Since business has dropped over the last year, my organization has to change our hours of work and make some necessary shift changes – is there an accepted industry standard/ procedure and timeframe for notification of the workers?
Yes, there is. If you are in a unionized environment, notice for changes in shifts or hours of work may be stated in the Collective Agreement. If they are not, any change in the terms and conditions of employment must be discussed with the recognized Trade Union before the changes are made.
Otherwise, there may be, in fact, there should be a provision in the company manual covering that, but if there is no recognized trade union, and no Collective Agreement, and if it is not stated in a Company policy, the Employee Handbook or Employment Contract, the company should give what is called in common law “reasonable notice”.
This will vary according to the circumstances and the reason for the change in shift or hours of work e.g. fire, natural disaster etc. If it is a genuine emergency which cannot be foretold, as in the case of a fire that destroys, or partially destroys the property, then employees must be informed as soon as possible. In the case of a fire or natural disaster, that would be the next day.
In the case of a cancelled contract or a loss of a major market, or other change for which notice can be “reasonably” foreseen the notice should be two weeks in the case of daily or weekly paid workers, or one month in the case of monthly paid workers.