Part time working – what are the options?

Aug 10, 2020 | Terms and Conditions

Part of ensuring you maximise the business benefits of part time working and understand your legal obligations is understanding all the different types of part time working there are. It’s not just about reducing hours, there are many other options available, and even if employees don’t request them specifically, understanding them is useful. It may help in compromising in the event of a flexible working request to enable you to come an arrangement which works for all concerned, and will help you understand the implications of a request.

Fixed hours reduction

The most common and obvious option is reducing hours, from, say, five days a week to three, or reducing the number of hours worked each day, but on a fixed basis.

The advantage is that everyone has certainty in terms of knowing when the individual is working, things like holiday calculations are reasonably straightforward, and for the individual, if they have childcare or other personal circumstances they need to work around, this is easier, meaning you are more likely to be able to retain good staff looking for a workable balance between their job and their personal responsibilities.

The disadvantage is that you potentially get less (or no) flexibility, which may or may not be an important factor.

Variable hours and flexitime

These arrangements give employees more control over their hours and start and finish times, usually within set parameters such as core working hours or days. Considerations would include whether the role is suitable for this type of arrangement, how the employee will be managed and monitored, how hours will be recorded, what notice the employee needs to give of their planned hours, and, if several employees are doing it, how you will ensure full cover of the office.

You also need to think about whether you’ll allow hours to be “banked” and taken off later, how much say the employee will have about the timings of this, or whether it’s just going to be an ability to vary start and finish times.

Variable hours and flexitime arrangements are more commonly workable if they are across the board rather than for individual roles.


Job-sharing is when two part time workers share a job, usually a full time one. The job is most commonly divided by time, doing the same duties the first and second half of the week, but it could also be separating the duties out to suit skills. To make job sharing work effectively usually requires either a weekly handover period or regular meetings between the two job sharers.

Sometimes two people apply for a full time job together, or sometimes you have a full timer who wants to reduce hours and you recruit a job share partner. If you agree to a job share arrangement, this needs setting out clearly in a contract or letter, including details of what happens if one job share partner resigns.

Term-time working

Some employees work only during school term time, and this is no longer confined to roles within an academic environment as employers are more open to the concept. Term time working is especially useful for parents as it avoids the problem of childcare for school holidays.

However many roles simply cannot accommodate this arrangement, especially those where the busy time is during the summer. If you are considering a term time working arrangement for one of your employees you need to consider things like whether the employee will be able to take holiday during term time or must confine it to school holiday time, whether to pay the employee for the time worked when it is worked, or spread their annual total over 12 months.

You need to also consider the impact on others. If your business is quiet during the summer anyway, the impact on other staff might be very small. But if you’re busy year-round, you might end up having to refuse holiday requests in summer time for remaining staff, and that might cause difficulties.

Annualised hours

This arrangement can be very flexible, and involves totalling up the hours the employee is contracted to work during the year, and allowing them either some or complete flexibility in when they work those hours. An annualised hours arrangement can be similar to term time working as it may enable employees to work longer hours during term time and reduce hours right down or take a lot of leave during school holidays.

Things to consider include how hours will be recorded, how holiday will be accrued and booked, and what if any restrictions will be placed on the employee in terms of when they can work extra or take time off.

There is a wide variety of possible part time working arrangements, and parameters can be set on all of them so be open minded and actively consider whether there is an arrangement that might work for your employee and your business. Make sure any part time arrangements are put in writing with details of any contractual and procedural arrangements such as holiday booking and training attendance, to avoid potential disputes later.

If you’d like some advice on part time working options, do get in touch.