Where a full-time position is advertised, is the employer required to consider an applicant who informs it at interview that they would like to work part time?

If a female job applicant who is suitable for the post intimates that they would like to work part time, or as part of a job-share arrangement, and if the reason for the request is that they cannot work full time, or would have difficulty doing so, on account of childcare responsibilities, a refusal by the employer to appoint them on this basis may amount to unlawful indirect sex discrimination.

Under s.19 of the Equality Act 2010, any "provision, criterion or practice" that is applied to job applicants (or current employees) and which puts women at a particular disadvantage when compared to men will be unlawful, unless the employer can show it to be "a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim". It has been accepted by courts and tribunals over many years that fewer women than men can work full time due to the fact that more women than men have primary responsibility for childcare. A requirement to work full time will therefore be a criterion that discriminates indirectly against women. To justify it, the employer would have to show that requiring the job to be performed full time by one employee was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim such as the effective performance of the job, or the efficient running of the business.

Management preference, administrative convenience or custom and practice will be insufficient to justify a refusal to agree to part-time working.