The flexibility of part-time work can appeal to both employees and employers alike, offering better work-life balance and enabling businesses to respond to fluctuations in demand.
However, if you employ or are considering employing staff on a part-time basis, there are a number of legalities to be aware of.
In this article, we explain where you stand with part-time staff by answering 12 commonly asked questions about their legal rights.
1. How do you define a part-time worker?
There is no particular threshold that makes somebody a part-time or full-time worker. Broadly speaking, a person will be considered to work part-time hours if they work fewer hours than a full-time worker (typically 35 hours or more a week).
2. Are there different types of part-time working?
Yes. Job sharing, evening/weekend work, casual/bank work or term-time work are all forms of part-time working.
3. What legal protections do part-time workers have?
The Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations make it unlawful to treat a part-time worker less favourably than a comparable full-time worker.
This means that they have the right to the same pay rate and to receive the same annual leave entitlement (on a prorated basis). Additionally, employers must not exclude part-time workers from training opportunities or select them for redundancy just because they work part-time.
What is meant by a comparable full-time worker?
The comparable full-time worker – the individual that a part-time worker is compared against for the purpose of determining whether they have been subjected to a detriment – must:
- Be employed by the same employer, under the same type of contract;
- Perform the same or broadly the same work (where appropriate, you will need to consider if they have a similar level of qualification, skill and experience); and
- Work at the same location as the part-time worker (or if there is no comparable full-time worker there, at a different site).
This comparator must be a real full-time worker, not a hypothetical one.
4. How long before a part-time worker gets legal rights?
The right to equal treatment is a day one right. This means that there is no minimum length of service required for the above protections to apply.
6. Are there any circumstances in which it is okay to treat part-time and full-time workers differently?
There may be situations where a difference in treatment is lawful. Crucially, you must be able to demonstrate that you have a genuine business reason and that the difference in treatment is a necessary and proportionate means of achieving a legitimate business aim.
7. What can a part-time worker do if they believe they have suffered unfair treatment?
They can ask for a written statement, specifying the reasons for the difference in treatment. They must request this statement in writing and you must respond within 21 days.
8. What other legal risks should employers be aware of?
Employers must take care not to commit indirect sex discrimination. For example, if you insist that all employees work full-time, it is likely that this policy will put women at a particular disadvantage as they tend to take on the bulk of childcare responsibilities. Again, in this situation, you would need to show that the requirement to work full-time is a real business need and that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
9. Can employees request to work part-time?
Employees (not workers) who have 26 continuous weeks of service with you have a statutory right to request flexible working. This includes asking to work part-time hours. When an employer receives an application which meets all of the qualifying requirements, they must consider the request in a reasonable and timely manner and can only refuse a request for a stated business reason.
10. Can I ask a part-time worker to work full-time?
If you want a part-time worker to increase their hours to work full-time, remember you cannot just impose the change. Making changes to an employee’s contract will, in most cases, require you to obtain the employee’s consent. Failure to do this will normally result in a breach of contract.
11. What is the redundancy period for part-time workers?
The redundancy notice period for part-time workers will depend on their length of service and/or what is written in their Contract of Employment. If they have worked for you for a month or more but less than two years, the legal minimum notice you must give is one week. If they have between two and 12 years’ service, they are entitled to one week’s notice for each year of employment, and those who have been employed for 12 years or more are entitled to 12 weeks’ notice. However, always check the person’s contract as this may provide more generous notice entitlement.
12. Are part-time employees entitled to redundancy pay?
Yes, part-time employees in the UK are entitled to statutory redundancy pay provided they have over two years’ continuous service and are legally classed as an employee (not a worker).
There is no minimum requirement as to the number of hours worked per week in order to qualify for statutory redundancy pay; whether an employee works full-time or two hours a week, they are still entitled to this payment. However, the amount that employees are entitled to will depend on a number of factors, including their weekly pay, so part-time employees will receive proportionately lower than a co-worker who is the same age and has the same length of service.
Unlimited Employment Law support for your business
Employment law is complex, and with new case law emerging all the time, it can be all too easy to make costly mistakes. At Ellis Whittam, we offer personalised, practical support from your own dedicated team of legally-qualified Employment Law specialists, who will guide you through employment obstacles quickly and compliantly, keep you up to speed with any legal developments impacting your workforce, and draft all your essential documentation, including contracts for each category of worker.