Part-time workers’ rights

Part-time workers are protected from being treated less favourably than equivalent full-time workers just because they’re part time.

A part-time worker is someone who works fewer hours than a full-time worker. There is no specific number of hours that makes someone full or part-time, but a full-time worker will usually work 35 hours or more a week.

Part-time workers should get the same treatment for:

  • pay rates (including sick pay, maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay)
  • pension opportunities and benefits
  • holidays
  • training and career development
  • selection for promotion and transfer, or for redundancy
  • opportunities for career breaks

Some benefits are applied ‘pro rata’ (in proportion to hours worked). For example, if a full-time worker gets a £1,000 Christmas bonus, and a part-time worker works half the number of hours, they should get £500.

Overtime pay – part-time workers may not get overtime pay until they’ve worked over the normal hours of a full-time worker.

When employers can treat part-time workers differently

There are some situations when employers do not have to treat part-time workers in the same way as full-time employees. In these situations the employer must be able to show there is a good reason to do so – this is called ‘objective justification’.


An employer may provide health insurance for full-time employees but not part-timers if this can be objectively justified.

Their reason may be that the costs involved are disproportionate to the benefits part-timers are entitled to.

In this case the employer may come up with an alternative like asking the part-time worker to make a contribution to the extra cost.

If a part-time worker’s been treated less favourably

Part-time workers should first discuss this with their employer or trade union representative.

They have the right to get a written statement of reasons for the treatment from their employer. The request should be in writing and the employer must write back within 21 days.

If the worker is not satisfied that the reason given was objectively justified, they may be able to take a case to an employment tribunal.




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