Part-time working

Definition of part-time working

There is no official definition of a part-time worker, other than that a part-time worker works fewer hours than a full-time worker.

A full-time worker usually works at least 35 hours a week in the UK. The rights of part-time workers are legally protected by the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000.

There are Northern Ireland equivalents to the regulations.

Different types of part-time working

Term-time working and job sharing are both forms of part-time working. Members who work under such arrangements have the same rights as other part-time workers.

Pay rates for part-time workers

Legally your employer must provide equal pay for equal work. The hourly rate for part-time and full-time workers doing the same work should be the same.

However, you may not be entitled to the same overtime rate as a full-time worker until you have worked the same number of hours that the full-time worker would be required to work before getting the overtime rate.

What rights do part-time workers have?

Part-time workers have the right to all the benefits and the protection that full-time workers get in an equal proportion to the number of hours that they work, unless the difference in treatment can be justified on objective grounds.

If you work part-time you should receive the pro rata equivalent to a full-time worker for:

  • annual leave;
  • maternity pay and leave;
  • parental leave;
  • training;
  • opportunities for promotion;
  • pension schemes;
  • travel allowance.

Can you change from full-time to part-time working?

You can ask your employer to let you switch to working part-time, but they are not obliged to consider your application unless you want to work part-time to take care of a child or an adult who needs care (known as a flexible working request) and you have been in the job for at least 26 weeks.

Your employer can refuse your application, but they must explain why they have refused it.

Can your employer change your hours from part-time to full-time?

No, your employer cannot change your hours without you agreeing to the change.

Tax for part-time workers

If you work part-time and earn over a certain amount your employer will have to deduct tax and national insurance contributions from your salary in the same way as if you were working full-time.

If you work part-time for more than one employer you will get a special tax code so that you are taxed at the correct rate.

Key facts
  • Part-time employees have the legal right to equal pay for equal work.
  • If you work part-time you are entitled to all the benefits of a full-time employee, but on a pro rata basis.
  • Nearly half of UNISON’s members work part-time and the majority of them are women.
  • You have the right to ask to change to part-time working if you have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks and need to care for a child or an adult.


Part-time working