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Part-time workers


Part-time work is when a worker is contracted for anything less than basic full-time hours at that organisation. There is no set number of hours that makes someone full or part-time.

Part-time workers have the right not to be treated 'less favourably' regarding their terms of employment compared to a full-time worker doing the same or similar work. In effect, this means pro-rata entitlements to the same:

  • rate of pay 
  • pension, and
  • holiday entitlement (including bank and public holidays).

It also means no less favourable treatment when it comes to issues such as:

There is no qualifying period of service for equality of rights, nor an upper age limit, and all part-time workers have immediate rights from day one of employment.

When identifying whether you (as a part-time worker) are being treated equally, you should identify a full-time colleague to compare yourself with. 

Part-time workers who believe their employer has treated them less favourably should speak with their line manager in the first instance. Keep a note of the conversation and/or follow up via email to create a record of what happened.

You have the right to request written reasons for the treatment. Your employer must respond within 21 days of the request being made. No minimum length of service is required before making this request.

In the case of dismissal, it is considered automatic unfair dismissal if a part-time worker is dismissed because (under the relevant regulations) they:

  • brought proceedings against their employer
  • requested a written statement of the reasons for the less favourable treatment
  • gave evidence or information in connection with proceedings brought by a colleague
  • alleged that the employer has infringed the relevant regulations
  • refused to forgo a right given to them under the relevant regulations.

This also applies if the employer believes or suspects the member of staff has done or intends to do any of the above.

If you are in dispute with your employer about your rights as a part-time worker, contact us.

You may be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal but the area is complex and you should take advice before progressing with a claim. In most cases the claim must be lodged with the employment tribunal within three months (less one day) of the event, so contact us without delay.

To be paid for overtime in the same way as a full-time employee, you must have worked the normal full-time hours first. Once you have done this you should be paid overtime rates at the same rate as full-time employees. You should check your employer’s overtime policy for more detail on payment for overtime work.

There is no absolute right to work part-time or to work under a job share arrangement, unless this is in your contract of employment.

Our flexible working advice guide provides information about different working options, eligibility to apply (including if you are employed by the NHS) and how to apply. There are circumstances where a refusal may be discriminatory or not for a valid reason. You should not be treated unfairly because you made a request.

If you are an employee working on a fixed-term contract and a permanent employee is allowed to work part-time then there may be justification for you also being allowed to work part-time. This is because you have a right not to be treated any less favourably than a similar permanent employee.

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly, discuss this with your manager and read copies of your employer's equal opportunities policy (or any other relevant employment policies). If the issue can't be resolved informally, contact us for advice.

If your employer is changing your working pattern, please see our guide on changes to your shifts.

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Page last updated - 10/02/2024