Any employer wishing to recruit an employee on a part-time basis must conclude an employment contract either before or on the first day of work.
The employment contract is an agreement that governs a work relationship through which one person undertakes to work under another in return for remuneration.
An employment contract must respect certain obligations regarding form and content.
An employer who wishes to create a part-time position must first consult the joint works committee, or, failing this, the staff delegation.
Furthermore, before recruiting an employee and drawing up an employment contract, an employer must first submit a declaration of vacant position to the National Employment Agency (Agence pour le développement de l'emploi - ADEM).
The declaration will enable ADEM to check whether there are any jobseekers who have employment priority.
Furthermore, if a full-time employee expresses the wish to work on a part-time basis to his employer, the employer must inform him in priority of available part-time positions within the company which match his profile (i.e. his training, experience and competences). Despite the obligation to inform employees of all availabilities, the employer is not obliged to respond favourably to an employee's request to work on a part-time basis.
How to proceed
Form of an employment contract
An employer who recruits an employee on a part-time basis must draw up an employment contract.
Besides the mandatory information which must be included in all employment contracts, a part-time contract must include the following information:
- the weekly work schedule agreed between the 2 parties;
- the distribution of working hours throughout the week;
- where applicable, the limits, conditions and terms under which the employee may work overtime;
- the limits and conditions regarding the flexibility of working hours.
In the case of a CDD, a part-time employment contract must also contain the mandatory information required for a permanent contract.
It is possible to include a trial period in a part-time employment contract, i.e. a probation period that begins at the start of the employment contract. The rules regarding the trial period are the same as for a full-time employment contract (permanent or fixed term).
The duration of the trial period may not exceed that of an employee with a full time contract.
Working time and overtime
The employer and the employee must agree on a weekly work schedule that is inferior to the standard work schedule in the business, in compliance with labour law or the collective working agreement.
Normal working hours
Even if part-time employees have a work schedule inferior to the standard work schedule in the business, they can nevertheless work more than the daily and weekly hours stipulated in the contract, provided that:
- the weekly work schedule calculated over a 4-week reference period does not exceed the duration of weekly working hours stated in the contract, and;
- the actual daily and weekly working time does not exceed the standard daily and weekly working time stated in the contract by more than 20 %.
Example: if the weekly working time stated in the contract is 20 hours, the salaried worker may work:
- 18 hours during the first week;
- 18 hours during the second week;
- 21 hours during the third week;
- 23 hours during the fourth week.
The average weekly working time is 20 hours ((18 + 18 + 21 + 23) / 4) ; the working time stipulated in the contract is therefore respected, as well as the maximum weekly working time, which is 24 hours (20 % of 20 hours = 4 hours; 20 hours + 4 hours = 24 hours).
However, the contract may state that the actual daily and weekly working time of the part-time employee may exceed the standard daily and weekly working time stipulated in the contract by more than 20 %.
The application of these dispositions cannot have as a result that the part-time employee works more hours than the working time fixed by law or a disposition in a convention for a full-time employee of the same establishment or business.
Hours worked exceeding the limits of the working time authorised by law or stipulated in the employment contract are considered as overtime.
Overtime can only be carried out subject to a mutual agreement between the employer and employee and in the conditions stipulated in the employment contract. The employee's refusal to work overtime outside the limits set in the contract (or in other conditions than those stipulated in the employment contract) is not a legitimate or serious reason for dismissal.
Working overtime cannot have as an effect to raise the actual working time above the normal working time of a full-time employee of the same establishment or business.
The part-time employee is entitled to the salary premiums established by law for the overtime worked.
Amending a part-time contract
The amendment of a part-time contract is subject to the same rules as that of any employment contract.
The amendment procedure for the provisions in a contract is depending on the type of amendment. An employer may indeed decide to change unilaterally any provision which is considered as favourable or neutral to the employee or which is an ancillary clause.
The amendment of essential clauses in an employment contract is subject to a specific procedure.
The following are considered essential clauses in a part-time contract:
- the distribution of working hours throughout the week;
- the limits, conditions and terms regarding overtime work.
As a general rule, the amendment of working hours is an ancillary provision except where the employee stressed the importance of the working schedule at time the employment contract was signed.
Rights of part-time employees
Part-time employees must benefit from the same rights as those established for full-time employees by the applicable law or collective agreement, namely by:
- taking into account their working schedule and level of seniority in the business, wages for part-time employees are proportional to that of employees equally qualified who work full time in a similar position in the business;
- establishing the rights related to seniority and therefore ensuring that the length of service (seniority) for part-time workers is calculated as if they worked on a full-time basis;
- ensuring that the departure allowance for full-time and part-time employees is calculated proportionally to periods of employment carried out on a full-time or part-time basis respectively.