Law guide: Employment

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Part-time working

Part-time working


Employing part-time workers can be an efficient way to keep costs down in areas where you don't need full-time cover. It is also a way to build in flexibility so that you can respond to changes in demand and develop your business.

It is recommended that employers should do the following:

  • Seriously consider requests for job sharing/change to part-time work
  • Provide individuals with information on availability of part-time work
  • Those who are large organisations should keep a database of individuals interested in part-time work/job sharing

(Further details are available in our section on What is flexible working?.)

Part-time employees' rights

Employers of part-time workers must not treat them less favourably than full-time workers. Any treatment that puts part-time workers at a disadvantage could lead to a complaint to an employment tribunal, or to a claim of indirect sex discrimination as the majority of part-time employees are women. A comparable full-time worker is one who works for the same employer and does similar work under the same type of contract.

This means that part-time workers must enjoy pro-rata terms and conditions including equal:

  • Rates of pay
  • Rates of overtime pay - once part-time workers have worked more than the normal full-time hours
  • Entitlement to company pension schemes and benefits
  • Access to training and career development
  • Holiday entitlement
  • Rights to career breaks
  • Contractual sick pay, contractual maternity and parental leave and pay rights as offered to full-time staff
  • Treatment when selecting candidates for promotion and for redundancy

Part-time workers have the same rights and benefits - in proportion to the hours they work - as comparable full-time staff, unless you can justify the difference on objective grounds. For example, you may be justified in not allowing a part-time worker to join a health insurance scheme because of the disproportionate cost. Part-time workers who believe they are not treated equally can ask you for a written statement of reasons for this. You have 21 days in which to respond.

Part-time workers who still believe they are being treated unfavourably, and don't believe you have objectively justified this, can make a complaint to an Employment Tribunal. An Employment Tribunal can make you pay compensation if they find in the part-time worker's favour.

Right to receive a written statement

If a worker considers he/she is being treated less favourably, he/she can request a written statement from the employer detailing the reasons why he/she is being treated less favourably. The employer must respond within 21 days. If the employer is unclear in his/her response, or fails to respond at all, then a tribunal may draw adverse inferences.

The right not to be subjected to a detriment

A worker does not have the right to claim unfair dismissal, however, he/she does have the right to claim that he/she has been subjected to a detriment if he/she is subjected to detrimental treatment for any of the above reasons.

Unfair dismissal

Irrespective of length of service, an employee may make a claim for unfair dismissal if he/she is dismissed for:

  • bringing proceedings him/herself or giving evidence in proceedings brought by a worker under the part-time rules against his/her employer;
  • requesting a written statement (see above);
  • alleging that the employer has infringed the part-time rules;
  • refusing or proposing to refuse to forgo a right conferred upon him by the part-time rules; or

because the employer believes or suspects that the employee has done or intends to do any of the above.