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Myth busting: Part time workers have fewer legal rights than full time workers

We are exposing some of the most common employment law myths and explaining the reality behind them

Employment laws generate a lot comment. Hardly a day goes by without the media reporting scare stories about the employment rights of UK employees, which are depicted as being anti competitive, unduly restrictive and in many cases overly generous.

We are exposing some of the most common employment law myths and explaining the reality behind them. We are not pretending that employment law is easy – it isn’t, but generally it should not be difficult to get the basics right.

So far we have tackled the following myths:

  1. In order to dismiss an employee, you must follow a particular procedure and if you do so, you can safely dismiss.
  2. It’s not possible to retire employees anymore.
  3. You can’t make a woman on maternity leave redundant.
  4. Parents have the right to work part time.
  5. Employers must provide exiting staff with a reference.
  6. Employers do not need to do pre-employment immigration checks on British or EU recruits.

If you missed these, click on the links for the answers.

In this article we look at rights for part time workers.

Myth: Part time workers have fewer legal rights than full time workers


Part time workers (those working less than normal full time hours) are, broadly speaking, entitled to the same employment rights as those who work full time. These include the following rights:

  • to bring a claim for unfair dismissal (subject to the normal 2 year qualifying period);
  • to bring a discrimination claim;
  • to take holidays and rest breaks;
  • to receive a written statement of their terms and conditions of employment within 2 months of starting work;
  • to receive the national minimum wage;
  • to benefit from training and development;
  • to be selected for redundancy using the same criteria as used for full time workers.

Some rights, particularly those relating to pay and entitlement to paid holiday, are applied pro-rata. This means that the part time worker should receive the same rate of pay as an equivalent full time colleague, and the same entitlement to holiday, adjusted to reflect the number of hours or days they actually work. For example, if a full time worker working 5 days a week is entitled to 28 days holiday per year, a part time worker working 2 days a week is entitled to 2/5ths of this – 11.2 days holiday per year.

Not all benefits are easily pro-rated (such as health insurance, gym membership or company cars) and you will need to consider how your organisation deals with these. One option is to offer a pro-rated cash equivalent instead of the benefit.

Part time workers are also protected against being treated less favourably than their full time colleagues who are employed under the same type of contract and doing the same (or broadly similar) work to them.

Employers can only treat part-time workers differently if there is a good reason to do so and the onus is on the business to prove this. Part time workers who believe that they have been treated less favourably than their full-time colleagues have the right to ask for a written statement explaining the reason for the difference in treatment.

Workers who are treated less favourably can bring claims in the Employment Tribunal and, if successful can obtain compensation.

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