Protection for part-timers

ACCORDING to a recent newspaper report, a record 7.8million people are currently in part-time jobs, with the increase being attributed to a lack of full time jobs amid the recession.

Part-time working may be a last resort for those unable to obtain full-time work, but it has many advantages, and is increasingly a choice made by those with childcare or other caring responsibilities.

Part-time workers were once considered to be a different class of worker to those who worked full-time, with reduced rights, but this is no longer the case, with part-time workers having protection from being treated less favourably than their full-time colleagues under The Part-Time Workers Regulations.

These have been in force for 10 years, but with the rise of part-time working are becoming more important. A part-time worker has the right not to be treated less favourably than the employer treats a comparable full-time worker as regards the terms of their contract or by being subjected to any other detriment by their employer.

The full-time worker for comparison is employed by the same employer, under the same type of contract, engaged in the same or broadly similar work having regard, where relevant, to whether they have a similar level of qualification, skills and experience, and usually in the same location.

In looking at whether there is less favourable treatment and detriment you have to ask whether a reasonable person would take the view that the part-timer has been disadvantaged in some way. Less favourable treatment and detriment cannot be cancelled out by more favourable treatment of a different kind and so, to judge whether a part-time worker’s contract is less favourable than a full-time worker’s, you need to take a term-by-term approach rather than look at the contract as a package.

Employers should ensure that they treat part-time employees as favourably as full-time (subject to a pro rata principal) unless there is an objectively justifiable reason for not doing so.

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Statistics show that more women than men work part time, and so employers also need to be aware that part-time employees may also have claims for indirect sex discrimination if they are not treated as favourably. Typical headache areas include holiday pay, bank holidays, and bonuses.

As well as in terms of contracts, employers should not for example consider part timers fair game for easy redundancy cuts , or overlook them for promotion, as to do so risks employment claims and can be costly.

If you have part-time workers in your work force, review part-time contracts and take advice if necessary, to avoid the pitfalls and enable you to benefit from the wealth of experience employees who are prepared to work part-time.