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 they're being treated less favourably, they can request a written statement from the employer detailing the reasons why they're being treated less favourably. The employer must respond within 21 days. If the employer is unclear in their 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, they do have the right to claim that they've been subjected to a detriment if they've been 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 they're dismissed for:

  • bringing proceedings themselves or giving evidence in proceedings brought by a worker under the part-time rules against their 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.

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