Part-time hours can a good compromise between work and family. But will working less have a detrimental impact on your career? And how can you safeguard your future in the workplace?
Know your part-time rights
If you work less than 35 hours week, you are classed as a part-time employee. But just because you work fewer hours doesn’t mean you have any fewer rights as an employee.
All employees are entitled to statutory rights no matter how many hours they work per week.
First of all, you are entitled to the same pay scale as someone in a similar position who works full-time. If, for instance, you choose to reduce your working hours by 50% after returning from maternity leave, you should receive half of your previous salary. An employee can’t get away with paying you significantly less.
You should also have access to similar benefits. Bonuses, for example, should be worked out on a pro rata basis. So if a full-time employee is paid a bonus of £500 and you work half the number of hours, you should receive £250. Your company must give you equal access to pension schemes.
If an employer cannot easily divide a benefit, such as a company car, they should work out the equivalent cash value and offer that as an alternative. Employers are entitled to withhold a benefit, but will need to provide a justifiable reason for doing so.
Part-time employees should also have equal access to any career break schemes, holiday leave (worked out on a pro rata basis) and redundancy rights.
In the case of holiday entitlement, an employer cannot round down the number of days offered. They should offer the exact amount in hours.
Develop your career part-time
Just because a worker chooses to go part-time it doesn’t mean they’re any less interested in developing their career.
But it’s understandable that many part-time workers are worried they’ll be overlooked for promotion or training, simply because they’re not physically present in the workplace as much as others.
An employer should offer opportunities for training to everyone, while promotions should be based on merit not hours clocked up. Don’t be afraid to put yourself forward for more responsibility or to apply for more senior roles.
Fixing dates for training might be tricky if you only work on certain days or at certain times. Ask your boss to be flexible, or swap your working days for that particular week. It’s important to find a compromise that suits both parties.
What to do if you are being treated unfairly
If you do believe you are being treated less favourably than someone doing a similar job on more hours, your employer may be guilty of discrimination. Perhaps you feel you were overlooked for a promotion simply because an employer was particularly inflexible?
Likewise, an employer cannot force part-time staff to work longer hours if they are not contractually required to do so.
Perhaps you’re working on a big project that your boss wants finished over the weekend. They may approach you to work overtime, but you are entitled to say no. This cannot be a reason for dismissal.
An employer who treats part-time staff differently will need to provide a justifiable reason.
If you do believe you are being treated unfairly, seek free, confidential advice from Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) or the Citizens Advice Bureau.
You are entitled to ask your employer to provide a written statement of reasons for your treatment. This request must be done in writing, giving them 21 days to respond.
If you are still not satisfied, you may want to make a complaint to an Employment Tribunal.