Many of the provisions of the new law passed in June 2013 relating to part-time employment came into force on 1st January.  These provisions include a minimum of 24 hours’ work per week (which may be waived in certain cases) and an increased rate of salary for extra hours from the first hour of overtime (previously, only extra hours beyond 110% of the working time provided by the contract were paid at an increased rate).   

Whilst employment lawyers strive to master the practical consequences of these provisions, the Ministry of Employment announced on 10th January a Bill to postpone the application of the minimum 24 hours per week to 1st July 2014, in order to provide additional time to negotiate new collective agreements concerning part time arrangements. This amendment should appear in the Bill concerning vocational training, employment and social democracy submitted to the Council of Ministers on 22nd January and is expected to be adopted by the end of February 2014.   

The “catch” is that the provisions whose application should now be deferred until July 2014 have already been in force since the 1st of January!  

The question therefore arises as to what regime is applicable for part-time contracts formed since 1st January 2014. Should we consider that the minimum duration of 24 hours came into force on the 1st January, and remains applicable until the amendment is passed? Or, to the contrary, does the postponement mean that these provisions are de facto no longer applicable even though they have not as of right now been overturned?  It must be hoped that the retrospective position is suitably clarified when the new Bill becomes law next month.   

Pending the publication of the Bill, caution would dictate complying with the provisions and thus that employers only enter into contracts of less than 24 hours per week at the express written request of the employee, motivated by personal convenience or a wish to undertake another employment at the same time, and in those cases established by law (workers under 26 years old, apprenticeship schemes or those who are employed by individual rather than corporate employers).   

This postponement should only concern the entry into force of the minimum hours of work per week, but we must await the publication of the draft in order to be sure.