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Part-time hours are any work hours less than full-time. There’s no standard official definition of part-time hours, although it’s often said part-time workers work less than 30 hours per week. Part-time employees work less than full-time employees either by working fewer days in the week or by working the same number of days but shorter hours.
It’s usually up to you as the employer to define part-time and full-time hours in your organization. Some countries have laws that provide guidance around part-time hours or impose legal obligations on organizations for employees who work a certain number of hours each week.
You can offer part-time hours to employees across a range of industries and roles. As an employer, it’s important to set out the expectations of your part-time employees in their employment contracts, including minimum and maximum hours.
Part-time Hours in the US
While there’s no standard definition of part-time hours in the US, several organizations and employment laws provide some guidance.
For example, for statistical purposes, the Bureau of Labor Statistics considers full-time employees as those who work at least 35 hours a week—suggesting that part-time is anything less than this.
For employers with 50 or more full-time employees, the Affordable Care Act defines full-time employees as those who work an average of at least 30 hours per week. The IRS adopts this same approach when distinguishing between full and part-time employees.
The Fair Labor Standards Act—which covers employment issues such as overtime and minimum wage—doesn’t define part-time or full-time hours.
Difference Between Part-time and Full-time Hours
The main differences between part-time employees and their full-time counterparts are the hours they work and the benefits they are entitled to.
As already discussed, part-time employees work fewer hours than full-time staff members.
Full-time employees may also be entitled by law to certain employee benefits that part-time employees are not. For example, under the Affordable Care Act in the US, employers with 50 or more full-time employees must provide health care coverage to those employees.
Advantages of Part-time Hours
There are several reasons why your organization may want to offer part-time hours to your employees.
Tailor to organizational needs
You can design your workforce using a combination of part-time and full-time positions to suit your organization’s needs. For example, you may need extra workers at certain times of the week—such as weekends—or year, as is the case with seasonal work. You can also use part-time hours to fill a role with several employees who can offer complementary skills or availability.
Offering part-time hours may help you to fill a position that is especially challenging or labor-intensive. Doing so may reduce the likelihood of your employees burning out.
Offers employees flexibility
Some employees seek out part-time work because of the flexibility it offers. For many, it provides a better work-life balance, allowing them to work while also studying, caring for family members, or pursuing other interests. Part-time work may also provide a less stressful workplace experience for employees who find full-time hours challenging due to an illness or injury.
More diverse workforce
As a result of this flexibility, part-time hours may attract candidates who otherwise wouldn’t be able to apply for a full-time role—for example, students or parents of young children—and improve your company’s diversity.
If you don’t have the budget for a full-time employee, a part-time role may help you lower your payroll costs. Besides paying a part-time employee less total wages, you might not need to pay for benefits either.
Disadvantages of Part-time Hours
Decreased employee loyalty
Part-time employees may have less loyalty to the company and lower engagement than full-time workers. They may feel they lack job security or that they aren’t fully included in the organization. This can lead to a higher turnover of part-time employees.
While on paper you may save money by hiring part-time employees, it’s important to consider hidden costs. For example, given the higher turnover rate of part-time employees, you may end up with higher recruitment costs. Repeatedly onboarding new part-time employees also adds to these costs.
Managing your part-time employees’ schedules takes some work. Rostering can be a time-consuming task and you often need to accommodate part-time employees’ changing availability due to commitments outside of the workplace.
How to Manage Part-time Employees
It’s important to treat all employees equally while acknowledging the practical differences between your part-time and full-time workers. This includes providing part-time employees with the full onboarding experience, giving them access to the same training opportunities as full-time employees, and involving them in the culture of the organization. Doing so demonstrates that they are as valued as full-time employees, increasing their loyalty to the company.
Consider offering benefits
Even if it’s not required by law, offering your part-time employees benefits makes them feel valued, which can build loyalty and decrease turnover rates. It also helps you stand out from your competitors and attract the top candidates when recruiting for part-time roles. Consider offering your part-time employees perks such as health insurance or accrued paid time off for holiday or sick days.
Provide opportunities for career progression
Just because an employee works part-time hours doesn’t mean that they have less ambition for their career. It’s important to offer your part-time employees opportunities for career progression. These may include the possibility of going full-time or moving to more senior positions in a part-time capacity.
Part-time hours are anything less than full-time hours. As an employer, you can usually define what are part-time hours in your organization. Be aware though that you may have legal obligations—such as providing benefits—towards employees who work more than a certain number of hours.
Offering roles with part-time hours can cater to your HR needs, as well as your budget. In return, employees may appreciate the flexibility part-time hours give them. Keep in mind that regardless of how many hours an employee works, it’s important to take steps to include them fully in the organization. This helps to make them feel valued and increases their loyalty to the company.