Can an employee be forced from part-time to full-time - part 2

HR News
13 Nov 2014

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.

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.‎