New part-time staff laws to transform workplaces

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

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


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