A part-time worker is a person “paid wholly or in part by reference to the time he or she works” and who is “not identifiable as a full time worker”. So a part-timer is any worker who is contracted for fewer hours than would normally be regarded as full-time for that employment.
Protection afforded to part-time workers
The Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 apply to all workers including employees, agency staff, and employees on fixed-term contracts. Part-timers should be treated no less favourably than full-timers irrespective of whether their contracts are indefinite or fixed-term.
However, part-timers cannot compare themselves with other part-timers; the comparator has to be full-time, and also must be employed to do the same type of work.
Specific rules in the Regulations deal with the situation where a full-time worker becomes part time. Such a worker is entitled to compare his or her treatment with the way in which he or she was treated when a full-time worker. This is the case also after an absence of less than twelve months (such as maternity leave).
It is automatically unfair to dismiss an employee (note that this applies only to employees, not to all ‘workers’) and unlawful to subject a worker to a detriment if the reason for that treatment is that the employee or worker has:
- Brought proceedings against the employer under the Regulations
- Requested a written statement of reasons from his or her employer
- Given evidence or information in connection with proceedings brought by a worker
- Otherwise done anything under the Regulations in relation to the employer or any other person
- Alleged that the employer had infringed the Regulations
- Refused to forego a right conferred on him or her by the Regulations (or the employer believes or suspects that the worker has done or intends to do any of these things).
A worker can request a written statement from his/her employer detailing the reasons for what the worker considers to be unfavourable treatment. The employer must respond within 21 days.
A few points to bear in mind:
- Ensure that part-timers are not treated less favourably than full-timers in similar jobs.
- Unless it is inappropriate to do so, the pro-rata principle applies.
- Part-timers should not be treated less favourably in terms of workload. Ensure that undue pressure is not applied to part-timers to achieve more than pro-rata productivity.
- Previous or current part-time status should not in itself constitute a barrier to promotion, whether the post is full-time or part-time.
- Employers should not exclude part-time staff from training simply because they work part-time.
- Contractual maternity leave and parental leave should be available to part-time workers as well as to full-time workers.
Best practice guidance
The following points should be noted as a matter of best practice:
- Look seriously at any requests to change to part-time working and, where possible, explore how this change could be accommodated.
- Consider establishing a procedure for discussing with workers whether they wish to change from full-time to part-time employment for any reason.
- From time to time, review how individuals are provided with information on the availability of part-time and full-time positions.
Consider how to make it easier for workers to vary their hours, including transferring between part-time and full-time work, to your mutual benefit.