The rights of part time workers, and the consequential obligations on employers, will be considerably enhanced when the Part Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations come into force on 1st July.
Under the Regulations employers will be obliged to offer part time employees the same benefits and conditions of service as full time employees. This obligation will therefore include an entitlement to the same rates of pay, pension entitlement, holiday entitlement, health insurance, parental leave, sabbatical leave, sick pay, maternity rights, promotion and training opportunities.
There are two exceptions. The first is in relation to overtime. A part time worker will not be entitled to receive the same rate for overtime as a comparable full time worker until they have worked the number of hours in a week that a full time worker would have to work before becoming entitled to overtime. Secondly it is open to an employer to argue that differential entitlements to benefits are objectively justified. It is anticipated that this will only apply in limited situations – the DTI guidelines cite the example of profit related pay.
The remedy for the part time employee who believes that they are receiving less favourable treatment is to make an application to the Employment Tribunal who can make a declaration as to the employee’s rights and order a compensatory payment. Before issuing an application the employee can require the employer to set out the reasons for the allegedly less favourable treatment.
Employers should therefore check the terms and conditions of existing part time workers to ensure that they comply with the Regulations.
Employers should be aware that workers who are refused the option to work part time may still seek to claim that they have been indirectly discriminated against under the provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act.