Guide

Employing part-time workers

Part-time workers' rights

All workers have basic employment protection rights - regardless of whether they work full or part time.

Part-time workers must be treated equally to comparable full-time workers who work for the same employer and do similar work under the same type of employment contract.

Pay for part-time workers

Compared with full-time workers, part-time workers should receive equal:

  • Rates of pay - part-time workers must receive the same rate of pay as full-time workers carrying out work of equal value.
  • Overtime pay - but only once they have worked more than the normal full-time hours of a comparable full-time worker, eg if a comparable full-time worker normally works 40 hours per week, a part-time worker working 20 hours per week would have to work another 20 hours before receiving overtime pay.
  • Enhanced rates of pay - for working outside normal contractual hours, eg bonus pay, shift allowances, unsocial hours payments and weekend payments.

Equal treatment of part-time workers

Compared with full-time workers, part-time workers should receive equal:

  • access to any occupational pension scheme
  • access to training and career development - when scheduling training courses, you should do as much as possible to include part-time workers
  • rights to career breaks
  • rights to receive enhanced sick, maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay
  • parental leave and other time off rights eg dependents leave
  • consideration for promotion

Pro rata contractual benefits

Part-time workers have the right to receive contractual benefits pro rata, ie in proportion to the hours they work.

This applies to benefits such as:

  • paid annual leave above the statutory minimum
  • company cars
  • staff discounts
  • health insurance
  • subsidised mortgages
  • profit-sharing and share-option schemes

For example, if you allow your full-time workers 30 days' paid annual leave, a part-time worker working three days a week would be entitled to 18 days.

If you cannot easily divide a benefit, eg health insurance or a car, you could withhold it from part-time workers. However, you must justify this decision on objective grounds.

The best thing to do is to work out the cash value of the benefit and give the appropriate pro rata amount to the part-time worker. For example, you could calculate the financial benefit of a company car and pay half that amount to part-time workers who work half the number of hours of full-time workers.

Justifying less favourable treatment

You should generally treat full-time and part-time workers equally. You will only be able to justify less favourable treatment if it can be shown objectively that it is necessary and appropriate to achieve a legitimate business objective.

For instance you may be justified in withholding health insurance if you can show that the cost of providing this benefit is disproportionate.

In the case of share-option schemes, you may be able to justify the exclusion of a part-time worker where the value of the share options is so small that the potential benefit to the part-timer of the options is less than the likely cost of realising them.

Complaints of less favourable treatment

Part-time workers who believe you have treated them less favourably can ask you for a written statement of reasons for this. You have 21 days in which to respond.

Part-time workers who still believe you are treating them less favourably, and don't believe you have objectively justified this, can make a complaint to an industrial tribunal. A tribunal can make you pay compensation if they find in the part-time worker's favour.

The Labour Relations Agency provides an alternative to the Industrial Tribunal under the Labour Relations Agency Arbitration Scheme. Under the Scheme, claimants and respondents can choose to refer a claim to an arbitrator to decide instead of going to a tribunal. The arbitrator’s decision is binding as a matter of law and has the same effect as a tribunal.