The Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act, 2001 offers a considerable degree of protection to part time and casual workers. The principle goals of this legislation are to prevent discrimination against part time workers and to improve the quality of part time working conditions.
The act protects all part time employees including apprentices and defines a part time worker 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”. (“Normal hours of work” is broadly the average number of hours worked per day).
A casual part time employee is a part time worker who works on a casual basis. This generally means that the casual part time worker is one who has worked with the employer for less than 13 weeks and that employment could not be regarded as seasonal or regular.
A “comparable full time employee” is defined in the act by compliance with various conditions set out in the act. “Conditions of employment” are also defined in the act and principally concern remuneration/pay.
No Less Favourable Treatment
The principle thrust of the act is that part time employees, like fixed term workers, are to be treated no less favourably than their full time counterparts unless that favourable treatment can be justified on an objective ground.
This is a similar situation to fixed term workers who can be treated less favourably on objective grounds. Treating employees less favourably on objective grounds is only acceptable where the considerations surrounding the treatment
- Have nothing to do with the fact that the employee is part time
- The purpose is for a legitimate objective
- The treatment is necessary and appropriate for that purpose.
When applying entitlements to part time employees on a pro rata basis it is important to note that the entitlement in question must be capable of being given on a pro rata basis. The rate will depend on the number of hours worked by the part timer as a proportion of the hours worked by a full time employee.
Fixed Term and Part Time Employees
In the not too distant past part time and fixed term workers had little protection in their employment. Now, thanks to the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term work) Act, 2003 and the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act, 2001 both part time workers and fixed term workers have a considerable degree of protection.
Any clause in an employment contract which seeks to exclude any aspect of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act, 2001 will be void. In addition the Code of Practice on Access to Part Time Work (SI 8/2006) seeks to encourage promotion of part time work including helping employees access part time work by more encouraging workplace policies by employers in respect of access.
While the code of practice is not mandatory should such a code of practice exist in the workplace this will be admissible as evidence in any Court or hearing of a dispute between employer and employee.
Employers who fail to recognise this change are leaving themselves open to successful claims from employees through the Rights Commissioner service within 6 months of the alleged contravention and prosecution from NERA.
Employers-How to Avoid Costly Employment Claims
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