The Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 states 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.
Case law has since clarified that the statutory test is only met if the sole ground for the less favourable treatment is the fact that the worker is a part-time worker.
In the case of Forth Valley Health Board v James Campbell, the issue was whether Mr Campbell had been treated less favourably by not being provided with breaks during shorter shifts, because he was a part-time worker.
Mr Campbell was contracted to work for an average of 16 hours per week on a six week rota as a Phlebotomist. His shifts varied in length. On weekdays he would work four-hour shifts, during which he did not receive a break. His colleagues who worked over six hours on those same weekdays 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 argued that denying him the break during the shorter shifts was less favourable treatment because he was part-time and full-time workers received paid breaks for all of the shifts that they worked.
The EAT held that Mr Campbell was not subjected to less favourable treatment. The sole reason for not always receiving a paid break during his shifts was not due to his part-time status. Mr Campbell was denied the paid break because of the length of the shift he was working.
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 still work only shifts of six hours and there would be no difference in treatment.
This case is a reminder to employers that claims of less favourable treatment on the grounds of part-time status are only likely to succeed if the sole reason for the less favourable treatment is that the worker is part-time. If there are other reasons for the treatment such a claim is less likely to succeed.