On the Governments Draft Regulations
on Part-Time Workers
The government is due to implement the European Directive on
part-time workers in April. It has recently published the draft regulations for
its implementation of this Directive.
The TUC has said that it believes that the draft
regulations, if unchanged, would not meet European legal requirements and leave
the government open to legal challenge of the kind already brought by the TUC
on parental leave regulations. It says that only 1 in every 150 part time
workers might benefit (45,000 out of Britains 6.8 million part timers)
according to the governments own regulatory assessment.
The TUC says that the main problems with the regulations
· They only cover
employees (i.e. those with a contract of employment) rather than all workers
the term used in the European Directive.
· Part timers will
only be allowed to compare their jobs with a full timer doing the same job for
the same employer. This means that millions of part time workers doing jobs
only done by part timers such as catering and cleaning will not benefit.
· The regulations have
been drafted using different legal terms and concepts than those used in
existing British law, such as the Sex Discrimination Act and Equal Pay Act.
According to the TUC, this will make legal cases more complex and expensive, as
lawyers will advise aggrieved part timers to challenge on both part time and
sex discrimination grounds.
· Parts of the
Directive such as protection against dismissal have simply been
TUC General Secretary John Monks said that the draft
regulations are perhaps "the weakest and most disappointing produced by
this government. Clearly the order has gone out to make them as weak as
possible, and in practice they will make no difference to the vast majority of
part timers." He said that the draft regulations clearly show that the
government is not on the side of low paid women workers, but would rather
listen to the "anti-red-tape brigade".
When the Employment Sub-Committee of the Commons Education
and Employment Select Committee was looking in 1998 at the role that part-time
workers play in business and how the law covers their rights, they heard
evidence from representatives of the supermarkets Sainsbury and Tesco. The
representative of Tesco said, "There is a clear economic driver for being
able to design a flexible workforce whose main constituent parts will be part
timers: hours of opening, the complexity of employing full timers and wanting
to employ people when you need them. There is also a clear social driver too:
women in the work force, women coming back to work and women having to balance
family and working life."