Route to full rights more direct than before

30th January 1998 at 00:00
While ministers hint at changes to teachers' employment contracts Jane MacFarlane looks at recent legal developments

Quite often part-time contracts overlap with either temporary or flexible hours contracts. Part-time employees have played an important role in all types of educational establishment for many years, and while this will continue, the pattern and method by which the flexibility is achieved is set to change.

Until 1995 an employee had to work more than 16 hours per week for a period of two years in order to gain the statutory employment rights. A landmark decision in the House of Lords in 1994 involving the Equal Opportunities Commission effectively abolished the different qualifying periods based on the number of hours worked per week. The Law Lords decided that such differences were incompatible with the Treaty of Rome and European Community equal pay and equal treatment directives, due to the fact that the majority of employees who work for less than 16 hours per week are female. Thus any part-time worker who has more than two years' continuous service gains all the employment rights enjoyed by full-time workers.

In addition it has been suggested that an employer's refusal to allow a woman returner to work part-time is indirect sexual discrimination. While there have been several publicised cases over the past year or so none of these has given rise to an authoritative judgment that clarifies the law. The majority of claims have been backed by the Equal Opportunities Commission and have been settled out of court. However it is already clear that an employer must consider all such requests with an open mind and must objectively justify any refusal based on business need. They must also show that these needs outweigh the fact that the individual cannot comply with the full-time work pattern.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today