Despite the regulations preventing less favorable treatment of part time workers, there still seem to be some discrepancies in their compensation and treatment. On 1 July 2000, the regulations were passed into law that protects part-time employees and apprentices in any business. The regulations simply state that part-time workers are entitled to the same pay-per-hours worked as their full-time counterparts.
Who is a full time worker?
For a worker to be considered full-time, it must be stated in their contract. He/she must also work the same number of hours as other full-time workers under the same occupation. One particular case sheds light on this. It involves two part-time workers and a part-time discrimination claim. The employer had stipulated that full-time workers were required to work 37 hours per week but the concerned employees had worked for 35. According to the ruling, two-hour difference was sufficient to disqualify the workers as full-time workers, dubbing them as part-time instead.
Who is a part time worker?
Legally speaking, a worker is designated part-time on the basis that he works fewer hours than are expected of full-time workers in the organization. The Part-Time Work Directive (97/81/EC) defines a part-time worker as “an employee whose work time, calculated on a weekly basis, or over a period of one year, are less than the normal hours of a full-time worker”. The employee’s contract, to an extent, determines the total number of hours that makes full-time or part-time work. However, full-time is usually at least 35 hours a week.
Who is considered a comparable full-time employee?
Often in determining compensation and other related matters for part-time workers, full-time employees’ schemes are used as yardsticks. A comparable full-time employee is one that is engaged in the same occupation, by the same employer and is under the same contract as the part-time employee. Additionally, their occupational engagement would have to be similar, and generally have the following conditions:
- Identical work environment
- Identical job requirements
- Identical skill/experience levels needed to execute the task.
Transferring from full-time to part time work
In situations where full-time workers become part-time workers, they are entitled to the same terms of their former full-time engagement, and are paid based on the hours they now work. This applies in situations where there is no comparable full-time worker. It also applies in situations where the new part-time engagement is under a different contract than the previous full-time one.
Wages and compensation regulations
Wages: Part-time workers have the right to be paid the same hourly rates as comparable full-time workers. According to the law, part time workers must be paid the same amount per hours worked as their full-time counterparts. The only difference will be in the length of time worked, and therefore the cumulative amount received.
Overtime: Part-time workers are only entitled to overtime pay if they have worked more weekly hours than a comparable full time worker has. An example is a scenario in which the comparable full-time worker has to work at least 37 hours a week to qualify for overtime pay. To qualify for overtime, the part-time worker has to have worked at least the same time as the full-time worker (37 hours). Time spent on other work related activities like trade union courses are to be taken into account when qualifying an employee for overtime pay.
Redundancies: Common practice in redundancy situations is to make part-time employees redundant before their full-time counterparts. However, the government offers guidance, advising against this treatment for two reasons
1. Most part-time workers are women; as so, making them redundant before their comparable full-time counterparts is likely to develop into an unlawful sex discrimination claim. The only legal recourse is for employers to objectively justify the difference in treatment between the two.
2. Making part-time workers redundant first could infringe on the regulations to treat part-time and full-time workers the same.
Bonuses and other benefits:
- Part-time workers have the right to receive annual bonuses, same as full-time workers
- Part-time workers are entitled to pension schemes
- Part-time workers have the right to participate in special schemes such as share-options or profit sharing.
- Part-time workers have the right to benefits such as health insurance and staff mortgages.
- Part-time workers have the right to participate in trainings and other skill acquisition schemes set up by the employer. However, the employer is not obligated to modify the training structure to accommodate part-time workers.
- Part-time employees are entitled to paid annual leaves.
Part-time workers’ rights
- The right to request for part time work: Employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service with an employer have the right to request for part-time work. The employer is in turn under a duty to consider such requests in a reasonable manner, and respond in a reasonable amount of time. However, the employer has the right to refuse such requests if they are justifiable by business reasons.
- The right to not be dismissed unfairly: The worker has the right not to be dismissed unfairly. Unfair Dismissal refers to any dismissal in which the employer had no fair or justifiable reason to do so. Part-time workers dismissed unfairly can claim unfair dismissal in the employment tribunal.
- The right not to be subject to any detriment
- The right to not be treated less favorably than full-time workers: This right is infringed on only in situations where the treatment is on the basis of his/her part time work, and not on objective basis.
- The right to be paid the same hourly wages; The right to receive extra pay; The right to participate in profit sharing ( As described under wages and compensation regulations)
The government’s stance on part-time workers’ compensation (A case study)
Regulations state that the compensation of part-time workers must be in direct proportion to the amount of time they worked. In a recent case involving British Airways and an employee, the court of appeal has declared that part time workers pay should represent available hours.
The part-time employee was available for work 53.5% of the time stipulated for comparable full-time employees. However, she was only paid 50% of full-time salary. The court declared that it was a case of less favorable treatment as the worker should have been paid the proportionate pro-rated salary of 53.5% The court then sent the case back to the employment tribunal to determine whether or not the treatment was justified.
The ruling of the court illustrates how seriously the government considers part-time workers rights, especially when employers are concerned. The court’s ruling, coupled with precedent laws, provides a solid support for all workers to lean on.