Part-time workers: What are your rights?

    If you are an employee who works part-time or who’s thinking of reducing your hours of work, it’s important to be aware of your rights.

    Just because you work part-time it doesn’t mean your rights are diminished. It also doesn’t give your employer the right to treat you less favourably than your full-time colleagues – no matter how many hours a week you work.

    We outline what your rights as a part-time worker are and give examples of how you could be discriminated against. We also offer guidance on what to do if you believe you have been treated unfairly by your employer.

    Our focus in this guide is on the unfair treatment of part time-employees and discrimination against them; not on self-employed workers who do not share the same rights.

    See also our guides on flexible workingremote working, home working and discrimination.

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    Who is a part-time worker?

    For the purposes of this guide, any employee who works fewer hours than a full-time worker can be classed as a part-time worker.

    So, for example, a full-time worker may be contracted to work 35 hours a week. Anyone who works fewer hours than this is considered part-time.

    A part-time worker is eligible to receive the same pay rate and benefits offered to full-time workers, although it should be offered at a pro-rata rate. (See more on this below.)

    If a part-time worker has been badly treated at work, they are also entitled to settle their dispute with their employer by means of a settlement agreement. Such agreements are not just for people who are employed full-time. (See below for further discussion.)


    How does the pro rata principle work?

    The pro rata principle is a ‘proportional’ system that is applied to the pay and benefits associated with your job role. This corresponds to the number of hours you work compared with a full-time worker.

    For example, if you work 17.5 hours a week and a full-time worker works for 35 hours, you will receive half the pay, half the annual leave entitlement, half the pension entitlement etc.

    Part-time workers’ pay

    Part-time workers should receive the same hourly rate as full-time workers performing the same work. This also includes bonuses, expenses and performance-related pay.

    Annual leave for part-time workers

    As a part-time worker, you should receive the same annual leave entitlement based on a pro-rata calculation.

    For bank holidays, a part-time worker should be allowed additional days off if their scheduled working day falls on a bank holiday.

    Pensions for part-timers

    You can join a pension scheme as a part-time worker and enjoy the same benefits, giving contributions on a pro-rata basis.

    The above are some of the rights you can claim as a part-time worker, and it ensures you should be treated the same as full-time employees on all terms and conditions of employment.


    Is there any legal protection for part-time workers?

    There are various kinds of legislation that protect part-time workers, including the following:

    The Part-Time Workers Regulations 2000

    The Part-Time Workers Regulations (PTWR for short) exist to ensure part-time workers are not subjected to less favourable treatment for performing the same duties as full-time workers.

    This means you should not be treated less favourably than someone who works full time, regardless of how many hours you work.

    In practice, these regulations ensure your benefits, pay and the way you are treated in the workplace remain comparable with a full-time worker.

    Redundancy and part-time workers

    The above also applies when it comes to redundancy, meaning employers must follow a fair process when choosing who to make redundant.

    The number of hours they work should not be the sole reason for making their decision.

    Discrimination legislation and part-time workers

    The PTWR do not offer the same broad scope of protection made available under discrimination law.

    For example, if your employer does not allow flexible working, you may be able to argue that this is tantamount to discrimination, which is not covered by PTWR.

    Similarly, if you believe you have received less favourable treatment than a full-time employee because of your sex, you may be able to claim sex discrimination.


    How can part-time workers be discriminated against?

    As a part-time worker, you can be discriminated against in exactly the same way as a full-time worker.

    This can be for reasons to do with your sex, race, age, disability, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or other ‘protected characteristics’ which are protected by law.

    So, for example, if your employer does not offer you the same pay rate or benefits that are provided to full-time employees who perform the same role, you have the right to claim discrimination.

    As most part-time workers are women, you may be able to claim equal pay on the grounds of sex discrimination.

    See our series of discrimination guides about how people with these characteristics are often discriminated against in the workplace.


    Similarly, as a part-time employed worker, you have protection against victimisation from your employer.

    This could be demonstrated by being left out of work or work social events, prevented from taking part in important meetings, or being given more work compared to others who do the same role as you.

    If you are treated less favourably or differently because you have made a complaint about unfair treatment, this could be also classed as victimisation (see our victimisation guide and discrimination guide for more).


    Part-time workers and settlement agreements

    As mentioned earlier, being a part-time worker does not diminish your legal rights.  So, you will still be able to negotiate a settlement agreement if required, with any outstanding holiday pay and other benefits factored into a lump sum on a pro-rated basis.

    The only time this could differ is if you were negotiating a settlement agreement based wholly or in part on a discriminatory act against you.

    The pro rata principle is unlikely to be applicable in such a case and could well lead to a higher pay-out than you might normally expect as a part-time employee.


    What can you do if you are being treated less favourably as a part-time worker?

    If you believe you are being treated less favourably because you are a part-time worker, you should:

    • Speak to your employer in the first instance to see if things can be resolved.
    • If this doesn’t work, request a written statement of reasons for less favourable treatment, which must be provided within 21 days.
    • Consider raising a grievance (complaint) with your employer and if that does not work, you should seek independent legal advice about what to do next.

    There are a few options that could be available to you in this sort of situation.

    Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to resign and claim constructive dismissal. This could be taken further with a settlement agreement or via an employment tribunal.

    Alternatively, you could approach your employer to negotiate a settlement agreement while you remain employed. The agreement could include a notice date for you to leave the job if continuing in your role would be too difficult.


    Next steps

    If you are a part-time worker and believe you have been discriminated against or treated unfairly by your employer, you may be able to take action against them.

    Monaco Solicitors are specialists in successfully dealing with cases involving unfair treatment and discrimination in the workplace.

    We can give you expert advice on the options available to you and help you decide what’s best to do in your particular circumstances.

    To find out more about our no-obligation consultation, contact us:
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    · Phone: 020 7717 5259
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