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Part-time workers

This is a guide for RCN members on part-time working including equal rights and overtime.

Part-time workers' rights

All part-time workers have equal rights to their full-time counterparts with regard to:

  • pay rates
  • pension
  • holiday entitlement  (including bank and public holidays)
  • training and career development opportunities (including selection for promotion or transfer)
  • selection for redundancy
  • career breaks.

Part-time workers are protected from "less favourable treatment" unless the employer can objectively justify that treatment for genuine business reasons.

The equality of rights is nearly always applied using the principles of pro rata when deciding, for example, how much a part-time worker should be paid. There is no qualifying period of service for equality of rights, nor an upper age limit, and all part-time workers have immediate rights.

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

  • be employed by the same employer, working ‘full-time’ hours as applicable in that workplace
  • work under the same type of contract, for example you cannot compare yourself with a worker who is not an employee
  • be engaged in the same/broadly similar work  having regard to whether the full-time worker has a similar level of qualifications, skills and experience as the part-time worker
  • usually work at the same place. 
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What to do if your are not being treated equally

Part-time workers who believe their employer has treated them less favourably can write to the employer asking for written reasons for their treatment. The 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 regulations, they:

  • brought proceedings against the 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
  • otherwise did anything in relation to the employer or any other person
  • alleged that the employer has infringed the regulations
  • refused to forgo a right given to the employee under the regulations.

This also applies if the employer believes or suspects the employee 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 on 0345 772 6100. 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.

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Overtime for part-time workers

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.

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Do I have a right to part-time work?

There is no absolute right to work part-time or to work under a job share arrangement, unless this is provided for under your contract of employment. However, where an employer refuses your request to work part-time this may be unlawful in some circumstances.

If, for example, a woman wants to return to work on a part-time basis following maternity leave and the request is refused without objective justification, this may be seen as sex discrimination

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 matter can't be resolved informally, contact us for advice on 0345 772 6100.

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Call the RCN on: 03457726100


Page last updated - 25/01/2018