The part-time trap: hours reduced, but not responsibilities

Stressed woman working


Forty one percent of women who have reduced their hours after having children say their responsibilities have not lessened, according to a poll.

Thirty nine per cent of those polled said their responsibilities had reduced along with their hours and the rest had not reduced their hours.

Those who had reduced their responsibilities included a teacher who had to give up all management responsibility. Others who had reduced their responsibilities included those who had come back to new roles.

The poll follows a study published last month by Dr Charlotte Gascoigne from the Timewise Foundation and Professor Clare Kelliher from the Cranfield School of Management which called on professionals who want to work part time to redesign their jobs to reduce outputs in addition to renegotiating their hours. It said employers often do not reduce workload when professionals transition to part time work, leading to increased work intensity and insufficient time for development, networking or career-building.

Failure to address workload on transition to part-time hours can put others off applying to reduce their hours, says the report, adding that thinking more laterally and redesigning the job collaboratively between colleagues, manager and clients can distribute workload more fairly across the team, enable the part-time worker to focus on what they do best, allow more junior colleagues to step up and provide cover during absences. receives regular questions to our employment experts which show many women have had flexible working requests accepted, but have not seen any reduction in their responsibilities, meaning they have to cram the same amount of work into a shorter week and be paid less for doing the same work they did full time.

Unpaid Overtime

One woman wrote: I was working full time until I had my baby and before I returned I asked if I could return part time. This was accepted (my boss’ words were that I was pushing on an open door as it meant that they could pay me £11,000 less per year). However, I am still doing the same job as before – work gets left on my desk for my return the next day and I am having to work into the evenings, days off and Sundays to keep up. All the extra is without pay and they will not offer to pay me for the extra.

Another wrote: I have been employed for three years on a part-time contract.  For the last 2.5 years I have been consistently working full-time hours.  I have asked several times for my contract to reflect this, but nothing has been done.

So how do you avoid this trap and redesign your job and what are your rights if your employer doesn’t cooperate? Under flexible working legislation, individuals have to make a business case for having their hours changed and that includes taking into account the impact that might have on the business. Ways of mitigating this can then be discussed and negotiated with the employer.

The employer has a responsibility to take into consideration the role involved and whether it can be done part time before they agree the request. If an employee’s workload is such that they are consistently working over their hours and the employer does nothing to address this internal processes such as the grievance process should be followed and employers should be aware that they could face legal action, such as a possible sex discrimination case.

For more information on flexible working legislation, see here.

Comments [1]

  • Mic says:

    I requested reduced working hours for health reasons which was granted after an assessment of whether it would impact on the business. I now work 4 days a week instead of 5. I thought my workload would have been reduced in respect of this, but instead I am expected to do the same as my full time colleagues. When I complained I was told that it was fair to divide the workload equally between team members , regardless of doing fewer hours than them and was reminded that the company were doing me favour agreeing to let me work part time. Basically, if I can’t cope with the workload then my ability to do my job will be questioned and my viability to continue as a part time worker.

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