Discrimination against part-time workers
The Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 prohibit an employer treating part-time workers less favourably in their contractual terms and conditions than comparable full-time workers, unless different treatment can be justified on objective grounds.
Do I qualify as a part-time worker?
The statutory definition of a part-time worker is rather broad. It encompasses any worker paid by reference to the time they work and, having regard to the employer’s dealings with other workers employed under the same type of contract, is not identifiable as a full-time worker.
This means that you do not need to work a minimum number of hours to qualify as a part-time worker. Indeed, theoretically, you may be deemed a part-timer even though you work longer hours than people classed as full-timers in other jobs.
Generally, however, if you work less than 35 hours a week, you will considered a part-timer.
What employment terms and conditions do the regulations impact?
The regulations impact all employment terms and conditions, including:
- hourly pay rates;
- overtime pay rate;
- access to occupational/company pension schemes;
- (pro rata) holiday entitlement;
- (pro rata) maternity/paternity leave;
- (pro rata) sick pay;
- employment opportunities;
- protection against redundancy or dismissal.
When is less favourable treatment of a part-time worker justified?
An employer can establish ‘objective justification’ by showing that a part-time worker’s contractual rights are, taken as a whole, at least as favourable as the full-time worker’s.
If this is not possible, the employer must show that there is an objective reason for treating the part-time worker less favourably. To do this, they must show that the less favourable treatment is:
- designed to achieve a legitimate objective, for example a genuine business objective;
- necessary to achieve that objective; and
- an appropriate way to achieve that objective.
An example of objective justification would include a part-time worker who is denied a company car, even though a comparable full-time worker has one, because of the disproportionate cost to the organisation of providing the benefit.
Note, however, that this does not just give employers carte-blanche to go off and discriminate willy-nilly on cost grounds. Where possible, they must offer part-time workers ‘pro rata’ benefits in proportion to the time that they will be working.
Pursuing a claim for discrimination
If you believe that you have suffered discrimination because of your status as a part-time worker, in most cases you should raise the matter with your manager and/or HR representative.
You should also note that you have a right to request and receive a written statement of reasons for the different treatment. Your employer should provide this within 21 days of receiving your request.
If you are unhappy with your employer’s response, your next step should be to make a written complaint under your employer’s standard grievance procedure.
If, having done this, you still believe your employer acted unlawfully you may want to seek legal help and file a complaint with an Employment Tribunal.
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