What Is a Part Time Employee?

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The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not define what constitutes a part-time employee. What is counted as a part-time employee is generally defined by the employer by policy. The definition of a part-time employee is often published in the employer’s employee handbook.

A part-time employee has traditionally worked less than a 40 hour work week. Today, though, some employers count employees as full-time if they work 30, 32, or 36 hours a week.

In fact, fewer required work hours is considered a non-standard benefit in some organizations. Consequently, the definition of a part-time employee will vary from organization to organization.

In many organizations, one differentiation between full-time and part-time employees is eligibility for benefits such as health insurance, paid time off (PTO), paid vacation days, and sick leave. Some organizations enable part-time employees to collect a pro-rated set of benefits. In other organizations, part-time status makes an employee ineligible for any benefits.

Part-time employees are benefitting from employers’ willingness to consider work schedule options such as flexible schedules and job sharing.

Why Hire Part-Time Employees?

Considerable reasons exist for why employers might consider hiring part-time staff.

  • Many employers hire part-time employees to cut down on their costs of labor. They can save substantially by not offering benefits to part-time staff. For a small business owner, hiring first employees, starting with part-time staff is less risky in terms of financial commitment.
  • Additionally, not all jobs require the services of an employee full time. Combining jobs may not fit the employee's skill set even if the employer had a second part time job available.
  • You may want to consider hiring part-time employees to expand your ability to recruit qualified employees. For example, a stay at home parent may have the exact qualifications you need but the individual is only available to work outside of the home from 9 until 3. College students often seek part-time work. Another person may work as a freelance writer but seek the cushion of a part time job for times when assignments are lean. A retiree may seek part-time work to supplement his income, alleviate boredom, or because he wants to feel gainfully contributing again. (With retirees, employees gain knowledge and a mentor for younger, less experienced staff.)
  • Another advantage to hiring part-time employees is you have the opportunity to try an employee out before you commit to hiring him full time. This helps employers assess the individual's cultural fit, job fit, skills, and ability to learn and contribute.

Disadvantages to Hiring Part-Time Employees

  • Some employers believe that part-time employees are not as committed to their employer and to their job.
  • They may also take longer to learn the company culture, how to get work done in the organization, and the components of their own job.
  • Part-time staff are more difficult to retain, especially if the individual wants to work full-time and a full-time job never materializes.

Part-time employees may belong in your organization. The best match occurs when both the employer and the employee see part-time work as a win.

Also Known As: half-time employee