Part-time Workers

Employment Rights for Part-time Workers

There has been a surge in part-time work over recent years.  More than 6 million people are now part-time workers in the UK and as  many as 47% of all females in employment are working part-time.

Part-time workers have the right not to be treated less favourably than comparable full-time workers.  The key piece of legislation in this regard is  Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000.  It provides part-time workers with protection from unfavourable treatment with regard to their contract and any other detriment (unfavourable treatment) act, or failure to act by an employer.  Employers must ensure that part-time workers are treated equally in the following areas:

(a) Pay

A part-time worker should be paid at the same rate as a comparable full-time worker.

(b) Overtime pay

A  part-time worker can only claim overtime pay if they work in excess of the hours that a full-time worker works.  That means an employee working sixteen hours a week would not be able to claim pay at an overtime rate if they worked eighteen hours a week.

(c) Training

This should be timed, wherever possible, to coincide with part-time worker’s hours.

(d) Redundancy

Part-time workers are entitled to statutory redundancy pay after two year’s continuous service along the same lines as full-time workers.  Additionally, an employer must not treat a part-time worker less favourably when making selections for redundancy.

(e) Bank holidays

Those part-timers who work on regular days and do not gain from bank holidays (for example employees who usually have Mondays off) are entitled to additional time off to ensure that they are not being treated placed at a disadvantage when compared to their full-time counterparts.

(f) Other workplace benefits

Nowadays many companies offer a broad spectrum of benefits to their employees ranging from staff canteens and childcare to gym membership and healthcare benefits.  These benefits should be offered to people working part-time.  In many cases it is possible to offer them on a pro rata basis.  For example, a person working 20 hours a week would be offered 20 hours subsidised childcare a week.  However some benefits are not so readily divisible and in these circumstances they should be offered to a part-time worker on the same basis as a full-time worker.  This means that a gym membership scheme would be open to all employees in its entirety regardless of the hours that they work.

Employers must provide part-time employees with equal treatment on each separate employment condition or benefit.

Is there a minimum term of service for part-time workers to enforce their rights?

The rights of part-time workers do not accrue after a minimum term of service and are enforceable on the first day that employees commence a new job.  They also apply equally to those on fixed term contracts as well as those on permanent contracts.

Can an Employer Justify Treating a Part-time Worker Differently?

An employer can defend a claim that an employee has been treated unfavourably when the treatment can be objectively justified.  In other words, if the treatment is to meet a legitimate objective (such as a a genuine business need) and the treatment is necessary to meet that need and the treatment is a proportionate way of achieving that objective.

The need for a full-time comparator

In order to qualify for these regulations a part-time worker will need to show that they have been treated less favourably than a full-time worker.  This worker is described as a comparator.  It may seem obvious but finding a comparator can be quite difficult.  A comparator must work for the same employer and work in the same workplace and work on the same type of contract and do similar work.  Therefore, you cannot say that you have been treated less favourably than your manager because they work full-time and you work part-time.  The person must be doing the same job.

What to do if you have been treated less favourably than a full-time worker

In the first instance an employee should make a request for a written statement from an employer requesting an explanation for the less favourable treatment.  This request should be presented to the employer in writing and the employer should respond within 21 days.  If the employer fails to respond to the written request or the part-time worker does not accept the response given then they could present a case to an employment tribunal.

Possible Claim for Sex Discrimination

Anything which affects part-time workers more than full time employees  may amount to indirect sex discrimination.  This is because more women than men work part-time.  In fact  47% of female workers are part-time.[1] Indirect discrimination does not consider whether men and women have bee treated differently but considers whether a provision, criteria or practice has the effect of disadvantaging women.