Part-time employees make it possible for employers to expand their workforce to meet demand without incurring as many costs as they would if they acquired full-time help. Yet, if an employer’s only experience is with full-time employees, they might be unsure how part-time work impacts their business. For instance, how many hours amount to part-time work? Are part-time employees entitled to benefits? The answers to questions like these and others will shed some light on part-time work.

What is a part-time job?

A part-time job is one in which an employee works less hours and has fewer responsibilities than those with full-time status. For example, a full-time employee traditionally puts in 40 hours per week, whereas a part-time employee may only work 25 hours per week. Some employers may even permit part-time employees to alternate shifts or make their own schedules. This flexibility is desired by many people who have priorities outside of their career, such as caring for a child or elderly family member, attending school, pursuing a hobby, etc.

How many hours a week is part-time?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey data, the average number of part-time hours per week is 35. This number is merely a point of reference, though, and not enforced by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which offers no guidance on part-time employees vs. full-time employees. However, labeling an employee as part-time does not change the application of FLSA requirements.

The IRS, meanwhile, considers a part-time employee to be someone who works less than 30 hours per week or less than 130 hours per month. They created these criteria for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since applicable large employers (ALEs) are required to provide minimum essential health coverage only to full-time employees.

Therefore, unless an employer is bound by the ACA, they are generally free to create their own definitions of full-time and part-time work. It may be a good idea to document the differences between the two in company policy, clearly outlining not only the hours expected of each role, but also the eligibility for any benefits that may be available.

Advantages and disadvantages of part-time employees

Many new and growing businesses experience a window where the demand for their product or service eclipses their team’s output. Extra help is needed, but hiring more full-time employees isn’t in the budget. Part-time employees provide a potential solution to this problem. Here’s why:

  • Part-time employees have fewer overhead costs (e.g., wages, benefits) than full-time employees.
  • Employers can flex their workforce to meet seasonal ebbs and flows in consumer traffic.
  • Part-time workers pick up the slack and help ease stress on full-time employees.

Yet, because part-time employees work less hours and have fewer responsibilities than full-time employees, they may not accomplish as much in the same time frame. They may also struggle to form relationships with colleagues and assimilate to the workplace culture.

Overtime and part-time workers

Part-time employees generally don’t work enough hours to qualify for overtime, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to it. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), nonexempt employees, whether they have full-time or part-time status, must receive premium overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. The rate paid is one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay.

Note: some states have overtime regulations that differ from the FLSA, such as premium pay after a certain number of hours worked in a day.

What jobs are best suited for part-time employees?

Part-time employment is most common in the retail and hospitality industries, though opportunities can be found in almost any sector. Some examples include:

  • Tutor
  • Bank teller
  • Writer/editor
  • Graphic designer
  • Administrative assistant
  • Construction worker
  • Customer service representative

Frequently asked questions about part-time employment

Why do people work part-time?

One common reason people work part-time hours is that they need additional income. They may work a full-time job during the day and a part-time job at night or on the weekends to make ends meet. Another reason is that they have responsibilities or interests, e.g., caring for a child or pursuing a hobby, that prevent them from committing to a full-time career. These people appreciate the flexibility that a part-time job affords them.

When does a part-time worker become full-time?

Employers who are not required to sponsor health insurance may define the minimum hours for part-time and full-time employment on their own terms. As it pertains to ACA enforcement, the IRS allows two methods for determining full- and part-time employees:

  1. Monthly measurement methodology
    On a monthly basis, employees who work more than 130 hours or average 30 hours per week may be considered full-time.
  2. Look-back measurement methodology
    Employers may calculate the hours worked by employees during a specified period of months (measurement period). If the employees average at least 30 hours per week during those months, they are considered full-time for a separate, specified period (stability period).

What workplace rights do part-time workers have?

Aside from employer-sponsored benefits and paid time off, people who are working on a part-time basis generally enjoy the same privileges as full-time employees. They may be entitled to overtime pay, workers’ compensation, unemployment and family and medical leave as long as they meet the requisite criteria.

How many hours worked per day are considered part-time?

Full-time and part-time hours are usually expressed by the week or month, with 40 hours per week being the traditional standard for full-time. Therefore, anyone who consistently works less than eight hours per day could be considered a part-time employee, though it ultimately depends on the employer’s policies.

Are part-time workers happier?

Happiness is subjective. However, part-time employees may have a better work-life balance than full-time employees because they have more time to pursue personal interests.

What is a good salary expectation for part-time employment?

Salaries and hourly wages for part-time work vary based on industry and geographic region. In either case, nonexempt, part-time employees are entitled to at least the applicable minimum wage.

How do I apply overtime regulations to my part-time employees?

Employers must keep accurate and complete records of all hours worked by their nonexempt employees, whether they are part-time or full-time. The FLSA entitles such employees to one and one-half times their regular pay rate for each hour worked in excess of 40 hours per workweek. Different overtime regulations may apply, depending on the state where the employee is working.

Are part-time employees entitled to vacation, sick or holiday pay?

Certain state laws may entitle full- and part-time employees to paid sick leave or paid time off (PTO). Employers need to review their state’s specific requirements. Beyond that, the FLSA generally does not require payment for time not worked, including vacations, sick leave and holidays. Some employers, however, have PTO policies of their own that cover both full- and part-time employees as a recruitment and engagement tactic.

This article is intended to be used as a starting point in analyzing part-time hours and is not a comprehensive resource of requirements. It offers practical information concerning the subject matter and is provided with the understanding that ADP is not rendering legal or tax advice or other professional services.

ADP Editorial Team

ADP Editorial Team The ADP editorial team is comprised of human resource professionals with extensive experience solving complex HR challenges for businesses of all sizes.