Rights of part-time workers

Introduction

If you work part-time, you have the right to be treated fairly in comparison 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’.

Who is a part-time worker?

You are a part-time worker if you have fewer normal working hours than a comparable full-time worker.

A comparable full-time worker works for the same employer as you, and either:

  • Does the same work as you, under the same or similar conditions
  • Is interchangeable with you in relation to the work done (for example, you can substitute or fill in for one another)
  • Does the same work or similar work to you, and any differences between your work and working conditions are insignificant
  • Does work of equal value, or of lesser value, than you

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.

Agency workers

Part-time agency workers can only compare themselves to comparable full-time agency workers. They cannot compare themselves to full-time permanent workers.

Casual 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.

Job-sharing

If you job-share you are viewed as part-time worker and have all the legal entitlements of part-time workers.

Flexible working

Flexible hours and other flexible working arrangements are generally at the discretion of employers and are not covered by specific legislation.

My employer treats me less favourably than my co-workers

Employers cannot treat a part-time employee less favourably than a comparable full-time employee simply because they work part-time, unless the reasons can be objectively justified.

You can be treated less favourably in relation to pensions but only in very specific circumstances – see below.

Objective grounds

Employers can treat you less favourably if they have objective grounds. This means the difference in treatment is appropriate and necessary for achieving a legitimate business objective.

An example of objective grounds could be not providing you with access to health insurance, even though a comparable full-time worker gets health insurance. This could be justified as legitimate because of the disproportionate cost to your employer of providing the insurance to you when you work part-time.

However, 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 have the same access to pension opportunities and benefits.

However, if you are a part-time employee and you normally works less than 20% of the normal hours of a comparable full-time employee, your employer does not have to give you the same pension benefits as the full-time employee.

There is nothing to stop your employer from agreeing to give you the same pension benefits as a comparable full-time worker.

Paying tax, PRSI and USC

You may have to pay taxes and social contributions, depending on how much you earn.

PAYE

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 have to 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 our page about starting work for the first time and avoiding emergency tax.

PRSI

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).

USC

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.

Do I have a right to be paid 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.

Example

Your full-time co-workers must work 39-hours a week before they get paid an overtime rate. Your employer can state that part-time employees must also work 39 hours before the overtime rate is paid.

If you usually work 20 hours a week, you would be paid at you normal rate for any hours worked between 20 and 39 hours. You would be entitled to the overtime rate on any extra hours you work over 39 hours.

Employers are not required by law to pay higher rates (such as ‘double time’) for overtime. However, they must pay at least the normal hourly rate of pay for overtime.

Asking to move to part-time work

If you are a full-time worker, you have a right to request part-time work from your employer. While the employer does not have to agree to your request, they are encouraged to consider the various ways to improve employees’ access to part-time work. 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, 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

Your employer should consider your request for part-time working on non-discriminatory grounds, in line with employment equality legislation.

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 accept your request.

If your request for part-time working is refused

If your employer refuses a part-time working request, 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 where you:

  • Exercised your right not to be treated less favourably than your comparable full-time co-worker
  • Refused to agree to your employer’s request to change from full-time work to part-time work (or the opposite)
  • Objected to an action that is illegal under 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 you intention to give evidence

Your employer is considered to have punished you if they:

  • Dismiss you
  • Make an unfavourable change in your conditions of employment
  • Treat you unfairly, including selection for redundancy
  • Take any other action that is prejudicial to your employment

Exceptions

Employers are not considered to have penalised a part-time employee in certain circumstances. For example, your employer requests you to change from full-time work 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 your employer takes must be in accordance with 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 in Ireland

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:

Further information

Read more about the rights of part-time workers in the WRC’s explanatory booklet for employers and employees (pdf).

You may also want to read our page on Employees' rights and entitlements for details on minimum wage, breaks during working hours, leave from work, and so on.

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Page edited: 12 August 2021