Nine to five?

If you work part-time in the travel industry, it’s a fair bet you are a woman and you have children.  It’s also a fair bet you have a wealth of experience in your job because you worked full-time for a long stint before you had kids.


But because you’re part-time, you may only receive half as much training as your full-time co-workers, and your pay may be less pro-rata than full-time colleagues.


According to the Equal Opportunities Commission, British employers have been slow to recognise the changing work landscape, and tend to reward ‘presenteeism’ as much as performance. The good news is the Government has brought about a series of reforms for part-time workers. These include the flexible working laws introduced in 2003 which gave all workers the right to request flexible working hours after having a family, and which obliges all employers to seriously consider the request.


Happily, there are signs that employers in the travel industry are wising up to modern working practices and are adapting their businesses accordingly.


A spokeswoman for Going Places said: “A lot of our shops are in shopping centres which can have long opening hours, so it is beneficial for us to employ part-time workers who are flexible with their hours.


“They aren’t working nine to five, but they are giving us the chance to sell for longer periods – a real benefit to the company.”


TUI operates a flexible working policy that helps out thousands of working mothers, fathers and carers, while Thomas Cook offers new recruits a range of full-time, part-time and flexible working hours.


These can be best matched to staffing levels, customer demands and trading hours. The company is also reported to be bringing in part-time homeworking for some high-street agents this autumn.


Among Thomas Cook’s top selling job holders, 20% work part-time, and 32% are over 50. A company spokes-person said: “This allows employees to meet their own requirements for a work-life balance and enhances customer service levels by having staff in the right place at the right time.


“It also promotes diversity and flexibility which attracts students, semi-retired, parent returners and full-timers alike.”


First Choice and Flight Centre have also revealed they are considering similar flexible working arrangements for staff.




Since April 6 2003, eligible parents of children aged under six, or of disabled children under eighteen, have had the right to apply for work flexibly, providing they have a qualifying length of service. Employers have a statutory duty to consider these applications seriously.

The employee has a responsibility to think carefully about their desired working pattern when making an application, and the employer is required to follow a specific procedure to ensure applications for work flexibly are properly looked into. A sample form, that employees can use to make an application, is available on the Department of Trade and Industry website

The current UK law does not provide an automatic right to work flexibly, as there will always be circumstances when the employer is unable to accommodate the employee’s request.

CASE STUDY ONE:  The employee

Sally Earnshaw*, 32, worked for a miniple for 10 years before starting a family. Before her first child came along, she was seen as a dynamic, committed professional and received training, regular pay reviews and respect from those around her.


After she returned from maternity leave, Sally requested to work part-time. The request was granted, although she was told it would be reviewed after three months.


“I was over the moon and thought the three months was just a formality,” said Sally. “I had enjoyed being a full-time mum, but equally I wanted to get back into the real world, doing a job I had always really loved.”


But in those three months, she was passed over for two training opportunities, was told about decisions she would previously have been instrumental in making, and watched someone else receive a pay rise while her salary remained static.


“The message I was getting from my male and female bosses alike was I had taken my eye off the ball simply because I had taken time out to have a child. After three months, I was told the situation wasn’t working out and I was, instead, offered a much more junior role.” Not surprisingly, Sally then quit her job.


  • There are 7.4 million part-time workers in the UK; only 22% of them are men.

  • Part-timers receive only half as much training as full-timers.

  • On average, women working part-time receive 40% less pay than full-time male colleagues.

  • 38% of mothers and 11% of fathers have been forced to give up a job, or turn one down, because of caring responsibilities.

CASE STUDY TWO: The employer

Mike Tattersall, owner of Epsom Worldchoice, employs part-time staff and says there are real benefits to having this working arrangement.


He said: “People who work part-time work more efficiently than someone in a full-time role. It’s also worth considering that its often a more mature person who is doing part-time work – someone who has a wealth of experience in the industry.


However, there is a downside. He said: “Continuity can be a problem. Travel is one of those industries where people like to see the same face, from booking to receiving tickets.


It needs to flow, and this can’t happen when you have two people doing one full-time job.”



Annualised hours: employees’ working time (and pay) is to be calculated and scheduled over a period of time (e.g, a year).

Compressed hours: work time is compressed into fewer and longer blocks during the week. For example, you might fit your week’s hours into four days, or a nine-day fortnight, by starting early or working late.

Flexitime: the agreed amount of hours are worked in a flexible manner.

Homeworking: all work is completed at home.

Job-sharing: a full-time job is split between co-workers.

Self-rostering: the boss works out the number of staff and type of skills needed each day, then lets employees put forward the times they would like to work.

Shift working: this usually involves working hours outside the usual nine-to-five.

Staggered hours: also known as shift-splitting. Traditionally enables the employee to go home in the middle of a shift to supervise children or elderly relatives and then return to work.

Term-time working: this allows parents to only work during school term time.


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