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Benefits for part-time workers: should they be different?

Published 7th March 2017 by Melissa Farrington
Part-time and full-time sign on floor

First we discuss the legal situation - then we move onto the softer cultural side of whether you should offer different benefits for part-time workers.

Legal benefits for part-time employees

Legally, part-time workers must not be treated differently than full-time workers solely on the basis that they work part time.

That means you must treat them equally when it comes to things like pay, pensions, annual leave, career opportunities and bonus payments.

Benefits for part-time workers: statutory benefits

All employees, regardless of whether they’re part-time or full-time, are entitled to statutory benefits, such as annual leave.

But if your organisation offers anything above statutory benefits, these must also be offered to part-time workers.

Benefits for part-time workers: prorated benefits

Although part-time workers should have access to the same benefits as full-time workers, it doesn’t mean that what they receive should be the same.

  • Basic pay: With a basic issue like pay, part-time workers must not get a reduced salary just because they are part-time, but of course the actual salary is prorated down based on how many hours they actually work.
  • Employee benefits: The same is true of benefits. If you pay full-time staff a £500 bonus for hitting annual targets, you wouldn’t pay a person working half-time the same - you’d pay them 50% of the bonus, or £250. This doesn’t take into account individual contribution, of course, but it’s objective.
  • Overtime: This is an interesting area. Organisations can set the same threshold for overtime pay for part-time workers as full-time workers, otherwise technically a part-time worker could earn an enhanced rate despite working less than a full-time worker.

Benefits for part-time workers: objective justification

An organisation must meet its legal obligation to treat part-time workers the same as full-time workers. However, they can offer reduced benefits for part-time workers if they can prove it is ‘objectively justified.’

This means the organisation can prove the decision was necessary and the most logical and  reasonable course of action.

For example, providing private medical insurance to a part-time employee who works one day a week may be disproportionate. The organisation may offer the benefit provided the employee contributes to raise the prorated figure up until it meets the actual insurance premium.

Benefits for part-time workers: culture, motivation and ethics

There’s the law, which you obviously need to adhere to, but what about the softer side? You certainly don’t want to make part-time workers feel less valued than full-time employees.

The importance of in-group connection

We subconsciously place others into our in-group or our out-group and research has suggested for years we treat those in our in-group more favourably. Many part-time workers already feel disconnected from the ‘real’ employees and as an organisation that cares about motivation you want to do as little as possible to reinforce this, and as much as possible to connect part-time workers with existing in-groups.

Social occasions are the obvious point here. If you hold a Christmas party in the office, perhaps after a work day, full-time workers can obviously attend, but it may fall on a day that many part-time workers do not work. Since these occasions are very good for bonding, you should be as inclusive as possible when setting dates for social occasions.

Communications and opportunities

It’s easy to forget that many opportunities in organisations are time sensitive, particularly as so many communications are sent by email or other digital channels. Part-time workers can easily miss opportunities because they’re not logged onto their email at times that you automatically assume everyone is.

Part-time employees may also need different communications patterns for benefits, such as how deadlines are communicated. Improving benefits communication is a good goal for all employees, but part-time employees will be naturally less aware of what’s on offer to them and therefore would benefit from more targeted awareness campaigns.