Many women who work part time put up with poor treatment from their bosses because they don`t realise they have the same rights as their full time colleagues, a leading maternity discrimination lawyer has claimed.
Speaking at the Pregnant Then Screwed Live, UK festival of motherhood and work , Danielle Ayres of Gorvins solicitors said that many part time female workers were unaware of their rights which includes getting the same pay rates and pension opportunities as those who worked full time.
“It`s a situation which leaves many women ripe for exploitation, ` says the award winning lawyer who set up the Keeping Mum Campaign on her own return from maternity leave.
`Working part time is not a licence to deny staff their rights. But if women don`t know they have the same rights and are therefore entitled to complain, then the situation will continue.`
The law, she went on, is clear about equal opportunities for full and part time workers – including training and career development, selection for promotion and career breaks.
`But since many part –timers – many of whom are women, juggling work with children – don`t realise this, there is scope for being exploited by bosses who maximise their ignorance of their rights. `
There are 5.85 million women in part-time employment in the UK, compared with 2.11 million men .
And even though the introduction of Shared Parental Leave in 2015 offered couples the opportunity to share time off after having a child, research has found only one per cent of men have taken up the opportunity.
Meanwhile, there are now 4.9 million working mothers with dependent children, up almost a third from 3.7 million in 1996, the Office for National Statistics found. The increase means close to three quarters of women with dependent children are now in work.
Not all rights have an exact equivalence between full and part time work. Some benefits are applied ‘pro rata’ such as the amount of annual leave a person is entitled to, which may reflect the hours worked. And part-time workers may not get overtime pay until they’ve worked over the normal hours of a full-time worker.
An employer may provide health insurance for full-time employees but not part-timers if this can be objectively justified. Their reason may be that the costs involved are disproportionate to the benefits part-timers are entitled to.
The inaugural Pregnant Then Screwed Live, UK festival of motherhood and work , aimed to provide help, information and support for parents trying to balance work and home life. Sessions at the Manchester-based event included workshops on flexible working, returnships, starting your own business, going self-employed, childcare solutions, your legal rights and confidence building.
Adds Danielle: `It is often thought that when an employee asks to work part-time, this shows their commitment, drive and enthusiasm for the job has diminished in some way. There`s a common misconception that if an employee is not sitting at their desk 9-5 then they are not committed or that their priorities lie elsewhere. This is often actually not the case at all. There are many reasons why people ask to work part-time, such as carers, people with disabilities and those winding down to retirement for example. Working part time can often be a good thing, it promotes loyalty to a business, increases productivity of individuals and means that people are happier at work as they have a better work-life balance.
`Unfortunately, working part time is still seen very much as a women`s issue as most employees wanting part-time work are those with childcare responsibilities . Yet women do not know their rights in this area and that they are protected if they are treated unfairly as a result of working part-time. These rights take effect from day one. So if you do believe you are being treated unfairly you have the right to request a written explanation from your employer explaining the difference in treatment, which they must respond to within 21 days of the request being made or to raise a grievance complaint. `