New forms of flexible working can bring benefits for employers and employees alike. But part-time work has to be on a fair footing.
A Framework Agreement between Europe’s employers and trade unions sets out to eliminate unjustified discrimination against part-time workers and improve the quality of part-time work. It also aims to facilitate the development of part-time work on a voluntary basis and contribute to the flexible organisation of working time in a way that takes account of employers’ and workers’ needs. Framework agreements are major joint inputs by the social partners into European labour law and practice. This one is backed by an EU Directive (97/81/EC), which was extended to the UK by another Directive (98/23/EC).
The Framework Agreement requires that part-time workers’ employment conditions may not be less favourable than those of comparable full-time workers, unless there are objective reasons for different treatment. In addition, it exhorts employers, as far as possible, to take account of employees’ preferences and their requests to transfer from full-time to part-time employment or vice versa. Employers should also facilitate access to the relevant jobs.
A worker’s refusal to transfer from full-time to part-time work or vice versa should not in itself be a valid reason for dismissal.
The texts of the Directives are available, as are the consultation documents and an implementation report.