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04 Oct, 2021

Managing Part-Time Workers

Many businesses rely on part time workers. Employment law specifies that these employees cannot be treated less favourably than comparable full-time workers so it is important to calculate their benefits correctly.

What is a part-time worker?

A part-time employee is defined as someone who works fewer hours than a comparable full-time employee carrying out the same type of work in the same business. There are no minimum hours which someone must work to be considered full or part-time.

How to calculate a part-time worker’s annual leave entitlement

Depending on the number of hours worked, a part-time employee’s annual leave entitlement is one of the following:

  • Four working weeks in a leave year in which the employee works at least 1,365 hours (unless it is a leave year in which they change employment)

  • 1/3 of a working week per calendar month provided the employee worked at least 117 hours

  • 8% of the hours worked in a leave year (subject to a maximum of 4 working weeks)

Your HR Services Provider will be able to tell you how much annual leave your part-time employee has accrued.

Public holidays

If your part-time employee has worked at least 40 hours in the five weeks prior to a public holiday they are entitled to a day’s pay provided the public holiday falls on a day they normally work. If they do not usually work on the day in question, they are entitled to one-fifth of their weekly pay. A part-time worker who is required to work on a public holiday is entitled to an additional day’s pay.

Pension

Unless they work less than 20% of the normal hours of a comparable full-time employee, part-time workers are entitled to the same pension benefits as their full-time peers. This is because the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 protects the rights of part-time employees in respect of pension contributions and benefits.

While a part-time employee who works less than 20% of normal full-time hours does not have an automatic entitlement to access pension benefits, there is nothing to stop an employer from allowing them to access the same benefits as a comparable full-time worker.

Overtime

The employee’s Contract of Employment should set out how overtime will be dealt with. Employers are not obliged to pay overtime and do not have to pay a higher rate per hour than an employee’s standard hourly rate. Where an employer pays overtime to full time workers, they should apply the same rule to part-time workers however some employers require part-time employees to work the same number of hours as comparable full-time workers before becoming entitled to overtime pay.

Penalising part-time workers

It is important that employers avoid penalising their part-time workers.  Examples of penalising include:

  • Treating a part-time employee less favourably than a comparable full-time employee about conditions of employment

  • Treating an employee differently for refusing to agree to a request to change from full-time work to part-time work (or the reverse)

  • Treating an employee less favourably for opposing an act deemed unlawful under the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act, as long as in doing so, they did not breach the Act themselves.

  • Treating an employee less favourably for giving evidence or giving notice of their intention to give evidence under the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act.

An employee who believes they have been penalised can make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission. Almost half (48%) of WRC inspections in the agriculture sector since 2015 have uncovered employment law breaches.[i]

Conclusion

While employing part-time workers can reduce the workload of other employees and/or increase business capacity, it is very important to understand the rights and entitlements of part-time workers. For further information and/or advice, contact ifac’s HR & Payroll Services Team.


[i] See Workplace Relations Commission Annual Report 2020. https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/publications_forms/corporate_matters/annual_reports_reviews/annual-report-2020.pdf