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British Airways case shows importance of equal pay for full and part-time workers

A recent case at the Employment Appeal Tribunal has highlighted the need for employers to have consistency of pay and contracts between full and part-time staff.

The case of British Airways vs. Pinaud  considered the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000, which are intended to prevent employers from treating part-time staff less favourably than their full-time counterparts.

Mrs Pinaud,  a part-time member of cabin crew, was found to have been less favourably than full-time colleagues because she was paid 50% of full pay for 53.5% of full-time hours available.

The details of the case

Mrs Pinaud joined BA as a full-time member of cabin crew in 1985. She went part-time on her return from maternity leave 20 years later.  She then spent 10 years working part-time before taking voluntary redundancy.

When she was full-time she worked six days on and three days off. As a part-time worker she had to be available to work for at least 10 days out of the 14 days when she was on duty under what BA described as a 50% contract. She was paid 50% of full-time pay. She was required to bid for hours under this system and her working hours therefore varied even though she was paid the same amount.

The EAT agreed with the findings of the Employment Tribunal which concluded that full-time staff worked 243 days, whereas part-time staff worked 130 days. As a percentage, this works out as 53.5% of full-time hours for just 50% of full-time pay.

Key points for employers

To claim under the regulations, the Claimant must be able to compare their treatment with a full-time employee to demonstrate that their treatment as a part-time worker has been less favourable. In this case, the comparator was a colleague of Mrs Pinaud’s who had worked full-time for the entire time that Mrs Pinaud had been part-time. The data showed that Mrs Pinaud worked 53.17% of the duty hours and 53.83% of the flying hours of Miss Evans whilst only receiving 50% of the pay.

BA did try to establish a defence by trying to show that the treatment was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Their argument hinged on the fact that the variation in hours between full and part-time was minimal and that some variation was needed to provide a workable contract, given the fact that the working year is not neatly divisible by full or part-time hours.

Employers must be particularly careful if part-time workers are paid a set salary even if they work variable hours. One solution is to keep a log of hours worked to ensure that part-time staff are paid a comparable amount to their full-time counterparts.