DTI causes confusion in part-time law draft

The Government’s failure to explain its approach to implementing the
Part-time Work Directive has led to confusion over the draft regulations.

Giving people more opportunities to work part-time is one of the two main
intentions of the directive and was expected to be covered by the regulations.

But there is no mention in the document, out to consultation until next
week, of what the Government intends to do to "identify and review the
obstacles", as required by the directive. Obstacles could include
inadequate child care and inflexible working patterns.

It concentrates solely on giving part-timers the same rights as full-timers,
the directive’s other main aim.

A DTI spokeswoman said part-time working will be promoted through a good
practice guide, to be issued once the regulations are in place.

"Member states are free to choose the most effective way to promote
part-time work. We believe encouraging best practice, not legislating, is the
best way to do it," she said.

But the DTI was criticised for leaving employers in the dark.

"I had been telling everyone that promoting part-time opportunities was
coming in the regulations and to prepare for a change of culture," said
Noreen Sumra, legal adviser at consultancy Policy Network.

"Most of our clients feel they are already more than compliant in terms
of rights, so this was going to be the big issue."

Caroline Noblett, partner in the employment department at law firm Edge
Ellison, said the Government had caused confusion by claiming to embrace the
directive then failing to legislate on one of the most important parts.

"Part-time rights are already protected indirectly through sex
discrimination legislation. We had expected the legislation to deal with
barriers to part time work. It was a surprise to find these are not even
mentioned," she said.

"There is a huge pool of people who cannot work full time and we are
losing them as a resource to the country because companies are not being
creative or flexible enough to tap into it," she said.

By Dominique Hammond

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