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Part-time working

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Part-time working

This Directive ensures that workers concerned by new forms of flexible working receive comparable treatment to full-time staff on open-ended contracts. It aims to eliminate obstacles to part-time working and recommends employers to adopt certain measures so as to take account of employees' preferences as regards flexible working arrangements.


Council Directive 97/81/EC of 15 December 1997 concerning the Framework Agreement on part-time working concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC. [See amending acts].


The purpose of the Directive is to implement the framework agreement on part-time work concluded on 6 June 1997 by the general cross-industry organisations (UNICE, CEEP, ETUC).

Content of the framework agreement

The purpose of the agreement is to eliminate discrimination against part-time workers * and to improve the quality of part-time work. It also aims 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 applies to part-time workers who have an employment contract or employment relationship as defined by the laws, collective agreements or practices in force in each Member State.

Employment conditions

In respect of employment conditions, part-time workers may 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.

The social partners and/or Member States after consulting the social partners may, where appropriate, make access to particular conditions of employment subject to a period of service, time worked or earnings qualification.

Access to part-time work

The social partners and/or Member States after consulting the social partners should identify and review obstacles which may limit the opportunities for part-time work and, where appropriate, eliminate them.

Needs of employers and workers

A worker's refusal to transfer from full-time to part-time work or vice versa should not in itself constitute a valid reason for dismissal.

Wherever possible, employers should give consideration to:

  • requests by workers to transfer from full-time to part-time work that becomes available in the establishment;
  • requests by workers to transfer from part-time to full-time work or to increase their working time should the opportunity arise;
  • the provision of timely information on the availability of part-time and full-time jobs in the establishment;
  • measures to facilitate access to part-time work at all levels of the enterprise;
  • the provision of appropriate information to workers' representatives about part-time working in the enterprise.

More favourable provisions

Member States and/or social partners can maintain or introduce more favourable provisions than set out in the agreement. Implementation of the provisions of the agreement does not constitute valid grounds for reducing the general level of protection afforded to workers in the field of the agreement.


Member States must bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Directive within two years of its entry into force, or ensure that the social partners have, by that date, introduced the necessary measures by agreement. Member States may have a maximum of one more year, if necessary to take account of special difficulties or implementation by a collective agreement. They must inform the Commission forthwith in such circumstances.

Directive 98/23/EC extends Directive 97/81/EC to the United Kingdom.

Key terms used in the act

  • Part-time worker: 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.
  • Comparable full-time worker: a full-time worker in the same establishment having the same type of employment contract or relationship, who is engaged in the same or a similar work/occupation.



Entry into force - Date of expiry

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 97/81/EC



OJ L 14 of 20. 1. 1998

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 98/23/EC



OJ L 131 of 5. 5. 1998

Last updated: 04.07.2006