Employment tribunal claims relating to part time workers trebled in the last year alone, according to law firm EMW.

Employment Tribunal cases brought under the Part Time Workers Regulations jumped from 530 cases in the year to March 2010 to 1,600 cases in the year to March 2011.

EMW explains that the increase in claims can be attributed to growing dissatisfaction from workers who were forced to take part-time hours as part of cost-cutting measures implemented by businesses to cope with the recession.

Louise Holder, partner at EMW, commented: “After the economic downturn, many employees were given no option but to take part-time hours. Some workers now feel that because of their reduced hours they have missed out on possible promotions and other benefits and so are now looking for reasons to bring their employer to an employment tribunal.”

According to EMW, the kind of claims part time workers might make include:

* Receiving lower hourly pay than their full-time equivalents
* Not being considered for promotions that are offered to full-time staff
* Not having access to the same benefits, such as company cars
* Being considered for dismissal ahead of full-time staff
* Not having the same entitlement to holiday/sick leave as full-time staff

Louise Holder said: “Traditionally employers treated part-time workers less favourably as they had less protection in law, and were sometimes seen as less a part of the team compared to full time employees.

“The Part Time Workers Regulations were introduced to change this and give part-time employees the same protection and rights, pro-rated where appropriate, as full -ime-colleagues with equivalent contracts.”

The majority of the cases that were brought under the Part Time Workers Regulations in 2010/11 came from workers in the private sector, but EMW says that there will be an increase in cases from public sector employees as the public sector adopts similar cost-cutting measures.

Louise Holder said: “The boom we are now seeing in part-time worker employment tribunal cases is partly down to the massive expansion in the part-time workforce prompted by the wave of private sector cost cutting in response to the recession.

“But it may also suggest that some employers are selecting part-time employees when it comes to making redundancies and other permanent cost reductions first.”

EMW says that the new Agency Workers Directive (AWR) legislation, which came into force in the UK on October 1 2011, is also likely to swell the part-time workforce as employers start to see permanent part time staff as a cheaper option than temporary staff.

Louise Holder commented: “The AWR means that temporary workers will have comparable rights to full-time workers after 13 weeks of employment.

“A recent report estimated that the cost to companies of providing equal benefits to temporary workers will be £1.3bn per year – or £1,775 on average per worker.

“Businesses may now prefer to hire permanent part-time staff rather than temporary staff, because their cost overheads will be lower. This means that the number of part-time workers employed in the UK will remain high even if we see significant improvements in the economy.”