Bank Holidays elude one in five workers

More
than one in five UK employers could be breaking the law when it comes to
withholding Bank Holiday rights from part-time workers, a new survey has found.

The
survey of HR professionals by Croner Consulting found that 21 per cent do not
offer their part-time staff the same Bank Holiday rights as their full-time
colleagues.

Under
the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations
2000, employers must treat all staff equally, unless objectively justified.

Richard
Smith, employment law expert at Croner Consulting, said that many employers are
confused over Bank and public holiday entitlement for part-time workers. He
advises them that, under the regulations, part-time workers must not be treated
less favourably than full-timers.

"With
the increased focus on work-life balance, part-time working is growing in
popularity. But working part-time is often thought of as being lower status,
having a lower standard of pay, or unlikely to lead to career progression.

"To
combat this and promote a flexible labour market in the UK, the part-time
workers directive was introduced which ensures that part-timers are treated
fairly in terms of rates of pay; access to pension schemes; annual, maternity
and paternity leave; sick pay; and access to training," said Smith.

"But
our survey shows that, with the Easter Bank Holiday approaching, some
part-timers could be missing out on holiday they are entitled to."

To
comply with the law and best practice, Croner Consulting is advising employers
with part-time staff to ensure their policies are fair to all workers.

In
cases where all employees work a shift system, that includes working on a Bank
Holiday, employers may wish to give workers a paid day off to compensate.
However, where employees work fixed days each week, and since most bank and
public holidays fall on a Monday, those who do not usually work Mondays will be
entitled to proportionally fewer days off. In such cases employers could
introduce a system of pro-rata entitlement – but are not obliged to do so by
law.

"The
part-time work directive was put in place to protect and encourage part-time
workers," said Smith. "The one in five employers surveyed that admit
to not giving part-timers equal rights should review their holiday policies. If
unequal treatment can be ‘objectively justified’ for a business reason then
they will be within the law, but if the rules for holidays are found to be
unfair to part-time workers, employers risk potential compensation claims or
prosecution.

"Interpreting
the law can be difficult for employers, and ensuring the fair treatment of
part-time workers is not a black and white area. If in doubt, they should seek
legal advice."

By Quentin Reade

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