Part-time work rights create perk dilemma

Fundamental parts of legislation to improve the rights of part-time employees
will be impossible to implement in their current form, and could lead to
part-timers being stripped of benefits, employers and legal experts have
warned.

The Part-time Work Directive, currently under consultation and due to be
implemented by 7 April requires employers to provide the same benefits to
part-timers as full-timers on a pro-rata basis.

But HR experts warn that where benefits cannot be divided, such as company
cars and private medical insurance, some firms may scrap perks altogether for large
swathes of employees.

Lisa Wilkinson, associate solicitor at law firm Dibb Lupton Alsop, said,
"Employers have to provide the same benefits pro rata unless there is an
‘objective justification’ for not doing so. It not being practically possible
could be an objective justification," she said.

This could mean part-timers being excluded from pension schemes, Wilkinson
added, as the administrative charge might be more than the pro-rata
contribution. Again, this could be an "objective justification" for
withholding the benefit, she said.

But Nicky Miles of the employment team at Wragge & Co said the law could
entitle part-timers to push for the same benefits as full-timers, with huge
cost implications for employers.

"The regulations say that part-timers are entitled to no less than the
pro-rata proportion, it does not have to be exactly that amount. They could
argue they are entitled to all of it," she said.

She added that they have been advising clients that a car pool system could
be a way of dividing up company vehicles.

With just two weeks of the consultation process to go, the Government has
come under renewed fire for its poor drafting of the document – a key point in
Personnel Today’s campaign. Jewson HR director Tom Flemming said it was a
typical example of civil servants failing to see what the law means in
practice.

By Dominique Hammond

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