Part-time working can consist of:
- Employees working fewer days than full-time staff
- Employees working fewer hours each day
- Job sharing.
Remember - employees who are working part-time must not be treated less favourably than full-time employees, unless the employer can provide a justification for that treatment. More information on employment law relating to part-time workers is available on the part-time workers Q&As.
There are a number of practical issues to consider when managing employees who are moving to part-time working, which we will consider in turn:
- Agreeing the new working pattern
- Monitoring hours worked
- Managing expectations and workloads
- Work life balance and wellbeing
Agreeing the new working pattern
The organisation and employee must formally agree the working pattern: specifically, how much time the employee will be working. Consider the following, taking into account the employee’s job role and the operational needs of the organisation:
- How many days or hours a week does the employee need to work?
- Whilst working part-time, should the employee work a reduced number of days or a reduced number of hours?
- What other commitments or personal circumstances are relevant to the hours the employee can work – for example, are they also undertaking childcare or are they providing care for people?
Wherever possible, the working pattern should be mutually agreed.
More information on terms and conditions of employment is available on the terms and conditions of employment topic page.
Depending on the organisation and its policies and procedures, it may or may not be necessary to formally record and monitor employee working hours. Where existing systems exist (for example, time recording software), they may continue to be used.
Employees can be asked to formally record their own working hours or arrangements in any way that is suitable and practical for the organisation and the role they undertake.
However hours are recorded, line managers must ensure that part-time employees are not working in excess of their contractual working hours and should take steps to address it with any employee where they believe this is the case.
Managing expectations and workloads
It is important that employees only work the hours that have been agreed with them.
- Agree expectations with employees as soon as the part-time working begins.
- Review existing workloads and tasks to take into account the new hours. Depending on the nature of the job, it may be necessary to reduce workloads, provide more time to complete activities or remove some tasks from the job description.
- Review existing formal objectives and amend them where necessary.
- When assessing performance, for example during a future performance review, take into account this period of time and ensure the employee is not unfairly penalised for having worked part time.
- Clearly communicate the new expectations and keep these under regular review.
Work-life balance and wellbeing
Part-time employees sometimes report that their work activity spills over into their non-working time, or that they find themselves working more hours than they are contracted to undertake. These issues can arise as a result of a range of factors including a lack of boundaries between home and work, the challenges of balancing work and childcare, isolation and lack of contact with friends and family. These challenges apply equally to all employees including part-time workers.
Together, this complex mix of issues mean that employee wellbeing should be high on the organisational agenda for all employers.
Where the organisation has wellbeing support or available activities these should be highlighted regularly to all employees. Part-time workers should specifically be encouraged to make use of them in the same way as their full-time colleagues.
Managers can support the wellbeing of part-time employees by closely monitoring workloads, adjusting objectives and targets, ensuring regular communication and regularly checking in with them. They should also be aware of the potential for part-time employees to work longer than necessary and take steps to address this should they see any signs of this occurring.
You can find more information and resources on wellbeing on the wellbeing topic page.
Ensuring effective communication with part-time employees is essential. Managers must ensure that all employees, whatever hours they are working, receive relevant and timely information, and have the opportunity to be involved with team discussions. Consider the following:
- Holding team meetings on days when everyone is working. Where possible, schedule work so that there is a time in the week where this is possible.
- Where people cannot attend team meetings, ensure that they receive a separate update through an appropriate mechanism, whether this is face to face, via email or through a one-to-one meeting.
- Set up an online space for sharing and discussion where employees can engage asynchronously if they are unable to communicate at a time when they are all working.
- Ensure regular dialogue between managers and employees – ideally weekly wherever possible. Talk to the team about the best ways to communicate.
- Where a whole team is working part-time or flexibly, consider setting up an informal place to communicate in order to keep in touch and foster a sense of team working. A WhatsApp group or Yammer group can work well but participation should be voluntary.
Finally, where a team has multiple part-time workers, it may be helpful to agree some team protocols around team communication, meetings, providing updates to each other, technologies and availability and contact times. The whole team can work together to create and agree these.
Planning for the future
Requests for flexible working must be considered in a reasonable manner and in a reasonable timeframe. More information on flexible working is available on the flexible working topic page.
For some employees, it may be their first experience of working part-time. It may also be the first time that managers have managed a team with flexible, part-time staff. The following advice sheets for employees and line managers provide information on how to make part-time working a success. They can be downloaded and adapted for your own use.
Explore our related content
COVID-19: furlough guide
This guide outlines the key facts you need to know about furlough leave
Understand the legal and practical considerations that are involved in introducing staggered shifts or working hours
Answers to frequently asked questions to offer guidance in responding to the coronavirus disease, COVID-19