Employment Update June 2009: Part-time workers

10 June 2009

Scope of part-time workers’ claims

In giving its decision in the case of Carl v University of Sheffield the EAT has tried to clarify the law on the scope of the Part Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 (‘the Regulations’).

The claimant taught part-time at the university but was unable to show that she had been treated less favourably than an actual comparator. The comparator she had chosen was a full time teacher but the EAT found that her role was ‘not even broadly similar’ because the comparator had an academic as well as a vocational role and different skills and experience. So she was not a true comparator. The EAT confirmed that in these circumstances the wording of the Regulations did not allow the claimant to refer to a hypothetical comparator, so her claim failed.

The EAT also considered the question of whether any 'less favourable treatment ' must be solely on the grounds of part-time status if a claim is to succeed.

The answer to that is no, but it was confirmed that the claimant's part-time status must be the 'effective and pre-dominant cause' of the less favourable treatment.

Point to note –

  • This is a useful decision. The bad news for part-time workers is that they must find an actual and true full-time comparator before they can mount a claim under the Regulations. The good news is that, although the relevant European directive says they must prove that any less favourable treatment has been solely due to their part-time status, the EAT says that English tribunals should apply their usual test in discrimination claims: if the part time status is the predominant cause of the treatment, then the employer is liable even, if that was not the only factor.