As employee rights proliferated, some employers negated their impact by restricting the numbers of employees entitled to such protection. To offset the impact of such action, legislation gives people working under 'non-standard' contracts the same or similar rights to permanent employees. There are currently two classes of workers protected by this 'comparability' legislation - Part-Time and Fixed Term employees.

Under The Part Time Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 those part timers who perform comparable work to their full-time colleagues are entitled to the same rights and benefits unless the difference can be objectively justified. In this context, what constitutes 'full-time' is for each individual employer to determine, but anyone who works fewer hours than whatever is full-time is regarded as a parttimer.

Thus part-time employees doing comparable work to full-timers - should, for example, be advised of vacancies (as are full-time employees) and - must receive similar benefits to their full-time colleagues - this could include training, mentoring, long service awards etc.

The test is whether the person is doing comparable work. If no-one performs the job on a full-time basis then there is no comparability and no need to provide similar benefits.

It must be said that this ruling has thrown the whole concept of 'comparability' into disarray. This decision was confirmed on appeal.

Effects of the Principle
Subject to regional variances, in the UK, four public holidays occur on Mondays, one on a Friday and the remaining three on days which change each calendar year. Assuming that an employer pays full-time staff for public holidays (and if they do not the following does NOT apply) they need to ensure that part-timers who do not work regularly on all days do not suffer a detriment compared to those who work on all days. A parttimer's entitlement regarding the benefit of such days needs to be established (as well as being reviewed at the start of every year). For example, if there were two cleaners, one working 7 1/2 hours a day for two days a week and the other working full-time, 7 hours a day for a 5 day week, the employer would have to conduct the following analysis:

a. Establish the total number of hours of the paid public holidays (e.g. 8 at 7 working hours a day = 56 hours) to which the full-timer was entitled.

b. Establish the proportion of a working week that a part-timer doing comparable work is required to work (e.g. 15 hours out of 35).

c. The part-timer will be entitled to 15/35 of the 56 hours (i.e. 24).

d. A part-timer who works on days on which no public holiday occurs will be entitled to an additional 24 hours paid holiday (assuming they are employed for the whole year).

This creates administrative problems for employers with large numbers of part-timers, not least since the calculation needs to be made on virtually an individual employee basis - and for each year (or part year, if they are not employed during the whole year).

The Future

As a result of the new rights of those with child rearing responsibilities to ask their employers to make FLEXIBLE WORKING arrangements, there is likely to be an increase in the number of both sexes wishing to work part-time. Since other employees (without such responsibilities) are now indicating they would also like to be able to work flexible hours this trend is unlikely to diminish.