Virgin pays out £1.7m to its part-time workers

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The Independent Online

Virgin Atlantic has agreed to pay 350 part-time cabin crew £1.7m in compensation because they were not allowed to skip work as often as their full-time colleagues.

Virgin Atlantic has agreed to pay 350 part-time cabin crew £1.7m in compensation because they were not allowed to skip work as often as their full-time colleagues.

In a new type of discrimination case that could pave the way for hundreds of similar claims across British industry, the stewards and stewardesses got an average of £5,000 in compensation each, not because their contracts were unfair but because full-time workers were only being asked to work an average of about 80 per cent of their hours.

Gordon White, of the union Amicus, which represented the airline crew, said the case, which was settled by Virgin before reaching court, showed the power of European regulations introduced in 2000 stipulating that part-time workers must not receive "less favourable treatment" than full-timers.

With about a quarter of workers in the UK, about seven million people, working part-time, employers could face claims running into hundreds of millions of pounds.

Virgin Atlantic's problems arose from the complex regulations surrounding the work of airline crew. Aviation law restricts the number of hours stewards and stewardesses can be in the air over a week and this meant that the airline sometimes was not able to get its full-time workers to fulfil their contracted hours.

Paul Moore, director of corporate communications at Virgin Atlantic, said: "We are not the only airline or the only industry that these regulations are going to affect. This kind of situation may hit many employers dealing with complex rostering arrangements."

Mike Hibbs, an employment specialist with the legal firm Shakespeares, said: "This is a landmark case. There haven't been very many cases involving the part-time regulations until now. This is probably the strongest interpretation that I have seen."

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