Rights of part-time workers
If you work part-time, you have the right to be treated fairly compared to your full-time co-workers.
The rights of part-time employees are protected in law. You cannot generally be treated less favourably – in other words, you must be treated at least as well as comparable full-time employees.
Read more below on ‘the laws on part-time work’.
What a part-time worker is
You are a part-time worker if you work less hours than a comparable full-time worker doing the same type of work.
A comparable full-time worker works for the same employer as you, and either:
- Does the same job in the same or similar conditions
- Is capable of substituting or temporarily replacing you in performing the work
- Does the same or similar work with only minor variations in responsibilities and working conditions
- Does work of equal or lower value than yours
For example, a part-time sales assistant can compare themselves to a full-time sales assistant who is doing the same job, in the same shop.
Part-time agency workers can only compare themselves to comparable full-time agency workers. They cannot compare themselves to full-time permanent workers.
A casual worker is a part-time worker who works on a casual basis. Casual workers are normally on standby to do work as required without fixed hours or attendance arrangements.
You are a casual worker if you have less than 13 continuous weeks’ service, are not in regular or seasonal employment, or are casual based on a collective agreement.
If you job-share, you are a part-time worker and have all the legal entitlements of part-time workers.
Flexible hours and other flexible working arrangements are generally at the discretion of your employer and are not covered by specific legislation.
Less favourable treatment
Employers cannot treat a part-time employee less favourably compared to full-time employees, unless there are valid, objective reasons for doing so (known as objective justification or objective grounds).
You can be treated less favourably in relation to pensions, but only in very specific circumstances – see below.
What are objective grounds for different treatment?
Employers can treat you less favourably if they have objective grounds. This means the difference in treatment is appropriate and necessary for a legitimate business purpose.
An example of objective grounds could be not providing you with health insurance, even though full-time workers get health insurance. This could be justified because it’s more costly for your employer to provide insurance to part-time employees.
Objective grounds for treating part-time workers less favourably than full-time workers may be different for casual part-time employees.
Pensions and part-time workers
Part-time workers should generally have the same access to pension benefits.
However, if you work less than 20% of the normal hours of full-time employees, your employer does not have to give you the same pension benefits as the full-time employee.
However, your employer can choose to give you the same pension benefits as a full-time worker if they want to.
Paying tax, PRSI and USC
You may have to pay taxes and social contributions, depending on how much you earn.
PAYE is an income tax, which is deducted from your wages by your employer using Revenue’s ‘Pay As You Earn’ system.
The rate of tax you pay depends on:
- Your income or salary, and
- Your tax credits (tax credits reduce the amount of income tax you must pay)
Read about how your income tax is calculated. If your tax credits are more than your gross tax (your total tax due), you do not have to pay any income tax.
Read about starting work for the first time and avoiding emergency tax.
PRSI is your ‘Pay Related Social Insurance’ (also called your social insurance contributions). The amount of PRSI you pay is based on your earnings and the type of work you do.
Read about part-time work and social insurance (PRSI).
The Universal Social Charge (USC) is tax you pay on gross income (this is your total pay before any money is deducted, including your basic salary and any overtime, commission or bonus).
If you earn more than €13,000 a year, you pay USC on your full income.
You do not pay any USC if your total income is €13,000 or less a year.
Part-time hours and overtime
You are entitled to overtime pay if your full-time co-workers are paid overtime.
However, your employer can decide that you must work the same number of hours as a full-time employee before you are entitled to overtime pay.
Your full-time co-workers must work 39 hours a week before they get overtime pay. Your employer can decide that part-time employees must also work 39 hours before getting overtime pay.
If you typically work 20 hours a week, you will be paid at your normal rate for hours worked between 20 and 39 hours. Any hours you work beyond 39 hours will be paid at an overtime rate.
By law, employers don’t have to pay higher rates like ‘double time’ for overtime. However, they must pay at least the normal hourly rate for overtime hours worked.
Switching to part-time
If you are a full-time worker and you want to switch to part-time, you have the right to ask your employer. Your employer does not have to agree, but they should think about ways to make part-time work accessible to employees. Read the WRC’s Code of Practice on Access to Part-Time Work.
An employer should:
- Have a procedure for dealing with part-time working requests, including consultation and discussion with the employee before making a decision
- Take certain factors into account, like your personal needs, the impact on the organisation, the number of part-time employees, the equal opportunities policy, and staffing needs
Your employer should consider your request for part-time working without discrimination, in line with employment equality legislation.
The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 introduces new legal rights to request flexible working arrangements for caring purposes. New regulations are needed to commence the different parts of the Act (to bring it into effect).
Can I work part-time after taking parental leave?
You are entitled to ask for a change in your work pattern or working hours for a set period when you return to work after taking parental leave.
Your employer must consider your request and give you a response within 4 weeks, but they don’t have to accept your request.
If your request for part-time working is refused
If your employer refuses your request for part-time work, they must give you a reason for the refusal (for example, that the change would lead to staffing difficulties).
If you are unhappy with your employer’s response and you believe they have breached your employment rights, you can make a complaint to the WRC – read ‘Making a complaint’ below.
Penalising part-time employees
Your employer cannot penalise (or punish) you when you:
- Exercise your right to be treated as favourably as comparable full-time co-workers
- Refuse your employer’s request to change from full-time to part-time work (or the opposite)
- Object to actions that breach the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act
- Gave evidence in any proceedings under the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act or gave notice of your intention to do so
Your employer is considered to have punished you if they:
- Dismiss you
- Make an unfavourable change to your work conditions
- Treat you unfairly, including selection for redundancy
- Take any other action that is prejudicial to your employment
There are situations where employers are not considered penalising part-time employees. For example, your employer asks you to change from full-time to part-time work (or the opposite).
However, the following conditions apply:
- Your employer must have substantial grounds to justify the request and to take any action after your refusal
- Any action taken by your employer must follow the terms in your contract of employment and employment rights legislation
Making a complaint
If you have a complaint, you should speak to your employer directly. If you cannot resolve your complaint informally, you can bring your complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) using the online complaint form.
You must make the complaint within 6 months of the dispute taking place. The time limit may be extended for a further 6 months, if there is a reasonable cause which prevented you from bringing the complaint within the normal time limit.
The laws on part-time work
The law on part-time work is set out in the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001. This Act applies to all part-time workers, including casual workers.
Part-time employees’ entitlements are generally in proportion (pro-rata basis) to full-time employees’ entitlements. This means that they should be in proportion to your hours.
However, minimum periods of continuous service are required for the purpose of:
Read more about the rights of part-time workers in the WRC’s explanatory booklet for employers and employees (pdf).