According to some studies, 18 percent of the American workforce does not work the traditional Monday through Friday work week with a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday. Workers may appreciate a non-standard work schedule because it offers them more flexibility and a better work-life balance. It may increase their job satisfaction.
Most states define a part-time worker as someone who works less than 40 hours per week.
What Are the Advantages of Part-time Work?
- Less Potential for Burn-out: One of the main advantages of part-time employment is that a part-time worker runs a reduced risk of burning out on work;
- More Flexibility: A person working part-time is likely to feel that they have more flexibility and control over their time and life.
Are There Drawbacks to Being a Part-time Worker?
There are certain economic and other disadvantages to part-time work. If a person thinks of going part-time, they should weigh the costs and benefits of doing so. For example:
- Lower Pay: The main advantage of working full-time is full-time pay. Conversely, one disadvantage of part-time work is part-time pay;
- Fewer Benefits: No law requires businesses to give full-time employees benefits such as health insurance unless the business is an applicable large employer (ALE) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
- But that is what most businesses do. There is more information below on this subject. Paid time off, including paid sick leave, is usually not offered to part-time employees. Most benefits tend to be offered with full-time positions, not part-time work;
- Career Advancement: Working part-time may slow a person’s career advancement, but this depends entirely on the employer and its policies;
- Dissatisfied Clients: Some clients require full-time service, and a part-time worker may not be able to provide that for them. If a person’s role entails responding to client’s needs and requests, it might be difficult to manage on a part-time basis;
- Work Environment Pressure: Some part-time employees feel the pressure to prove themselves no less than a full-time employee. In some jobs, a person may find that they work full-time for part-time pay;
- Less Socialization with Co-workers: Due to a part-time employee’s schedule, there may be less time to socialize with colleagues, and this might harm a person’s performance or opportunities;
- Pay Gap: Part-time workers may not always be paid the same hourly rate as full-time workers, even if they should. There may be variations depending on the occupation;
- Less Job Security: Some employers may regard a part-time worker as less important to their enterprise. So a part-time worker may be more likely to be let go if the business needs to reduce its payroll.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a full-time worker works an average of at least 30 hours a week or 130 hours a month. The same is true for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations. However, the IRS and ACA do not regulate when employees put in their hours, so that 30-hour cut-off still leaves employers a lot of flexibility when determining part-time versus full-time hours.
For example, a part-time employee at one business could work a morning shift every weekday, but a different business could have their part-time employees working longer hours on fewer days per week.
The ACA also requires ALEs to offer affordable, minimum essential healthcare coverage (or pay a penalty) and report additional information to the IRS. An employer is considered an ALE if they had at least 50 full-time or full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) in the prior year.
So, even if an employer does not have 50 full-time employees, they might still be considered an ALE if all of their employees’ work hours together add up to the equivalent of 50 full-time workers’ hours. Thus, a part-time worker at an ALE might be provided with a benefit, minimum essential healthcare coverage.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulates many aspects of employment, including child labor, recordkeeping, minimum wage, and overtime pay. According to the FLSA, an employer must pay employees time and half pay if they meet the following criteria:
- They work more than 40 hours in a single week;
- They are considered nonexempt, i.e., they are paid less than 468 dollars per week on an hourly basis and do not perform administrative, executive, or professional duties.
Under the FLSA, exempt employees are not eligible for overtime pay even though they are likely working full-time as salaried employees if they are paid more than $468 per week in salary and perform exempt duties.
Therefore, full-time hourly workers must be paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week. If they are salaried employees, they can be asked to work more than 40 hours a week without paying them overtime. A part-time employee may never qualify for overtime pay, but that depends on the number of hours they work.
If a part-time employee works more than 40 hours in a week and is nonexempt, they could also qualify for overtime pay. But they would not get paid overtime rates until they work for more than 40 hours in one week.
Much depends on individual employers and the terms and conditions of employment that they offer. Some employers may offer health insurance coverage and other benefits to part-time workers. Others may not. Whether part-time workers qualify for benefits of any kind is something a person would want to ask a prospective employer.
What Obligations and Rights Do I Have as a Part-time Employee?
Generally, employees must still comply with the same company rules, policies, and procedures as full-time employees. As noted above, most part-time workers are not entitled to company benefits, i.e., extended vacations, pension and profit-sharing plans, health insurance, and the like.
Sometimes, states will grant health insurance coverage to those who work more than a certain number of hours. Also, under federal law, employees who work 1,000 hours in a pension plan year must be included in the same pension plans offered to similar workers. Other things to remember include:
- Equal Pay Act: Part-time workers are not subject to the rules that men and women doing the same job must be paid equally;
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Companies are exempt from the FMLA when they employ a sufficient number of temporary, contract employees or part-time workers:
- Workplace Rules: A part-time worker may still be terminated for poor performance. They are subject to the company’s work rules and requirements as other workers;
- Pay: Payroll deductions and tax withholdings are reflected in a part-time worker’s paycheck;
- Legal Obligations: The company must still comply with safety regulations, must not make promises it does not intend to keep, and must avoid discrimination based on membership in a protected class.
Just as a full-time employee, a part-time employee can sue for breach of contract if their employment is terminated in breach of an employment contract, whether it is explicit or implied, that they have with their employer. They can challenge the termination of their employment if it is discriminatory. A part-time worker can sue for wrongful termination if their employment is terminated in retaliation or for other impermissible reasons.
Do I Need an Experienced Attorney?
As a worker, it is up to you to decide whether the benefits of taking a part-time position outweigh the costs.
An employment contract attorney would be able to inform you of your rights and obligations as a part-time worker and can inform you more fully about the terms of your employment. Consulting an employment attorney can help clarify your understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of full-time and part-time employment.