Skip to content

Part-time work

Working part time can be a good way of balancing your work and your personal commitments. If you work part-time, you have the right to be treated fairly in comparison to your full-time colleagues.

What is a part-time worker?

A part-time worker is someone who works fewer hours than a full-time worker. There's no specific number of hours that makes someone full or part-time, but a full-time worker will usually work 35 hours or more a week.

Why choose to work part-time?

The reasons for working part-time vary from individual to individual. It may be that you want to have a different work-life balance, or you may have caring responsibilities. If you're interested in changing your working patterns you might find it useful to read about flexible working.

Jobsharing

Jobsharing arrangements are a special type of part-time work, where a full-time job is divided between two part-time workers. The job can be divided in a number of ways to best suit everyone's circumstances. For example, you could opt to work mornings and a colleague work in the afternoons. Alternatively, you could split the week between you, both working three set days with a hand-over period on one day of the week.

A jobshare offers the benefit to you and your employer of predictable hours. This gives you the chance to arrange childcare, for example, and they know there will always be cover for the job.

Term-time working

Term-time working is a type of part-time working where you can reduce your hours or take time off during school holidays. This allows parents to deal with childcare in a structured way and gives employers time to plan covering absence.

Employment rights of part-time workers

Part-time employees have the same statutory employment rights as other employees. You do not have to work a minimum number of hours to qualify for employment rights.

Part-time workers and 'less favourable treatment'

According to the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations, part-timers must be treated at least as well as equivalent full-time workers, unless the reason they can't be can be objectively justified.

An 'equivalent' full-time worker is one doing a similar job on the same type of contract. The regulations include temporary staff such as agency and casual workers, but part-time agency workers can't compare themselves to full-time permanent workers.

The regulations, however, don't stop employers giving better terms to part-timers. They may do this to encourage a more balanced workforce, but the employer will need to be sure that doing this is not against other discrimination laws.

Examples of how the regulations work

The regulations often mean that benefits must be 'pro-rata', which means that they should be in proportion to your hours. For example, if a full-time worker gets a £1000 bonus, a part-time worker working half the number of hours should get £500. Below are some examples of issues affected by the regulations. Remember that your employer can treat part-timers less favourably if this is 'objectively justified'.

Rates of pay

Part-time workers must get at least the same hourly pay rate as a full-timer doing a similar job. If you're a part-timer, your employer can set the same hours threshold for enhanced overtime pay as for full timers, so you might not get overtime pay until you've worked more than the normal hours of a full-time worker.

Pension opportunities and benefits

Employers should not discriminate between full-time and part-time workers over access to pension schemes. Other company benefits' like company cars, employee discounts and health insurance, should be given pro rata if possible. If this is not possible, your employer will have to decide whether or not to offer the benefit to everybody.

Training and career development

Part-time workers mustn't be excluded from training and career development opportunities. Wherever possible, training must be organised at times that suits most workers and this includes part-time workers.

Holidays

All workers have the right to a minimum amount of annual holiday. From 1 April 2009 the statutory minimum entitlement is 5.6 weeks holiday a year, based on your normal working week. For example, if you work:

  • 20 hours a week, your statutory holiday entitlement is 5.6 20-hour weeks
  • three days each week, you have the right to 16.8 days' holiday - that's 5.6 weeks of three days each

Many employers give more than the statutory minimum amount of holiday. Under the regulations part-timers should be treated no less favourably. This normally means that a part time worker will get a pro rata proportion of what the full-time workers get. Your employer can't round down the number of days given, because this would be unfavourable treatment, but fractions of a day might be given as hours.

Your employer can control when you take your holiday so they can make you take bank holidays from this entitlement when they coincide with your working days.

Opportunities for career breaks

Some employers let employees take career breaks. If you're a part-time worker, you have the right to the same opportunities.

Sick pay, maternity, adoption and paternity leave and pay

Part-timers are entitled to sick pay, maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay plus parental leave as full-time staff are. If companies give more than the statutory entitlement, part-timers must also get these contractual benefits.

Selection for promotion and transfer or redundancy

Being part-time can't be used as a reason for selection for transfer, redundancy or refusing a promotion, unless it can be justified objectively.

What does 'objectively justified' mean?

The rules set out above can be broken where there is objective justification for doing so. This means that the employer has to show that the reason is necessary and the right way to meet a genuine aim of the business.

Part-time workers can't be treated less favourably just because they are part-time. It may not be possible to pro-rata some benefits to them, like complementary health-club membership for example. In this situation your employer would have to decide either to give the benefit to both full and part time staff or, if there was objective justification not to give part time workers the benefit. In this example, the objective justification could be that the cost outweighs the benefit.

Where can you get help?

The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can provide free and impartial advice. You can find your local CAB office in the phone book or online.

If you are a member of a trade union, you can get help, advice and support from them.

More useful links