Working part-time

Extra skills, extra experience, extra cash. The advantages of working part-time while studying are obvious, but sometimes your rights may get overlooked. Knowing where you stand as a part-time employee is key to ensuring you’re treated fairly, as Penelope  explains.

Many part-time employees are unaware that under UK law, they should enjoy exactly the same rights as full-time employees (with the exception of anything that can be ‘objectively justified’ by employers). Here’s an idea of how this works:


Paid holiday leave – However few hours you work, you’re entitled to paid holiday leave of some kind. If you work two days a week, for example, you’re entitled to two fifths of the amount of time off as someone who works full-time. The government has a useful holiday entitlement calculator to help you work out how much paid holiday you should get.


Paid sick leave – As much as anyone else, you have the right to be paid if you’re off ill, providing you meet certain conditions. These include earning over a set amount, being ill for at least four days in a row (if, for example, you only work two days per week, you may be relieved to know that this also includes non-working days), and notifying your employer within seven days (or any other deadline they’ve set) of your illness. Temp and agency workers are also entitled to sick pay.


Contracts – Although the majority of us have accepted cash in hand for some kind of service (be it babysitting for a neighbour or helping a friend with a project), if you’re working for someone else on a regular basis, you should insist on a contract which details your hours (including holiday leave), pay, and information about giving notice.


Paid study time – If you are aged 16-17 (or 18 and began a course when you were younger), you are allowed a reasonable amount of paid time off to study for NVQs, intermediate GNVQs, BTEC first courses, or up to five GCSEs, as long as you’re not currently in full-time education.


Equal treatment – You can’t be discriminated against for being a part-time worker. If you’re a part-time worker, this may take the form of always being given the worst jobs because you’re not around during the week. If you have been contracted to work daytime hours, you can’t be discriminated against for refusing to work night shifts.

If you feel you’re being treated unfairly, try first to resolve the problem. It might be a simple misunderstanding which can be easily sorted out. Talk to your boss or HR department, and ask friends and family what they would do in your shoes.

Your contract should tell you where to find more information on handling company complaints or grievances. There are also a number of organisations that may help – ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service) assists people with problems in the workplace, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission helps victims of discrimination or harassment.


About Penelope

Penelope tried everything from cleaning toilets, teaching English in French men’s prisons, and working in a camel dairy in Africa, before realising that her passions lay in the rapidly-changing world of digital marketing.




Back to listing