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Framework agreement on part-time work – Directive 1997/81/EC (1997)

The purpose of the agreement on part-time work as negotiated by the social partners in 1997 is to provide for the removal of discrimination against part-time workers and to improve the quality of part-time work. It is also intended to facilitate the development of part-time work on a voluntary basis and to contribute to the flexible organisation of working time in a manner which takes into account the needs of employers and workers.

The agreement covers all part-time workers as defined by national law and practice. Exclusion of part-time workers on a casual basis is possible at national level.

A part-time worker is defined as “an employee whose normal hours of work, calculated on a weekly basis or on average over a period of employment of up to one year, are less than the normal hours of work of a comparable full-time worker”.

Regarding all working conditions part-time workers shall not be treated in a less favourable manner than comparable full-time workers solely because they work part-time, unless different treatment is justified on objective grounds (principle of equal treatment).

What is a comparable full-time worker?

A full-time worker in the same establishment with the same type of contract, engaged in the same or similar work. Seniority or skills might also be taken into consideration.

The principle of pro rata temporis applies, meaning that certain working conditions will apply according to the time worked.

Where justified by objective reasons, Member States, after consultation with the social partners, may make access to particular conditions of employment subject to a period of service, time worked or earnings qualification.

Member States and social partners must identify, review and eliminate obstacles which limit opportunities for part-time workers.

Employers should take into consideration for example:

  • requests by workers to transfer from full-time to part-time work or vice versa, or to increase their working time should the opportunity arise;
  • facilitation of access by part-time workers to vocational training to enhance career opportunities and occupational mobility;
  • the provision of appropriate information to workers’ representative bodies about part-time work in the enterprise.

A worker’s refusal to transfer from full-time to part-time or vice versa is not a valid reason for termination.

Part-time workers have the same active and passive collective rights as full-time workers.

The agreement was transposed into a Directive (97/81/EC).


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