The options if your senior staff want to work part time

There is a perception that part-time workers are not fully committed, but job-sharing maybe a solution, says Valerie Morton

Valerie Morton
Valerie Morton

Q. The operations director at my charity wants to go part time. Any thoughts?

A. This is a very timely question. Recent research by the recruitment agency Timewise found that an increasing number of senior staff are working part time, but many of them do not want to admit that they are doing so. There is clearly an image problem here: a perception, perhaps, that part-time workers are not fully committed or - an issue I have come across - a feeling among full-time staff that they are picking up the pieces when there is a crisis or urgent work needs doing.

Let's look at the issues that might, understandably, be concerning you. First of all, how will the work get done? If part time means two or three days a week, then the obvious solution is to recruit a job-share partner. The prospect of managing two people instead of one and making sure communication works effectively can be daunting, but on the positive side you have two sets of skills, cover when someone is on leave or off sick and, most usefully, it is less of a problem when someone resigns.

More challenging

The prospect of a senior person working a four-day week or a nine-day fortnight might seem less difficult, but in a way is more challenging - you can hardly recruit a job share for half a day a week. However, it is often easy to make up the loss by identifying discrete projects that can be delegated to another team member - this can prove an ideal personal development opportunity (and you know how much people like those).

One practical issue to consider is how you are going to manage the occasions when your director needs to work additional hours - for example, because of an unexpected workload or when they are needed at a meeting on one of their usual days off. Senior full-time staff are expected to work more than their allotted hours when necessary, but when someone on reduced hours does so and it becomes the norm, it can result in them working full time on a part-time salary. If you agree to pay overtime to them, but not to full-timers, it could be seen as inequitable.

One solution is to agree a certain number of additional hours that might need to be worked occasionally - a similar proportion to those you would expect the full-timers to do - and to arrange time off in lieu for anything more substantial.

I suggest you get some HR advice on issues such as holiday pay and bank holidays, because these invariable cause friction.

Finally, back to the image issue. Don't hide the fact that your operations director is part time. Be open and positive, and lap up the brownie points you will get for being such a forward-thinking manager.

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Valerie Morton is a trainer, fundraiser and consultant

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