The Lowdown on Part-Time Employment

Anyone who works in your business for less hours than your full time employees is considered part time. No specific hours define it, and employees can either be permanent or temporary. There are a number of different kinds of part-time contracts – fixed hours, zero hours, flexi hours, or annualised hours. A typical part-time arrangement though is usually considered to be a fixed hours contract, where the employee works the same hours and days each week. Annual salary is calculated and then is divided into 12 equal monthly instalments, and holiday is based on the contracted hours.

Some employers prefer the greater flexibility a zero hours contract offers. Zero hours has had such negative press, but if the contracts are written properly with clarity on both sides, they can be really beneficial. As an employee, you have a proper contract of employment and all the accompanying rights and protections, such as sick pay, holiday and maternity leave. And as an employer, it allows some certainty and control, while enabling you to have your zero hours employees comply with your company policies and procedures, such as holiday or dress code, that you might otherwise struggle to achieve with contractors or agency staff. To further support zero hours employees, employers are encouraged to suggest currently anticipated hours per week, not set in stone but a good estimate. If that’s likely to be under a certain number, it allows the employee to seek additional work elsewhere to make sure they can earn the amount they need.

A flexi hours contract very much depends on the nature of your organisation and the type of work the individual is doing. You might commit to giving say 20 hours of work every single week, but chunk it down in different ways. So one week it might be four hours a day, and the following week two ten hour days. Flexi hours are often used in retail settings and in environments where shifts need to be covered.

Annualised hours are really useful for seasonal workers like gardeners, where there’s a lot of work in the summer, less in spring and autumn, and almost no work in the winter. By dividing the number of hours across the year into 12 equal instalments, it’s much easier for the employee to plan and manage mortgage payments, direct debits etc.

All policies and procedures in a business must apply to both full-time and part-time employees. And they have exactly the same rights – from benefits like a company car and life assurance, to a laptop and the option to occasionally work from home. Part-time workers are encouraged to have an informal discussion with their employer if they feel their rights have been breached or they are being treated less favourably than their full-time equivalents, such as being overlooked for a promotion. Unless it can be resolved informally, the legal wheels will start turning towards an employment tribunal.

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