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Office Politics: Rights for Part-Time Workers

Do you know what your rights are if you work part-time or on a fixed-term contract? Philip Landau, solicitor and partner at London law firm Landau Zeffertt Weir, reveals all.

If you are employed on a fixed-term or part-time contract, the law provides you with specific protection to ensure you are not treated less favourably than a full-time permanent employee.

1. Fixed-Term Contract Employees

Fixed-term contract employees are those whose contracts will terminate on the expiry of a specific term or completion of a particular task or event. Agency workers or temporary workers who do not have a contract that ends on a particular date are not covered by the regulation below.
Your rights

Under the Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 you have the right to not be treated less favourably compared to a permanent employee engaged in the same or similar work with the same employer.

This right applies to terms and conditions like pay, sick pay, maternity pay, pension, holiday entitlements, and training. The legislation also provides the right for the fixed-term employee to be notified of any suitable permanent vacancies that the employer may have.

If you think you have been treated less favourably, you have the right to request a written statement of reasons from your employer within 21 days of your request.

If your employer renews a fixed-term contract, and you have been working for four or more years under a series of fixed-term contracts which have not broken your continuity of service, the regulations say that this has become a permanent contract unless the renewal as a fixed-term contract is justified objectively.

You have a right to receive a written statement of variation to confirm that your contract is no longer a fixed-term one and that you are now a permanent employee.

Employer’s Justification

If you think you have been treated less favourably than a permanent employee, your employer may be able to argue that it is justified. They can do this by showing that:

* The treatment is necessary to achieve a legitimate objective and
it is an appropriate way to achieve that objective.
* Other aspects of your terms and conditions are more favourable
and offset the less favourable treatment.

2. Part-Time Employees

Under the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000, if you are a part-time worker, you have the right to be treated as favourably as comparable full-time employees who are employed on the same type of contract. This means someone who is employed on the same type of contract, is engaged in the same or similar work and is based at the same establishment or possibly a different establishment by the same employer.

There is no qualifying period of time that a part-time worker has to be employed for to meet these rights.

Less favourable treatment may relate to terms and conditions of your contract, or disadvantages you may suffer due to the acts or omissions of your employer. As above, the right applies to things like pay, sick pay, maternity pay, pension, holiday and leave entitlements, training and fringe benefits. Less favourable treatment also includes pressure on a part-time employee to work full-time.

If you think you have been treated less favourably, you have the right to request a written statement of reasons from your employer within 21 days of your request.
Employer’s Justification

If you think you have been treated less favourably, your employer may be able to argue that it is justified. They can do this by showing that the treatment is necessary to achieve a legitimate objective and that it’s an appropriate way to achieve that objective.

3. Action to Take

If you believe that you have been treated less favourably as a fixed-term contract or part-time employee and the written reasons are unjustifiable then you should, after trying to resolve the issue informally, follow grievance procedures.

Any complaint brought under either of the regulations should be presented to an Employment Tribunal within three months of the less favourable treatment or detriment. You are able to make a claim against your employer while you are still employed.

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