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Picking the bones out of PART-TIME WORKING

Picking the bones out of PART-TIME WORKING

Why do it, how to do it well & what to expect

A few reasons why we prefer to work part-time

  • Returning to work after maternity/paternity leave
  • Care-dependent family members e.g. an elderly parent
  • Fitting around term-time and school holidays
  • Work/health balance e.g. restricted by a wellbeing limitation
  • To supplement a full-time role e.g. need to earn more
  • To gain experience in a field to improve your CV
  • To gain experience to see if you like a role
  • Free up your time to pursue other interests e.g. a sport or volunteering
  • Temporary work until a desired full-time position is available
  • You can afford to do it(!)


Clearly every employer needs to provide sufficient cover for the entire working hours of the practice. How they do this depends on their business needs, the work and rota flexibility and the availability of their existing workforce. It is up to them to choose how to staff their business, but you can make suggestions for change if it will benefit you both… don't ask don't get!

A well thought out suggestion from prospective and existing employees / locums for alternative ways of working is usually well-received, so don't think that you can't put in your proposal in this respect. No harm in asking

However, don't assume you have the right to choose whatever hours of work you want and it be automatically granted (by law or by informal arrangement) – it has to fit in with what the employer needs as well


There are many versions on the ‘part-time' theme, and these can all exist on a permanent, short-term or locum footing e.g.

‘Job-share'. This is a flexible working arrangement between two employees sharing a full-time role

  • Part-week or weekend working of full-days
  • Full-week or weekend working of partial hours
  • Ad-hoc working when required

In my experience the majority of part-time work is sought by nurses returning to work after parental leave or fitting work around caring responsibilities for younger school-age children or elderly relatives.

However, ALL employees have the legal right to ask for flexible working, not just parents.

To qualify, you must have worked for the same employer for a minimum of 26 weeks continuous service.


Legally, employers must handle the request for flexible working in a reasonable manner but can refuse to grant an application if there is a fair business ground to do so. These grounds will vary from practice to practice depending on realistic business needs.

Even if you don't qualify under UK law, it doesn't mean you can't ask. A good employer will always want to keep their qualified and experienced nurses on board in some capacity!


Make no bones about it, PT working can leave you feeling overwhelmed if you attempt to fit in a Full-Time job load or completely under-whelmed if you're used to being on an upwards-trajectory career path.

You'll probably find yourself having to consolidate and work a more ‘bread & butter' nursing role than expanding your skills-set year-on-year.

Simply put, there just is not the time to do it all anymore.

TIP - change your perspective & working practices.

Devise an efficient job-handover protocol – so before you leave for home you are satisfied that any outstanding duties will be picked up and when you arrive the jobs-list is clearly defined for you to start.

Let go of any duties that don't fit in with the hours you are working. Why struggle and stress? It will make you feel awful that you can't cope, guilty that the job can't be done as well and possibly blow your gaskets because you've overloaded yourself.

It's possible that your Boss needs to help you as they're unknowingly overloading you; simply because you're just accepting the situation. No. Don't do it. You will be stressing all the time. Have the conversation. It doesn't mean you're failing. It absolutely means you just have less time to do as much.

Be fully present at work and home.
Feeling guilty is wasted energy and it will wear you down very quickly.

Commitment? Your colleagues should understand that as you work part-time you work less hours/leave before they do and, although you are as committed as much as you can be, it's not the same as for them working on a full-time basis.

Maybe there's a bit too much ‘banter' about your part-time commitment; after a while it grates. So, my suggestion is to just face up to it with a grin, head on one side, hand on hip and ask if they really do think less of you as a nurse (watch them back-track p.d.q!)…

A happy & productive team is one of the biggest business needs of any employer.

Definitely report any harassment, belittling, excluding or bullying behaviours; these are NOT acceptable.

Practice Meetings. Perhaps practice meetings are never held when you're at work?If you unable to come does it make you feel a bit resentful, you're not considered? Do you miss vital information or team building? If you do attend, do you get compensated in a way that matters to you? Whatever the imperfection, please open up a constructive conversation with your Boss about it so that a compromise or change can be considered.

Adding value to your role. Be the Ace at those jobs the rest of the team never get around to doing – such as being the Lab Guru; cleaning the microscope, servicing the machinery, keeping it clean and tidy, checking up on receipt and recording of Reports…

Consolidating? Boring? No, useful! Bear in mind that ‘consolidating' your skills means you can become expert at them. Less stressful in my book – you've got ‘muscle memory' so to speak! You know what to do, how to do it and you're an expert at it. Your nursing world may have shrunk a bit but your skills at what you do are legend. In addition, these skills are always very useful for your CV when you (might) return to full-time work again.

Part-time work is possible. Although you may find it a little more difficult to gain regular employment working part-days.

It is more feasible to work one, or part of one, (full-time) week, work weekends or just the odd (full shift) day here and there ad hoc if a practice has a sudden need for a nurse.

This doesn't mean you can't negotiate and offer to work part-days, but it is unusual for a practice to request it up-front. You can always negotiate -that's the benefit of being a locum in demand

The best thing about being a locum is its flexibility.If you need to work part-time for a while, it's far easier to set-up or change than if you were a permanent employee.

Thank you, Alison Hickman.

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