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01 March 1999

Part-time workforce continues to grow as part timers gain new employment rights
The government is preparing regulations to implement the provisions of a European directive which gives part-time workers equal rights with full timers. Using statistics from the Labour Force Survey, Labour Research magazine has analysed the size, growth and nature of the part-time workforce and looked at the likely impact which the new legislation will have on part timers' rights.

The analysis, published in the March women's special issue of Labour Research, reveals that:
* The part-time workforce remains overwhelmingly female and is continuing to grow. Some 45% of all women workers work part time (less than 30 hours) compared with 10% of male workers. The female part-time workforce has increased by 28% over the last 10 years while the female workforce as a whole grew by 22%.
* A growing number of men now work part time. In 10 years the male part time workforce has grown 138% - from 556,000 in 1988 to 1,325,000 in 1998.
* Whilst the majority of people working part time do so out of choice, the proportion who do so involuntarily because they cannot find full-time work has risen by 50% in the last 10 years, from eight per cent to 12%. This growth is likely to be accounted for by the large number of unemployed men aged 50-60, who may prefer to work part time rather than not to work at all.
* Part-time work is concentrated in three occupations - clerical work, personal and protective services and sales - together these employ six in 10 part timers.
* Part-time workers earn just 70% of the average hourly earnings of full timers;
* Just five per cent of part timers are in managerial jobs compared with 15% of employees as a whole, but twice as many male part timers make the managerial grade compared with women part timers.

The EU directive on part-time working guarantees pro-rata rights to part timers and gives workers the right to request transfers to and from part-time work. It also imposes an obligation on EU member states and the social partners - employers and trade unions - to identify and review obstacles, legal or otherwise, which limit access to part-time work and to take steps to eliminate these. Its provisions must be implemented in the UK by 7 April 2000 and regulations are likely to be published before the end of the year.

The directive provides a welcome fillip for part-time workers who are an increasingly significant part of the UK workforce. Furthermore, the obligation on government and the social partners to eliminate obstacles to part-time working makes it likely that the growth of part time working is likely to continue and assume increased significance. In this context, equal employment rights for part timers are essential.

However, as the Labour Research analysis points out, the directive does present some problems. For example, in how it defines part-time work; and in determining who part timers can claim pro-rata terms with.

Furthermore, the directive does not give workers an absolute right to transfer to part-time work. So while, for example, a woman returning to work after maternity leave could request to work part time and the employer would be obliged to facilitate such a request, there is no guarantee that her request will be granted. Ultimately any transfer to part-time work will depend upon its availability.

Notes to editors

Further details are contained in the feature article, Full Rights For Part Timers on pages 13-14 of the March 1999 issue of Labour Research magazine. The price of a single copy is ?2.80 (?3.10 including postage).
The Labour Research Department is an independent trade union and labour movement organisation founded 88 years ago. More than 2,000 trade union organisations, including 55 national unions, representing 99% of total TUC membership are affiliated.
For more details contact Sonia McKay on 0171 902 9827.
 

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