Academic journal article Management Revue

The Right to Part-Time: Practical Implications from the Managerial Point of View**

Academic journal article Management Revue

The Right to Part-Time: Practical Implications from the Managerial Point of View**

Article excerpt

In 2001 the employee's right to reduce working-time according to their own preferences was implemented in Germany. This legal title hardly effects the slowly but steadily growing number of part-time jobs. Nevertheless, data from the socioeconomic panel suggest that about 25% of employees wish to reduce their working-time even if this is associated with a loss of income. The HR-manager is seen as a mediator and is expected to play a major role moderating the effect of the legislative implementation. Therefore the HR managers' concepts and attitudes towards part-time as well as the psychological contract are the subject of the presented study. 42 HR-managers have been interviewed. The data are analysed according to qualitative content analysis. In common use the right to reduce one's working-time is rather seen as a matter of negotiation than an obligation to comply. Indeed, the majority of the HR-managers express their goodwill but the acceptance of the part-time requests is dependent on general beliefs, work ethic, and role concepts. Regarding the right to part-time, these are indicators for a weak direct impact of labour law on the managerial reality.

Key words: Part-time, Reduced Working Hours, Psychological Contract, Human Resources, Work Ethic

Introduction

Part-time work is an increasingly used form of employment relationship. In Germany the steadily growing part-time rate has risen to 25.8% of total employment. Therewith Germany ranks behind the Netherlands as second in Europe in this regard (source: Eurostat 2007). Earlier, it was up to only the employer to decide whether forms of part-time work were used or not, but with the implementation of the EU directive 97/81 into national law, the power of decision has been shifted fundamentally. The directive aims to promote employee-oriented part-time work regarding the employers' needs and to prevent discrimination of part-timers. Complying with this directive, the so called "Teilzeit- und Befristungsgesetz" became operative in Germany in 2001. By virtue of this law employees have a right to part-time1. What is remarkable about this title is that it not only aims to protect employees (as working time regulations or the protection against dismissal do), but it also defines a strong claim to adapt one's working-times to the individual needs. The presented study is driven by the question of which consequences this legal title might have for the employer-employee relationship.

The implementation of the law was accompanied by heavy protests and employers' representatives were buzzing with excitement since they worried that staff members would call for a working-time reduction in masses. And indeed, 28% of the German full-time employees (17% female and 11% male) would like to reduce workingtime accepting the associated loss of income (Holst/Schupp 2002). These results are congruent with a European trend. According to an international comparative study conducted in 16 EU member states, employees want to reduce working-time by average of 4.5 hours a week. In contrast, many part-timers - especially those with small part-time jobs - want to extend working-time in order to earn sufficient money. This reveals the common use of part-time as an employer-oriented model for an increased managerial flexibility. According to the Federal Employment Office, the percentage of marginal part-time jobs - the so called mini-jobs and midi-jobs - with maximum wages of 400,- and 800,- Euros respectively is about 50% of the total part-time work (cp. Wanger 2004). The favourite model is the so called big part-time with around 25 to 34 hours a week (Bielenski et al. 2002).

The success of the law is evaluated differently by two studies (Magvas/Spitznagel 2002; DIHK 2001) but both agree that the numerical effect in form of part-time requests is only a little one. This is probably why,the dust has quickly settled, since implementation and the right to part-time is no longer a matter of discussion . …

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