HR Expert: Treating Part time workers fairly
My client has a number of senior account managers. Their roles are vital to the success of the business, and continued client satisfaction.  Following various requests by members of the team, a few of them started working part time a few months ago. My client didn’t put any plans in place to make this work, instead they just relied on the staff to get it done.

After losing a few key clients, my client has now decided it is because of the lack of continuity with the account managers. There is no longer enough work for everyone, and they want to terminate the part time employees, as they don’t think part time works for the organisation. 

A reduction in work is a valid reason for redundancy. However, before dismissing anyone, a thorough and meaningful consultation will need to take place. This does not, contrary to what your client wants to do, mean automatically selecting the part time employees.

The unfair treatment of part time workers, due to their part time status, is expressly prohibited in regulations. This is a topic that we are seeing more and more before tribunals, with cases relating to the part time regulations up 767% over the last 18 months. There is also a risk here of unfair dismissal for your client, if the part time workers are selected purely for that reason.

Understandably, the employer has connected the loss of the clients to the move to part time, due to the timing of when this has happened. But there were also no plans put in place to accommodate the change of hours and manage the impact it would have on clients, and measures could be used to manage this more effectively. These might include:

  • Thorough handovers of work
  • A shared log of what has been done, and what needs doing
  • Pairing team members up to ensure familiarity with clients and workloads
  • Managing client expectations of account manager availability

Turning back to the redundancy, when an employer needs to reduce the headcount in a team, due to a reduction in work, they need to look at all employees equally, and devise objective criteria for choosing between them. The hours they work should not be one of these criteria. Instead, they should be looking at objective measures of performance and contribution to the team and scoring employees against this.

Should the result of the selection criteria exercise be that some full-time members of staff score the least, the employer will have to discuss managing the workload with the remaining staff members, and better ways of working to ensure continuity for clients. Engaging them in consultation in this is likely to reap significant rewards for your client.

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