Government consults on draft part-time work Regulations

In January 2000, the UK government initiated consultation on draft Regulations designed to prevent part-time employees being treated less favourably than full-time employees in respect of pay, pensions, training, holidays and redundancy. Trade unions say that the draft Regulations need "toughening up".

UK transposition of the EU Directive on part-time work is due by April 2000. The Employment Relations Act 1999 gave the trade and industry secretary powers to make Regulations to prevent discrimination against part-time workers, including for the purpose of implementing Council Directive (97/81/EC) on the framework agreement on part-time work (EU9712175N), and to issue a supporting code of practice (UK9912145F). On 17 January 2000, the trade and industry secretary, Stephen Byers, published draft Regulations for consultation.

The draft Part-time Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 provide that part-time employees have the right not to be treated by their employer less favourably than comparable full-time employees as regards the terms of their contract of employment, nor to be subjected to any other detriment, providing that this is not justified on objective grounds. Part-time employees will have the right to seek a written statement of reasons for any less favourable treatment, and make complaints that their rights have been infringed to an employment tribunal which may order compensation. According to the Department of Trade and Industry, the Regulations will mean that part-time employees must:

  • receive the same hourly rate of pay as comparable full-timers;
  • not be treated less favourably that full-timers in respect of contractual sick pay and maternity pay;
  • not be discriminated against in terms of access to occupational pension schemes, and must receive benefits on a pro rata basis;
  • not be excluded from training simply because they work part-time;
  • have the same contractual entitlements to holidays and maternity and parental leave as full-time employees on a pro rata basis; and
  • be treated no less favourably than their full-time equivalents in redundancy situations.

Commenting on his proposals, Mr Byers said:"In the past, part-timers were sometimes treated like second-class citizens. They are now rightly recognised as being vital for our economic success. We want to establish minimum standards of fairness for part-timers ... without imposing unnecessary new bureaucratic burdens on business."

In a statement, John Monks, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) criticised the government's "minimalist approach" and its failure to issue a code of practice. He said that the Regulations needed "toughening up". In particular, the TUC was "unhappy that the Regulations will not include casual workers who are not legally employees. This is in stark contract with the minimum wage law [UK9904196F] which was drawn up in a way designed to cover everybody at work". The Confederation of British Industry has welcomed the government's decision not to proceed with a code practice at this stage.

The consultation period will last until 27 February and the trade and industry secretary said that he expects to lay the Regulations before parliament shortly afterwards.

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