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UCU commentary on the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000

22 October 2008

The Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations (hereafter referred to as the Regulations) came into force on 1 July 2000. They transpose Directive 97/81/EC on part-time work into UK law.

The regulations can be accessed here:

The purpose of the regulations is to ensure that part-time workers are treated no less favourably than comparable full-time workers.


Who is covered?

Part 1

The Regulations cover workers who work part-time ie 'if he is paid wholly or in part by reference to the time he works and, having regard to the custom and practice of the employer in relation to workers employed by the worker's employer, is not identifiable as a full-time worker.'

The definition of 'worker' is wider than that of 'employee' and covers anyone working under a contract of employment - including fixed-term, hourly paid and other casual staff.

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Comparable employees

Part 1, regulation 2

A part-time worker can compare their treatment to a comparable full-time worker. A comparable full-time worker is one employed by the same employer (that is, the college, university or institution) on the same type of contract who is engaged in the same or broadly similar work having regard, where relevant, to whether they have a similar level of qualification, skills and experience. The regulations have been amended since their initial commencement such that workers on fixed-term and permanent contracts are no longer regarded as being on different types of contract. Therefore, the regulations DO NOT now prevent a part-time fixed-term member of staff comparing themselves with full-time permanent member of staff or visa-versa.

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Equal treatment of part-time workers

Part 2, regulation 5

Under the regulations part-time workers have the right to be treated no less favourably to comparable workers on full-time contracts. This relates to all terms and conditions including pay and pensions as well as training opportunities. The less favourable treatment does not only apply to contractual terms, but any benefit that is offered to workers.

The right not to be treated less favourable only applies if

  • the less favourable treatment is on the ground that the employee is a part-time worker, and
  • the treatment is not justified on objective grounds.

In determining whether a part-time worker has been treated less favourably than a comparable full-time worker the pro rata principle shall be applied unless it is inappropriate.

Part 2, regulation 6

If a believes part-time worker s/he is being discriminated against compared to a full-time worker, s/he has the right to request in writing a written statement giving reasons for the difference in treatment. Employers must provide this within 21 days of the request. In the event of a case being taken to employment tribunal, this written statement would be used in evidence. A model letter to request this information from the employer has been prepared and can be downloaded here.

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Part 2, regulation 8

The Regulations provide that part-time worker may present a complaint to an employment tribunal if s/he thinks that the employer has treated her/him less favourably than a comparable full-time worker on the grounds that s/he is a part-time worker and that the less favourable treatment is not justified on objective grounds. Any claim must be made within 3 months of the alleged infringement. If the Tribunal finds in favour of the worker it can make a declaration as to the rights of the employee and the employer and/or order the employer to pay compensation and/or recommend the employer take action to remedy the less favourable treatment. In the case of pensions the Tribunal only has the power to order compensation/remedial action going back up to 2 years.

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Right not to be subjected to detriment

Part 2, regulation 7

The Regulations provide protection for employees against dismissal or any other detriment as a result of bringing proceedings or requesting a written statement under the regulations.

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What is objective justification?

A major weakness of the regulations is that they fail to define objective justification, leaving this open to interpretation by employers.

The explanatory notes to the regulations state that less favourable treatment will only be justified on objective grounds if it can be shown that the less favourable treatment:

  • is to achieve a legitimate objective
  • is necessary to achieve that objective, and
  • is an appropriate way to achieve the objective.

The UCU does not believe that there could be any such grounds for less favourable treatment of our part-time members compared with full-time workers.

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Last updated: 29 October 2008