What is meant by part-time work?

Part-time work is defined as working less than the normal working time applicable in the company.

If the normal working time in a company is, for example, 40 hours per week, any work below this is to be considered part-time work.

What special information is included in part-time employment contracts?

In addition to the mandatory information for any employment contract, the part-time employment contract must contain the following information:

  • the weekly working time agreed between the parties;
  • the arrangements for the distribution of working hours over the different days of the week.

The employer is prohibited from unilaterally changing this distribution. A change can only be implemented after mutual agreement with the employee. Where applicable, the limits, conditions and procedures according to which the employee may be required to work overtime. A change in these limits, terms and conditions can only be made by mutual agreement between the employer and the employee.

Do employers have to offer part-time work to employees who request it?

No, the law does not impose this obligation.

It is only stipulated that employees expressing the wish to take up or return to a part-time job be informed as a matter of priority of part-time jobs available in the company that correspond to their professional qualifications and experience.

The same information is provided for a part-time employee who wishes to take up or resume a full-time job.

Can an employee refuse to work part-time?

Yes, an employee working full time, who is offered part-time work by the employer, can refuse to do part-time work. The same applies in the opposite case, i.e. when an employee working part-time is offered full-time work by his employer. In both cases, the employee’s refusal is neither a serious reason for dismissal nor a legitimate reason for dismissal with notice.

What are the rights of part-time employees?

Generally speaking, the law enshrines the principle of non-discrimination between a full-time employee and a part-time employee:

  • the remuneration of part-time employees is proportional to the remuneration of employees who, with the same qualifications, hold an equivalent full-time job in the company;
  • the length of service of part-time employees is calculated in the same way as that of full-time workers.

Part-time workers and the work organisation plan (WOP): what conditions must be fulfilled?

The work organisation plan (WOP) also applies to employees who work part-time, which means that employees can work longer than the working hours agreed upon in their contracts.

The WOP sets out the precise rules for part-time employees.

The following rules are to be complied with:

  • Average weekly working time calculated over the reference period must not exceed the normal weekly working time laid down in the employment contract.

Example :

An employment contract specifies that a given employee works 20 hours/week. During the reference period of four weeks, this limit is made flexible, so that the employee may be required to work:

    • 24 hours during week 1;
    • 16 hours during week 2;
    • 18 hours during week 3;
    • 22 hours during week 4.

If average working time is calculated for these four weeks, the figure should not exceed the 20 hours/week stipulated in the contract.

In this example, average time is (24 + 16 + 18 + 22): 4 = 20 hours/week.

The contractual limit is therefore in compliance.

  • During the reference period, the employer can make the employee work up to 20% more than the daily and weekly work stipulated in the contract.

ATTENTION : a clause in a part-time worker’s contract of employment may provide for a lower rate of flexibility, but also for a flexibility rate higher than 20%. Notwithstanding, the limit is in any case the normal weekly working time (full-time) of the company (i.e. in most cases 40 hours/week).

Accordingly, if an employment contract provides for a working week of 20 hours, the employee may have to work up to 24 hours/week during the reference period. An employment contract may even provide for a still higher flexibility percentage of 30 or 40%.

Example a :

An employment contract provides for a working time of 25 hours/week. Within a reference period, this limit can be exceeded by 20%.

This means that the maximum working time during the reference period is 25 + (20% of 25) = 30 hours/week.

Example b :

An employment contract provides for a working time of 20 hours/week and at the same time stipulates that the excess during the reference period may be 100%.

Employees who have signed this contract state that they are prepared to work up to 40 hours/week during the reference period.

The same rules of calculation apply to make daily working time more flexible.

  • As in general law, the employee cannot be forced to work overtime during the reference period. This means that an employee must agree to do so.
  • To address an unforeseeable event, an employer can change the hours within the WOP without being obliged to pay overtime.

Can an employer force a part-time employee to work overtime?

No, overtime can only be worked by mutual agreement between an employer and an employee, within the limits and according to the terms and conditions set out in the employment contract.

In fact, the law obliges the parties to regulate the issue of overtime in the employment contract, specifying the terms and conditions under which it can be worked. A change in these limits, terms and conditions can only be made by mutual agreement between the parties.

Overtime worked by part-time employees may not have the effect of increasing their actual working time beyond the normal working time laid down by law or the collective agreement for a full-time employee in the same establishment or company.