Part-Time law brings fears of rising costs

The Government’s decision last week to include casual and agency staff under
the Part-Time Work law could dramatically push up labour costs.

The long-awaited regulations, which give part-time workers comparable terms and
conditions to full-timers, will apply to the wider definition of
"worker" rather than just "employees".

The CBI said it is disappointed the Government has broadened the scope of
the law, which comes into force on 1 July, but said the effect will be tempered
because part-timers’ benefits will only have to equal those of full-timers with
the same status. This means part-time agency staff and freelancers will gain
the same benefits as full-time agency staff and freelancers, not full-time
permanent staff.

"In a way we have won the more important victory," said Susan
Anderson, head of employee relations at the CBI.

"If we had the ‘worker’ definition, without the same-status clause,
then any part-time, casual worker could waltz in claiming the same rights as a
full-time member of staff, but that will not happen."

But there are concerns that this will still mean bigger bills for
organisations using a large number of agency staff.

Sally Storey, director of HR at Bournewood NHS Trust, said it will push up
the cost of hiring agency nurses and care workers.

"Part-time staff employed by the NHS already have the same rights as
full-timers but most NHS trusts spend significant amounts on agency employees.

"This will have a similar impact to the Working Time regulations when
we had to pick up the bill for annual leave. Any extra cost will be passed on
to us."

The use of temporary staff in the NHS in Scotland alone runs to £25m a year.

The TUC has welcomed the decision, but said it would like the law to go
further.

Julia Edwards, employment partner at law firm Edge Ellison, said employers
need to make sure their part-timers are not being treated less favourably than
full-timers in similar jobs.

But she added that there is still nothing in the law to compel employers to
offer or promote part-time work – the central tenet of the European directive.

Employers will have eight weeks, as promised by Steven Byers, to implement
the law.

www.dti.gov.uk/er/ptqa

 

What the law says

The regulations make it unlawful for employers to treat part-timers less
favourably in their terms and conditions of employment than comparable
full-timers.

This means part timers must:

• Receive the same hourly rate as comparable full-timers

• Receive the same hourly rate of over-time once they have worked more than
the normal full-time hours

• Not be excluded from training

• Have the same entitlements to annual leave and maternity/parental leave on
a pro-rata basis as full-timers.

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