The Government finally issued its consultation paper last week on landmark laws which give part-time staff the same employment rights as full-timers.
Under the regulations, part-timers are entitled to equal pay and benefits as full-time staff, as well as equivalent access to training and occupational pensions.
Retail, catering and hospitality and organisations operating call centres will be most affected by the new laws.
But government fears of generating more red tape for businesses has meant the regulations are far simpler than expected.
The Department of Trade & Industry has bowed to pressure from the CBI and employers in omitting a code of practice which would have bolstered the new laws. The document also excludes proposals for workforce and collective agreements which would allow employers to strike their own deals.
Both elements are included in the European part-time work directive, passed in April 1998. The directive set the May deadline for the UKlaws.
Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, welcomed the simplification of the regulations. "The code of practice was not very helpful and would have created extra bureaucracy," he said. "But I have a concern that employers will be nervous about some of the phrases in the regulations, such as 'proving objective justification'." (see box)
John Cridland, HR policy director of the CBI, said the latest version has cut confusion by dis- tinguishing between legal advice and promoting good practice.
An indirect effect of the law will be to speed up employment tribunal procedures, as women will not have to resort to sex discrimination laws to prove they have suffered detriment as a result of working part-time.
Employers have until 27 February to respond to the part-time work regulations. The laws come into force on 5 May.
By John Robinson
• Responses to the consultation paper should be sent to:
Geoffrey Temme, DTI, Room 296, Employment Relations Directorate, 1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0ET
Fax: 0207-215 5732
e-mail: [email protected]