The number of people working in part-time employment has greatly increased in the past few years. One of the reasons for this is the large number of people returning to the workplace (perhaps having brought up a family). Another reason is a more flexible, family-friendly attitude by employers to employees working in this way.
Access to part-time working
Following the introduction of the Code of Practice on Access to Part-Time Work in 2006 best practice for employers is to have policies on improving access to part-time work. The Code of Practice aims to encourage employers and employees to consider part-time work and provides guidance on procedures to improve access to part-time work for those employees who wish to work on a part-time basis. In general employers should consider how to introduce opportunities for part-time work and should maximise the range of posts available for part-time work.
It is important to remember that if you are in full-time employment, you do not have a statutory right to change to part-time employment or to other flexible working arrangements such as job sharing or unpaid time off work. If you wish to change from full-time to part-time work or from part-time to full-time work it is a matter to be agreed between you and your employer.
Requests for part-time work
If you make a request for part-time work, your employer should have a procedure for dealing with your application which allows for consultation and discussion before a decision is made. Your employer should consider your request seriously and take 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 of the organisation. Your request should be considered on non-discriminatory grounds in accordance with employment equality legislation.
Your employer may refuse your request but should have good reasons for refusing it, for example, that it would lead to staffing difficulties in the organisation. You should be given the reasons for the refusal.
Since 8 March 2013, under the European Union (Parental Leave) Regulations 2013, when you return to work after taking parental leave, you are entitled to ask for a change in your work pattern or working hours for a set period. Your employer must consider your request but is not obliged to grant it.
Who is a part-time employee?
The rights of part-time employees are protected in law through the Protection of Employees (Part Time Work) Act 2001. A part-time employee in Ireland is defined in the Act as "an employee whose normal hours of work are less than the normal hours of work of an employee who is a comparable employee in relation to him or her". A comparable employee means a full-time employee (of the same or opposite sex) to whom a part-time employee compares himself/herself. A part-time worker no longer has to have 13 continuous weeks' service and no longer has to work a minimum of 8 hours per week in order to qualify for protection under the Act.
The Act applies to any part-time worker in Ireland and generally includes the following:
- Someone working under a contract of employment or apprenticeship
- Someone employed through an employment agency or
- Someone holding office under or in the service of the State. (For example, An Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces, civil servants and employees of the Health Service Executive, harbour authority or education and training board (ETB).
- Someone sharing a job with another person.
In the case of agency workers, the party liable to pay the wages of the employee (the employment agency or client company) will, normally, be considered to be the employer for the purposes of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act. The agency or client company are also responsible for ensuring that the part-time employee is not treated in a less favourable manner than a comparable full-time employee.
What is the purpose of the Act?
The purpose of the Act is to provide that part-time employees are not treated in a less favourable manner than a comparable full-time employee unless there are objective reasons for such treatment. Where an employer tries to justify less favourable treatment on objective grounds he/she has to show that the difference in treatment is based on grounds other than the part-time status of the employee, is a legitimate purpose of the employer, and is appropriate and necessary for that purpose. What may be considered as not being objective grounds in relation to regular part-time workers, however, may be considered objective grounds in relation to casual part-time workers.
A casual worker is a part-time worker who works on a casual basis. Casual part-time workers are those with fewer than 13 continous weeks' service who are not in regular or seasonal employment, or are casual, based on a collective agreement to that effect.
An employee's service in an employment is continuous unless that service is terminated by the employee's dismissal or the employee's voluntary departure from his or her employment.
Flexible hours and flexible working arrangements are generally at the discretion of individual employers and are not governed by specific legislation. People who share a job are viewed as part-time workers and have all the statutory entitlements 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 regarding the rights of part-time employees is available from Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Service.
Where to apply