While the difference seems pretty straightforward, the distinction between full-time and part-time jobs is deeper than the amount of work hours worked. If you want to understand your professional obligations to your staff members — including payment, time off, and healthcare benefits — it’s vital to understand the legal distinctions.
This resource details what makes full-time employment distinct from part-time employment, which is more beneficial for organizations and employees, and how full-time jobs differ from part-time jobs in more ways than one.
What is Considered Part-time vs. Full-time?
Typically, a part-time job is one in which an employee is on the clock fewer than 35 hours per workweek. Some part-time jobs require as little as 10 or 15 hours of work each week — or even fewer hours in certain industries.
Full-time jobs, on the other hand, are generally those that require employees to work at least 35 hours per week, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some organizations, however, consider 32 hours per week full-time status. The American Time Use Survey shows that full-time employees work anaverage of 8.5 hours in a typical workday.
There aren’t any federal laws, regulations, or employment laws that define “full-time” or “part-time” in their entirety. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) each have different distinctions and classifications when it comes to part-time vs. full-time employees’ work schedules.
- ACA requires employers to offer health benefits to staff members who regularly work 30 or more hours per week. In this case, “regularly” means more than 120 days per year. So under the ACA’s rules, employees who work fewer than 30 hours per week are considered part-time workers and those who work more than 30 hours per week are considered full-time workers.
- FLSA doesn’t strictly define part-time vs. full-time work. Under FLSA, distinguishing between part-time and full-time is done by individual employers. It should be noted, though, that under FLSA, the federal minimum wage for nonexempt employees remains at $7.25 per hour.
- FMLA states that a part-time employee has to work 1,250 hours over the course of 52 weeks to qualify for unpaid leave. So under FMLA rules, a “part-time” employee is one that works approximately 24 to 26 hours per week.
Beyond what’s stipulated in the acts outlined above, each organization’s — or small business owner’s — company policy will shape the definition and benefits tied to part-time and full-time hours.
Benefits of Hiring Full-time Employees
Full-time staff members often feel more secure in their positions and have access to better employee benefits packages (like retirement plans) than part-timers. They can also earn more money than part-time employees because of their increased hours, and this can lead to more productivity and stability in their performance. This does mean full-time employees are a bigger investment in your company’s future than hiring part-time employees, but they also provide organizational benefits like:
- More consistency in scheduling and management.
- A more predictable workflow.
- Increased likelihood of employees taking part in future business goals and long-term growth initiatives.
- Increased likelihood of employee pride in their role and in your company.
- More overall trust in your workers.
- Less staff training.
- An opportunity to build a tighter-knit work community.
Benefits of Hiring Part-time Employees
Part-time team employees aren’t necessarily paid less than full-timers, but they typically cost less as they are ineligible for benefits like retirement contributions, health insurance coverage, sick leave, and paid vacation time. Other benefits of hiring part-time employees may include:
- Staffing based on fluctuating company needs, which can make more business sense in volatile industries like technology and energy.
- Cost savings, particularly with the increasing price of providing health benefits.
- Seasonal expertise and support when you need it.
- A larger pool of talent to hire from, as some qualified workers — like students and working parents — may need flexible schedules because they’re not able to (or don’t want to) work full-time.
- Increased employee retention, as some existing employees may be seeking to reduce their hours and would otherwise leave the company.
- Increased opportunity to cross-train staff members, since part-time employees can provide backup where you need it.
- Less training for part-time workers if you want to eventually hire them full-time.
Is it Better for Employees to Work Part- or Full-time?
The decision to designate a role as part-time or full-time depends on the role and the organization’s needs. It will ultimately depend on the organization’s budget, and how they value the benefits each set-up offers.
For the employee, the advantages and disadvantages of part-time vs. full-time jobs vary, and may depend on factors like:
- Financial needs: Part-time jobs usually pay less than full-time positions, so part-timers may need to take on multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet. Full-time employees often have the eligibility to earn overtime pay.
- Career goals: Part-time positions may offer fewer opportunities for career advancement than full-time roles, but that’s not always the case.
- Family responsibilities: Part-time work can offer more schedule and location flexibility, which may be necessary for those with family or other obligations. Full-time work — if done remotely or with schedule flexibility — can also provide a flexible schedule and working hours to accommodate family responsibilities.
- Work preferences: Some people prefer part-time work because they can use their job to gain experience in an industry or field of interest. Full-time work provides greater flexibility in scheduling, as most employees work a set schedule each week.
Subjectively, there’s not a “better” work option for employees. Workers just need to determine — objectively — what’s better for them and their current needs and goals. It’s up to the individual to determine part-time vs. full-time pros and cons for their personal situation.
The Bottom Line on Part-time vs. Full-time
When it’s time to hire a new employee, it’s wise to first determine your company’s classification of part-time vs. full-time work. Once you have a solid idea of what these distinctions look like, you’ll be better equipped to hire the candidate that’s best suited for the position and for your budget.
The employee experience is an equally important factor in your decision to offer part-time vs. full-time positions. Your employees are the foundation and vital force within your company, so setting them up for success means taking care of their wellbeing so they can thrive in part-time or full-time work.
And if you need help with your organizational development process, we can help! Speak to a Gympass wellbeing specialist today and learn how we can work with you to put your employees’ wellness first.
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The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.