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Rights of Part-Time Employees

By: Pat Mullins | Posted on: 14 Jul 2015

Rights of Part-Time Employees


A part-time employee is an employee whose normal working hours are less than the normal hours of work of a comparable employee in relation to him or her.  The rules governing the employment of part-time employees is governed in the main by the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work), 2001.


The Act prohibits discrimination against part-time workers. 


The legislation applies to part-time employees, irrespective of the number of hours that they work, or the length of service.


The legislation provides that a part time employee shall not be treated in a less favourable manner, as regards his or her conditions of employment than a full time employee.  In order for an employer to be in a position to provide different terms to a part time employee, the different treatment must be justified on objective grounds. 


Any such objective ground must be based on considerations other than the status of the employee as a part-time worker.  The different treatment should be for the purposes of achieving a legitimate objective of the employer, and such treatment must be necessary for that purpose.


The entitlements of a part-time employee are in proportion to those of a full time employee and are dealt with on a pro-rata basis. 


As regards pensions, a part-time employee may be treated less favourably, if that employee’s normal hours of work are less than 20% of the normal hours of work of a comparable full time employee.  This is set out in Section 9 of the Act. 


The comparator used, to assess the terms and conditions of a part-time employee, must be a full time employee, employed by the same employer, or an associate employer.  Where the employer does not employ a full time employee, then the comparator can be an employee employed in the same industry or sector of employment as the part-time employee.  The method of comparison and definition of full time employees, is set out in Section 7(2) and Section 7(3) of the Act. 


It is illegal to have a term in a Contract of Employment which excludes this legislation, and this prohibition is set out in Section 14 of the Act. 


A referral of a complaint in relation to breach of the Act can be made to a Rights Commissioner, within six months of the date of the alleged breach.  This time limit can be extended, in exceptional circumstances for a further period of twelve months.


The reliefs available are a Declaration in relation to whether the complaint is or is not well founded, a direction requiring the employer to comply with the relevant provision of the Act, and a requirement for the employer to pay compensation to the employee, as appears just and equitable to the Rights Commissioner, having regard to all the circumstances.  Any such compensation cannot exceed two years remuneration in respect of the employee’s employment. 


An appeal lies from a Rights Commissioner’s decision to the Labour Court, within six weeks from the date that it is communicated to the parties. 


There is no statutory obligation on an employer to create part time work.  The LRC Code of Practice and Access to Part Time Work (Statutory Instrument No. 8 of 2006) recommends that employers should give consideration to such requests and should be seen to be fair and reasonable.  The lack of consideration of an application for part time work, could be interpreted as in direct discrimination on the grounds of gender/family status contrary to the Employment Equality Acts. 





Patrick Mullins


BDM Boylan Solicitors

Clarkes Bridge House

Hanover Street, Cork