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Part-time status or shorter hours?

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Issue

Under the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 it is unlawful to treat part-time workers less favourably on the ground of their part-time status unless the employer can show there is objective justification for the difference in treatment. In the case of Forth Valley Health Board v James Campbell the issue was whether the claimant had been treated less favourably "on the ground that the worker was a part-time worker".

Facts

Mr Campbell, a Phlebotomist, was contracted to work for an average of 16 hours per week on a 6 week rota. His shifts varied in length. On weekdays he would work four hour shifts between 0730 and 1130 am without a break. His colleagues who worked over six hours on those same days would get a fifteen minute paid break. Whilst he did get the fifteen minute paid break when he did six hour shifts over the weekends he claimed that denying him the break during the shorter shifts was less favourable treatment.

Decision

It was held that the treatment was not because of Mr Campbell’s part time status but because of the length of the shift. The fact that he and other part time workers did receive the benefit of the paid break when working on shifts that were of six hours duration showed that there wasn’t the necessary link with part time status. A part time employee could work only shifts of six hours and there would be no difference in treatment. 

Key takeaway points

The decision highlights the importance of identifying the reason for the treatment in any claim of less favourable treatment brought by a part time worker. In reaching the conclusion that part time status was not the cause in this case it was taken into account that claims in respect of less favourable treatment relating to the allocation of Bank Holidays have also failed where employees do not work Mondays as their ‘loss’ would be due to the days of the week worked rather than their part time status. 

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