Protection for Part-Time Workers

Home Discrimination and Equality Protection for Part-Time Workers

Around 8.5 million people in the UK work part-time; no doubt the right to request flexible working has bolstered this number over recent years.

Regulations introduced in 2000 made it unlawful for employers to treat a worker less favourably because they are part-time. How do these Regulations apply in practice? We’ll take a look in this article.

What Is Part-Time Work?

There is no national level of working hours which signifies part-time work. In reality, a part-time employee is someone who is not identifiable as a full-time worker. Therefore, where full-time work in an organisation is 37.5 hours per week, a 27 hour week worker will be considered part-time in the same way as someone working 10 hours a week. Both of these individuals would fall within the protection of the Part-Time Workers (Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000.

Basis of Protection

From day one of employment, part-time workers have the right not to be treated less favourably than a full time worker just because they do not work full time hours. The right applies to the wider category of ‘workers’ rather than being restricted to ‘employees’, meaning employers must consider the impact of the Regulations on anyone who has a contract – not necessarily a contract of employment – to perform work personally. Self-employed people are not covered.

Access To Statutory Rights

Part-time employees have the same statutory rights as full-time workers. Where the individual is an employee, this will include rights:

  • To a statement of main terms;
  • Not to suffer unlawful deductions from pay;
  • To paid annual leave (on a pro rata basis);
  • To maternity leave;
  • To time off for dependants;
  • Not to be unfairly dismissed etc.

Pro rata Principle

In most cases, employers will avoid a claim of less favourable treatment by offering the same benefits to all employees not just full time workers e.g. access to staff perks. However, the pro rata principle is applied which reduces the entitlement to correspond with the amount of time worked by the part-time worker. For example, where a 5 day week worker receives statutory minimum 28 days paid annual leave, a 3 day week worker will receive 16.8 days.

Objective Justification

Employers have the opportunity to continue with less favourable treatment if it can be objectively justified. If employees feel they are receiving less favourable treatment, they can ask their employer for a written statement explaining the reasons for the treatment which must be responded to within 21 days.

Practical Considerations

Overtime: Paying enhanced hourly overtime rates to part-time workers only once they hit the number of normal full-time hours is fine.

Bank Holidays: The pro rata principle on calculating Bank Holiday entitlement should ensure that no less favourable treatment is felt by employees who may not work Mondays (a common Bank Holiday day).

Redundancy: It is unlawful to make employees redundant solely because they are not full-time. Any restructure affecting part-time staff should make the most of the consultation stage to identify any flexibility that could be achieved.

Promotion: Don’t automatically discount part-time employees from an internal recruitment drive for a full-time position. They may be prepared to increase their hours or alternatively, you could consider a job share arrangement.

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Elena Boura