The number of people working part-time has increased in the past few years. The rights of part-time employees are protected by law, so they cannot generally be treated less favourably than comparable full-time employees.
Guidance for employers on developing part-time working is set out in the Code of Practice on Access to Part-Time Work. It states that employers should consider how to introduce opportunities for part-time work and should maximise the range of jobs available for part-time work. They are also expected to have policies on improving access to part-time work.
Who is a part-time employee?
A part-time employee in Ireland is defined in law as an employee whose normal hours of work are less than the normal hours of work of an employee who is a comparable employee.
A comparable employee means a full-time employee that a part-time employee compares themselves with, i.e. they do the same work or work of a similar nature for the same employer. For example, if you are a part-time sales assistant, you would compare yourself to a full-time sales assistant who is doing the same job as you, in the same shop.
The rights of part-time employees are protected in law through the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001.
The Act applies to any part-time worker in Ireland and generally includes people:
- With a contract of employment or an apprenticeship
- Sharing a job with another person
- Employed through an employment agency
- Holding office in the service of the State (such as employees of An Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces, the civil service, the HSE, a harbour authority or an Education and Training Board)
In the case of agency workers, whoever is paying their wages will normally be considered to be the employer for the purposes of the Act (whether it is the employment agency or the company). They are also responsible for ensuring that part-time employees are not treated in a less favourable manner than a comparable full-time employee.
Can I change from full-time to part-time employment?
You do not have a legal right to change to part-time employment or to other flexible working arrangements such as job sharing or unpaid time off work. Your employer can refuse to let you change from full-time work to part-time work. Any change to your working patterns needs to be agreed between you and your employer.
How should my employer deal with my request to change to part-time work?
If you want to change to part-time work, your employer should have a procedure for dealing with your request. This should include consultation and discussion with you before they make a decision. Your employer should take certain factors into account such as your personal family needs, the implications for the organisation, the number of part-time employees, the equal opportunities policy and the staffing needs. If they refuse your request, they need to provide good reasons. For example, that the change would lead to staffing difficulties. They should give you their reasons for the refusal.
Your request should be considered on non-discriminatory grounds, in accordance with employment equality legislation.
If you have a complaint, dispute or a grievance about breaches of your employment rights you can be referred to the Workplace Relations Commission.
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 of time when you return to work after taking parental leave. Your employer must consider your request and give you a response within 4 weeks, but is not obliged to grant it.
Can part-time workers be treated less favourably than full-time workers?
Employers cannot treat a part-time employee less favourably than a comparable full-time employee simply because of the fact that they work part-time. Employers can treat a part-time worker less favourably if they have objective grounds and the difference in treatment is appropriate and necessary for achieving a legitimate business objective. However, the different nature of casual work means that what may not be an objective ground for a non-casual part-time worker may be still be an objective ground for a casual part-time worker.
Who is a casual worker?
A casual worker is a part-time worker who works on a casual basis. Casual part-time workers are people with fewer than 13 continuous weeks’ service who are not in regular or seasonal employment, or who are casual based on a collective agreement.
An employee's service in an employment is viewed as continuous, until it ends by dismissal or by the worker choosing to leave.
However, people who share a job are viewed as part-time workers and have all the legal entitlements of part-time workers.
Flexible hours and other flexible working arrangements are generally at the discretion of employers and are not covered by specific legislation.
See our document on the employment rights of part-time workers.
The Workplace Relations Commission has a guide to rights and obligations of part-time workers and their employers (pdf).
Further information on the rights of part-time employees is available from Workplace Relations Commission’s Information and Customer Service.