- 13 Nov 2014
- Sabine Buhl Valentiner
The Part-Time Work Directive does not preclude an employer from requiring a part-time employee to shift to full-time. So held the EU Court in a recent ruling.
Generally, the Part-Time Work Directive is intended to ensure that part-time employees are not discriminated against or treated less favourably than full-time employees. It is also intended to promote the possibility to work part-time in general. But does the Directive preclude an employer from unilaterally changing an employee’s employment contract from part-time to full-time? That was the question before the EU Court in this case.
The case concerned an Italian woman who had worked part-time at the Italian Ministry of Justice for more than 10 years. She used to work 3 days a week, but this arrangement was discontinued and she was now required to work 6 days a week instead, equivalent to a full-time position. The woman believed that this was contrary to the Directive, and brought the matter before an Italian court, which later decided to make a preliminary reference to the EU Court.
On 22 May 2014, the Advocate General gave his opinion in the matter – click here to see our commentary.
The Italian woman claimed that the Directive was intended to prevent part-time employees from being forced to work full-time and that a unilateral decision to change the contract from part-time to full-time was discrimination.
However, the EU Court ruled against the Italian woman, giving weight to the fact that the Directive is a minimum standards directive which, although binding in relation to its overall goal, may be implemented as the individual member states and the social partners see fit. The Court held that the Directive does not preclude an employer from unilaterally changing an employment contract to increase the employee's hours of work if there are objective reasons to justify such a change.
Norrbom Vinding notes
- that the judgment makes it clear that employers are allowed under the Part-Time Work Directive to change a part-time job to a full-time job without the employee's consent if there are objective reasons for such a change; and
- that, accordingly, employees are not protected against dismissal in situations like that.