Part-time firefighters win out

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has won an eight-year legal battle to ensure that part-time firefighters working on a emergency call system entitled ‘retained duty’ receive the same benefits as full-timers.

Firefighters working retained duty respond solely to emergency requests via 999 calls.

The Croydon Employment Tribunal found that firefighters working retained duty were discriminated against when they were denied access to a pension scheme and the same sick pay (pro rata) as full-time firefighters. Its judgment, based on principles set out by the House of Lords earlier in the case in 2006, establishes the right to equal treatment between part-time and full-time workers across a range of employment issues.

The claim was originally dismissed, but union lawyers appealed to the House of Lords which ruled in its favour.

Richard Arthur, partner at Thompsons Solicitors, explained that the FBU had to prove that firefighters working retained duty were employed under the same type of contract as full-time firefighters to do broadly the same type of work, but that they were being treated less favourably in terms of sickness absence and entitlement to a pension scheme.

Arthur said: “There are massive implications with the House of Lords’ decision. It means that employers do not have to conduct individual analysis into part-time workers. If part-time workers’ core duties are the same as [full-time] workers’ then they will be eligible for the same benefits.”

A further claim from the union for increased pay for additional responsibilities is still to be clarified.