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Part-time workers

The rights and protections available to part-time workers will largely depend on their status. Part-time employees have the same statutory employment rights as full-time employees, regardless of the number of hours they work. The statutory rights available to part-time workers who are not employees are more limited.
In either case, the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 provide part-time workers and part-time employees with the right not to be treated less favourably than comparable full-time workers on the basis of their part-time status. There is no minimum period of qualifying service for this right. Although the protection applies equally to men and women, in practice women may be more likely than men to bring such claims as a significantly higher proportion of women work part-time. For the same reason, less favourable treatment of part-time workers could also give rise to claims of indirect sex discrimination.
Employers must, therefore, carefully consider their working practices and the rights and benefits to which part-time workers are entitled. In order to be able to defend claims for less favourable treatment and discrimination, employers must be able to justify any differences in treatment.

Key points

  • The law does not specify a particular number of hours of work that will regarded as full-time or part-time working
  • A part-time worker is someone who is not identifiable as a full-time worker in the employer's organisation
  • The Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 provide that part-time workers should not be treated less favourably than comparable full-time workers
  • The regulations protect not only employees but also workers
  • Part-time workers may challenge less favourable treatment on the basis of part-time status where this cannot be objectively justified by the employer
  • A difference in treatment of part-time workers could also lead to a claim of indirect sex discrimination as more women than men work part-time.

Recent developments 

Government to extend ban on exclusivity clauses

The Government has confirmed it will introduce legislation to extend the ban on exclusivity clauses, which prevent workers from working elsewhere. New laws will make exclusivity clauses unenforceable in employment contracts where the guaranteed weekly income is below or equivalent to the Lower Earnings Limit, currently £123 per week. It is hoped that by removing red tape, the lowest paid workers will be given the choice to work multiple jobs if they wish, to give them more flexibility over when and where they work.

There isn’t yet a set date for when the new law will come into force, but it will be laid before Parliament later on in 2022.