The rights of part-time workers can sometimes be overlooked. As a part-time worker, you should not be treated less favourably than a full-time worker.
Reasons for working part-time
One of the main reasons workers choose the part-time option is to combine working with caring for a family. Working reduced hours can offer the chance to pick young children up from school, take them to activities and spend some time with them before bed.
Sometimes an employee will wish to work part-time for health reasons or for semi-retirement.
Part-time work can also be an opportunity to get a foot in the door of a company where you would ideally like a full-time position. Once the employer gets to know you, you will be well-placed to move to a full-time position when one becomes available.
It also offers a better work-life balance, with more free time. For some, this is simply increased leisure time, but for many, the extra hours will be used for studying and gaining qualifications.
Some workers use their part-time work to supplement a lower-paid but fulfilling self-employed career, for example, in the arts.
The right not to be treated less favourably
As a part-time worker, you should not be treated any less favourably than a full-time colleague with a comparable job. This includes in relation to your rate of pay, the amount of holiday, which will be on a pro rata basis, time off for bank holidays, overtime, pensions, training opportunities, promotion, beneficial schemes offered by your employer and in any redundancy selection process.
These rights apply from the first day of your employment as a part-time worker and whether you are on a permanent or a fixed-term contract.
For more information about your rights as a part-time worker, see the TUC article Part-time work: Your Rights.
What to do if you feel your rights are being infringed
If you believe that you are not being treated as favourably as you should be, then initially you can raise the matter informally with your employer. Make a note of what you want to say, including all of the areas in which your treatment is less favourable and how you would like them to remedy the situation.
Usually, the initial meeting will be with your line manager or someone from the HR team. You can take a colleague or a trade union representative into the meeting with you.
You should also ask your employer to provide a written statement detailing why your treatment has been less favourable and your employer should provide this within 21 days.
If the matter cannot be resolved informally, the next step is to raise a formal grievance. You should check your employment contract and any employee handbook, personnel manual or other procedural document to see how grievances should be raised and make sure that you follow the correct process as set out by your employer.
You can appeal against their decision if you do not agree with it. If you are still not happy with the outcome, you can take the matter to an employment tribunal. You are advised to speak to an employment law solicitor at this stage to make sure that your case is strong and that you have included all of the relevant information.
There is a short time limit for bringing an employment tribunal claim, so you should try and act without delay.
Legal remedies for unlawful treatment
Your employer may claim that their unequal treatment of you as a part-time worker is objectively justifiable and this could be a valid defence. They will have to show that they are pursuing a legitimate aim, that their behaviour achieves that objective and that it is reasonably necessary.
By way of example, if full-time workers are given health insurance but part-time workers are not because the costs are disproportionate to the benefits they are entitled to, this could be considered justifiable.
If your treatment is not justifiable, then an employment tribunal can make a declaration of your rights and order your employer to pay you compensation and to take reasonable action to remedy the situation.
If your employer fails to comply with the employment tribunal’s recommendation and has no reasonable justification, then the amount of compensation may be increased.
What to do if you want to work part-time
If you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks and you haven’t made a flexible working request during the previous 12 months, you are entitled to make a statutory request to work part-time.
Your request should be in writing and include a statement that it is a statutory request to work flexibly, give details of the hours that you would like, explain how the changes would affect your work and how you think they could be dealt with and give the date of any previous request.
If you are asking for flexible working to help you manage a disability, you should include this information. If you believe your reasons for making the request will be persuasive, you can also mention them. For example, if you are a carer, your employer may be more open to agreeing your suggestion.
Think about your suggestions for managing your change to part-time work and make it as easy as possible for your employer to envisage the situation working well. You will need to come up with a solution for the work that needs to be done when you are not there, such as employing someone in a job share or offering overtime to colleagues.
If you can be flexible, then you could set out more than one option for your employer, explaining which your preference would be.
Your employer must by law consider your request fairly. They may approve it without a meeting, or call a meeting to discuss the situation. If they decline your application, then they must hold a meeting with you first and notify you of their decision in writing.
They can only reject your application for the following reasons:
- It would be more expensive
- Your work could not be covered by your colleagues
- They are not able to take on more employees
- There would be a detrimental impact on quality of work done or on performance or on ability to meet customer demand
- There is insufficient work available for the times you want to work
- A structural change to the business is planned.
If your request is denied, you have the right to appeal.
For more tips on approaching your employer, see our article, Tips for making a flexible working request.
Contact Springhouse Employment Solicitors
If you believe you have been treated unfairly by your employer or you would like legal guidance about working part-time, our experienced employment solicitors will be happy to help. Contact us today by ringing 0800 048 5888 or fill in our contact form. Our team is ready to give you clear, accurate advice.