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Part-time workers

29 April 2005

The Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 came into force on 1 July 2000. The regulations ensure that part-timers are not treated less favourably than permanent employees in their contractual terms and conditions. Less favourable treatment of a part-timer can, however, be justified on objective grounds if it can be shown that is necessary and appropriate to achieve a legitimate business objective.

Who should be compared with whom?
Part-time workers can compare themselves with full-time workers on similar contracts working for the same company. It will not matter whether the part-timers or full-timers are working on fixed-term or permanent contracts.

Where there is no suitable full-timer to compare with at the same location, the part-timer can make the comparison with a full-timer doing similar work in a different establishment for the same employer.

Someone who changes to part-time work will also be able to compare their part-time conditions with their previous full-time contract. This also applies to someone returning part-time after a period of absence, such as maternity leave, provided the period of absence is not longer than 12 months.

Department of Trade and Industry guidance:

Reorganising hours
This is a contractual matter between employer and worker. However, in reorganising workloads, employers will need to avoid treating part-time workers less favourably than full-time staff. They should also be aware that in certain situations they may be vulnerable to claims for indirect sex discrimination. Part-time workers should not be treated less favourably than full-time workers unless this treatment can be objectively justified.

Promotion for part-time workers
Previous or current part-time status should not in itself be a barrier to promotion to a post, whether the post is full-time or part-time.

Rate of pay
Part-time workers must receive the same basic rate of pay as comparable full-time workers.

Overtime Part-time workers should receive the same hourly rate of overtime pay as comparable full-time workers once they have worked more than the normal full-time hours.

Profit sharing and share option schemes Part-time workers should be able to participate in profit sharing or share option schemes available for full-time staff, unless there are objective grounds for excluding them. The benefits part-time workers receive under these schemes should be pro rata to those received by comparable full-time workers.

Contractual sick and maternity pay
Part-time workers should not be treated less favourably than full-time workers in terms of:

  • calculating the rate of sick pay or maternity pay
  • the length of service required to qualify for payment
  • the length of time payment is received.

Access to occupational pensions Employers should not discriminate between full-time and part-time workers over access to pension scheme rules, unless different treatment is justified on objective grounds.

Access to training Employers should not exclude part-time staff from training simply because they work part time.

Redundancy
The criteria used to select jobs for redundancy should be objectively justified and part-time workers must not be treated less favourably than comparable full-time workers.

Other benefits Benefits such as subsidised mortgages and staff discounts should be applied to part-time workers unless an exception is justified on objective grounds. Where a benefit, such as health insurance, cannot be applied pro rata, this is not in itself an objective justification for denying it to part-time workers. The less favourable treatment will still need to be justified on objective grounds. These might include the disproportionate cost to the organisation of providing such a benefit, or the imperative to meet a real need of the organisation.

Leave
The holiday entitlement of part-time workers should be pro rata to that of full-time workers. Contractual maternity leave and parental leave should be available to part-time workers as well as full-time workers. Career break schemes should be available to part-time workers in the same way as for full-time, unless their exclusion is objectively justified on grounds other than their part-time status.

Public holidays and bank holidays
There is a particular problem in dealing with public and bank holidays. How part-timers must be treated will depend on how full-timers are treated as many of the bank and public holidays fall on Mondays. This can put part-time staff who do not work on Mondays at a disadvantage. There are several ways of coping with the situation:

  • Compensate for this shortfall by applying the holiday entitlement to these workers pro rata or consult with staff and offer a broad range of options to compensate for this shortfall in hours.
  • Alternatives might include offering work on a different day or at home, accruing time on flexitime or taking annual leave.

Jonathan Exten-Wright is a partner in the employment department at lawyers DLA and Mary Walsh is an assistant solicitor.

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