believes that generally annual leave should be taken through agreement. An employer can ask an employee to take annual leave but they should also give appropriate notice (at least the same amount of notice as the leave required). 

You can read more about  cancellation of work from ACAS here and we have further guidance on travel disruption here.

If you are a ‘worker’, your bank/agency should have in place (and follow) a clear policy on cancellation of work. It may be a breach of contract if the agency has agreed you will work and has then withdrawn this offer. You could also look to compromise by asking the agency for travelling expenses and some pay for your inconvenience if your shift is cancelled at short notice.

Check the relevant policies, any contracts you have been given and contact us if there is a dispute.

An employee is 'laid-off' if they are not provided with work by their employer on a temporary basis.

An employer can lay off employees if:

  • there is an express contractual term which has been agreed between employer and employee
  • there is an agreement between the employer and a trade union which is incorporated into the individual contract, or
  • this practice has been established over a long period and is now a implied in the contract.

A lay-off may be without pay where the contract of employment allows for this.

If the lay-off amounts to dismissal or if it is not just a temporary measure, you may be entitled to redundancy pay, statutory guarantee pay or - subject to certain conditions - a claim for unfair dismissal.

Further information is available from ACAS


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Page last updated - 30/05/2022