What Is a Part-time Employee?

As a small business owner, you might not want to hire full-time employees for every position. You may decide to hire a part-time employee instead. What is a part-time employee?

Find out what generally constitutes part-time hours, the advantages of hiring part-time employees, and rules you need to know.

What is a part-time employee?

There isn’t a standard definition of part-time employment. In most cases, a part-time employee is a worker who performs tasks on a reduced schedule compared to full-time employees (e.g., 30 hours compared to 40). Typically, employers decide how many hours part-time and full-time employees work, as well as benefits and paid time off.

So, how many hours do part-time employees work?

Part-time employment definitions by agency

Typically, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets labor standards. But, it does not define what is considered a part-time employee or what constitutes part-time hours.

Wait … what does the FLSA require?

Download our free FLSA cheat sheet to learn FLSA rules, get an overview of other labor laws, and more.

However, the IRS and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) define part-time employees.

IRS definition

For the purpose of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the IRS acknowledges a full-time employee as someone who works an average of at least 30 hours per week, or 130 hours per month. Part-time employees are those who work less than 30 hours per week (on average) or 130 hours per month.

BLS definition

The BLS says that part-time workers work between one and 34 hours per week. That would mean people who work over 34 hours a week are full-time employees.

SourcePart-time DefinitionFull-time Definition
IRSLess than 30 hours per week30 or more hours per week
BLS1 – 34 hours per weekMore than 34 hours per week

Defining your part-time employee

As the employer, you get to influence what a part-time employee is. You can use the definitions provided as guides. But, the difference between a full-time and part-time employee also comes down to your policy.

Most organizations set the standard workweek for full-time workers at 40 hours, but others might consider full-time workers as those with hours varying from 30 – 40 hours per week.

Whatever you decide, make sure to include it in your employee handbook. Write down the maximum hours for part-time as well as the minimum part-time hours.

Let’s say you want part-time workers to be those who work less than 35 hours a week. Therefore, your full-time workers are those who work 35 hours or more. Stick to these set hours by including them in your business’s policies.

Do part-time employees get overtime?

You should be familiar with rules on overtime for part-time employees. Nonexempt full-time employees get it, so why wouldn’t your part-time employees?

The FLSA defines overtime as any hours worked above 40 per workweek. You must pay nonexempt employees time and a half for each hour they work over 40.

Part-time employees are no different. Although they might not work over 40 hours per week, it could happen. Temporary conditions, like covering a shift for a co-worker, might cause a part-time employee to go over 40 hours. When that happens, you must give them overtime pay for any time worked beyond 40 hours.

Part-time employees and benefits

Do part-time employees get benefits? Employers often do not provide the same benefits package to part-time employees as they do for full-time employees. But, the choice is up to you.

Common employee benefits can include paid time off, health insurance, and retirement plans. Your policies must include which workers are eligible for which benefits. Make sure you are clear.

You might consider offering benefits to part-time employees, as this can boost workplace morale, discourage employee turnover, and attract employees.

Advantages of hiring part-time employees

There are many reasons employers decide to hire part-time employees as opposed to full-time workers. Hiring part-time employees can:

  • Reduce the cost of paying full-time salaries, health care premiums, and other expenses
  • Alleviate workforce stress by getting extra help on projects
  • Fill positions that don’t require a full-time worker
  • Serve as a test-run to see if you want to hire the employee full time

Looking for an easy way to run payroll for part-time and full-time employees? Patriot’s online payroll software lets you easily pay employees by printing checks or using free direct deposit. Get your free trial now!

This article has been updated from its original publish date of April 23, 2014.

This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

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