Is refusal to increase part-time hours discriminatory?

We are a group of employees who decreased our hours and now wish to increase our hours back to 100%. We have done so seasonally for different lengths of times. This winter the company has stated we cannot increase our hours due to no work being available. However, they extended employees on a different seasonal contract [seven months full time and five months off].

I have been employed by the company for 23 years continuous service, including seven years part time. Those on the different contract have been here for less time. We strongly feel we are being discriminated against for having children and becoming the main care giver. We have entered into an appeal process then leading to a grievance. What can we do?

I understand that you are part-time workers wishing to increase your hours to full time.

Although your employer is under no obligation to increase the amount of work offered to you, particularly if you have asked for and agreed part-time hours, if you feel you are being treated differently solely due to your part-time status, i.e. that full-time workers are being treated preferentially, then you may have an argument that you are being put to a detriment due to your part-time status.  However, if your employer has no more work to give you and there have been no changes to your terms and conditions of employment, then it will be difficult to pursue this argument very far.  Your employer cannot be expected to create more work for you if none is available.

My recommendation would be that you raise a grievance in this regard in an effort to negotiate an increase in hours and/or understand if there are more hours available, why you are not being offered them.  If this does not resolve matters you can appeal against any grievance decision taken by your employer.  You may also wish to take some legal advice as to whether there is any further action you can take but this will depend on your employer’s response to your grievance. You can also contact ACAS in this regard if you are unable to resolve matters direct with your employer.

*Lucy Flynn assisted in answering this question.



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