Part-timers must specify ‘appropriate’ full-time comparators when alleging unfavourable treatment

Part-time employees pursuing damages for alleged unfavourable treatment against them because of their status must identify an appropriate full-time comparator, an Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled.

In a recent judgement in Carl V University of Sheffield, the EAT said the claim “fails in the absence of a true actual full time comparator. We hold that the claimant cannot rely on a hypothetical comparator under the Part-Time Workers Regulations 2000.”

Mrs B Carl, a part-time teacher of shorthand in the Journalism Department at Sheffield University, claimed she had been treated less favourably than a named comparator, full-time lecturer Ms McClelland. Carl claimed, in the original Employment Tribunal hearing, that her comparator, McClelland, was paid for preparation time while she was not.

But the EAT pointed out that McClelland’s role – full time teacher in the sociological studies department – was not even “broadly similar” to Carl’s.

It noted that McLelland had two MAs, was preparing for a PhD, and had skills “way beyond” Carl’s. The EAT noted that Carl had a BEd and taught to A Level standard while McClelland lectured up to PhD level.

Commenting, Krishna Santra, solicitor at Matthew Arnold & Baldwin, said: “Employers can take some comfort. Unlike other discrimination legislation where the comparator may be actual or hypothetical, this case re-iterates that under the PTW regulations, the comparator has to be actual.”

She added that it means part-time claimants must identify a full-time comprator who: works for the same employer; is employed under the same sort of contract; is engaged in broadly similar work; and is working or is based at the same establishment as the part-time worker.

“The other issue that was addressed in the above case was whether the part-time worker status should be the sole reason for the less favourable treatment. This case reiterates that the part-time status does not have to be the sole reason but must be the ‘effective and predominant cause’ of the less favourable treatment that the part-time worker complains about.”

See also Part-time status does not have to be only reason for discriminatory treatment.

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