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House of Lords Strikes Blow for Part Time Workers


A landmark decision on the fire-fighters dispute in the House of Lords will have major implications for millions of part time workers throughout the UK.

David Carmichael, Head of Employment and a Solicitor at UK law firm Pannone LLP said, “The House of Lords has allowed part-time fire-fighters to proceed with a claim under the Part-time Workers Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment Regulations 2000. This is the first House of Lords judgement to focus on the detail of the regulations which have been in force since July 2000.”

Under the regulations it is unlawful for an employer to treat a part-time worker less favourably than a comparable full time worker, doing the same or similar work under the same type of contract.

In a test case brought by part time fire-fighters, the House of Lords was asked to look at the question of what is meant by “comparable full time worker” in order to decide whether the part timers could compare their rights and benefits with the more favourable rights and benefits enjoyed by their full time colleagues. The part timers argued that although there were inevitable differences in the duties and responsibilities of part time and full time fire fighters, the similarities outweighed the differences. For both types of worker the main purpose of employment was to save life and protect property from fire.

The House of Lords agreed, and in a decision which will assist part timers in every walk of life, made it clear that when looking at claims under the regulations, tribunals should look at the extent to which a part timer’s work is the same and the importance of that work to the enterprise as a whole.

Carmichael added, “It is quite common for full time workers to have additional duties and responsibilities to part timers, but this in itself will no longer be a good reason for employers to offer less favourable levels of pay and benefits to part timers.”

David Carmichael is Head of Employment Law at Pannone LLP, a full service law firm with over 300 lawyers and a complete staff of over 630.

Pannone was voted 3rd in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to work for Survey 2006, and is the highest placed law firm in the history of the survey.



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