Seven in 10 organisations now offer part-time working, according to latest research. Even more reassuringly the study, carried out by the British Chambers of Commerce, found that well over half of these businesses are reaping benefits such as improvements in employee relations, staff retention and productivity.
The problem is that people who request to work part-time still risk being shown the door by many employers. "Employees often come to us saying they have been kicked out as a result of a restructure or redundancy situation that miraculously occurs when they want to come back part-time or perhaps six months later," reports Daniel Naftalin, partner at Mischcon de Reya.
"In some sectors, it's almost an unwritten rule that asking to go part-time is a guarantee of being written off in the near future," he says.
Tony Hymans-Parish, partner in employment group at Rawlinson Butler, adds: "Many employers, including a client I visited recently, still refer to certain roles being 'full time' without really thinking about the different ways the job can be done and, unfortunately, some employers do prefer to close their eyes to the possibilities."
Even those who do manage to secure a part-time post may be discriminated against, notably in terms of access to training, career progression and pay. Employment lawyers agree that this isn't usually intentional and can be a sector-wide problem. For example, industries with high numbers of part-timers, such as retail and catering, traditionally have lower than average rates of pay than others.
Alternatively, the discrimination can be a result of cultural attitudes within individual organisations. "There is definitely still a belief in some workplaces that to go part-time is to opt out of being a seriously committed employee," says Mike Emmott, adviser on employee relations at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, whose latest employee attitudes survey found that part-timers are less likely than full-timers to have had a perfor