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Can a zero-hours worker be classed as a part-time worker?

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Part-time workers may compare themselves to full-time workers for the purposes of ensuring that there is no unfair treatment they receive that full-time workers do not. Can zero-hours workers be classified as part-time workers for the purposes of these types of claim?

In Roddis v Sheffield Hallam University an associate lecturer who was working under a zero-hours contract brought a claim to an employment tribunal under the Part-Time Workers Regulations, which required him to compare himself to a full-time worker for the purposes of the claim.

The employment tribunal rejected Mr Roddis’s claim, stating that he could not compare himself to a full-time worker because he was not employed under the same type of contract, as he was a zero-hours worker.

Upon appeal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found in favour of Mr Roddis, stating that if the number of hours worked alone ruled out the possibility of comparison between a part-time and a full-time worker, then the purposes of the regulations would be self-defeating.

How does a part-time discrimination claim work?

The Part-Time Workers Regulations provide the right for part-time workers to not be treated less favourably than comparable full-time workers, providing that the following criteria are satisfied:

  • The individual must establish that they are a part-time worker;
  • they must identify a comparable full-time worker;
  • they must establish that they have been treated less favourably regarding the terms of their contract; and
  • they must display that the treatment received was due to the fact that they were a part-time worker.

Once the above criteria are met, the employer must then objectively justify the less favourable treatment.

When making a comparison between a part-time worker and a full-time worker, links such as the type of contract or type of work engaged in, observing qualifications and skills are useful tools. In Roddis v Sheffield Hallam, for example, both workers were engaged on contracts of employment, including such terms as notice periods, and statutory protection from unfair dismissal. 

What this means for employers

Employers should note that in practice, some zero-hours workers are classed as employees, whereas others may simply be classed as workers.

This classification will affect workplace rights, such as statutory sick pay and protection from unfair dismissal, so it’s important to examine the contracts that you have with your employees, so that you’re aware of their rights and your obligations.

Being aware of your workers and their rights, and ensuring that there is no unfair treatment that your part-time workers receive compared to your full-time workers should be a maintained goal.

What this means for employees

As a zero-hours worker, you may or may not be classed as an employee. This classification will determine which specific workplace rights you are entitled to, such as statutory sick pay and protection from unfair dismissal, so ensure that you have read through and understand the document or contract you are given.

The result of this case means that providing you can identify a comparable full-time worker following the above criteria, you are entitled to not be treated less favourably than full-time workers, unless your employer can justify the treatment.


If you require assistance with determining your status as a worker or employee, or identifying a comparable full-time worker for the purposes of stopping unfair treatment in the workplace, you can contact us on 0161 785 3500 at your earliest convenience.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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