Part-Time Jobs: How Many Hours a Week, What Benefits You Get, and More
When you’re looking for work, there are a number of reasons you might not want to or be able to commit to working full-time hours. And if you want to have more stability than freelance or contract work usually brings, you’ll likely opt to look for a part-time job. Or you might be offered a part-time position and wonder if it’s worth taking. Virtually every industry hires part-time workers.
“For most companies, full-time employment is between 30-40 hours per week, while part-time is less than 30 hours each week,” says Samantha Reynolds, Communications Coordinator at Helpside, which has worked with thousands of businesses to advise them of legal requirements and best practices for hiring employees, both full-time and part-time. But because “there is no legal definition provided by the Department of Labor for full-time or part-time employment,” Reynolds says, each organization will generally set their own. In Muse career coach Jennifer Sukola’s experience, people with part time jobs typically work 15 to 29 hours a week. However, some employers will consider anyone working less than 40 hours a week a part-time employee.
For many office-based part-time jobs, employees will have a set schedule where they work the same hours every week, Reynolds says. However, these hours may vary by season (for example, if you work for an accounting firm, you can likely expect more hours during tax season) or based on certain company needs like large projects and events. Outside of office work, part-time employees may be more subject to fluctuating hours and shifts. Depending on the company and position, part-time employees might have some say and/or flexibility in setting their weekly schedules, which is ideal for workers with responsibilities outside of work such as school, caretaking duties, or another job.
Much like the number of hours you’ll work in a part-time job, the benefits you’ll be eligible for will depend on where you work. Many companies choose to only offer benefits—such as dental insurance or a childcare allowance—to full-time employees. Others choose to offer some or all of their benefits to part-time workers as well. A few of the benefits commonly offered to part-time employees are paid holidays, life insurance, and paid time off (PTO), Reynolds says.
Though some individual states and cities have more worker-friendly benefits laws, there are a few legally protected benefits on the federal level that part-time workers anywhere in the country may be guaranteed depending on their exact situation:
When people in the U.S. talk about benefits, health insurance is usually top of mind. While some employers do offer health insurance to some or all part-time employees, many do not. However, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a., Obamacare, requires that any employer with more than 50 full-time employees must provide healthcare coverage to those who work more than 30 hours per week or 130 hours overall in a given calendar month—or they’ll need to pay a penalty. So even if your employer considers you a part-time employee because you work less than 40 hours a week, you may still be legally entitled to health insurance coverage.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a U.S. law that requires employees be allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave—without losing their jobs—for certain reasons: the employee (or their spouse) has given birth, the employee has adopted a child or taken a foster child into their home, the employee has to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or the employee themself has a serious health condition. If you’ve been employed by a company for at least one year, you’ve worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months preceding your leave (or about 25 hours a week), and your employer has more than 50 employees, you are legally allowed to take FMLA leave, even as a part-time employee, Reynolds says.
What Is a Part-Time Job?
Generally, a part-time job is one that requires a person to work fewer hours per week than an employee who is considered full-time. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers determine how their employees are classified. That said, there are a variety of ways employers (and the law) can do so.
The definition of a part-time job can vary. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics considers workers who work less than 35 hours a week as part time. However, that’s simply for statistical purposes. The Internal Revenue Service, on the other hand, considers more than 30 hours per week or more than 130 hours a month as full time. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act uses the same 30 hours per week standard as the IRS for eligibility for benefits under the act.
Many employers incorporate a definition of a part-time employee into their company policies, which will designate the number of hours per week part-time employees work. For example, Amazon has three categories it uses to determine which employees are eligible for certain benefits: part-time workers work 20-29 hours; reduced-time employees work 30-39 hours; and full-time employees are those who work 40 or more hours per week.
Full-Time vs. Part-Time Jobs
To further complicate the differences between part-time and full-time jobs, hours considered as full-time work may vary as well. Even though the traditional hours for full-time work were once considered 40 hours per week, that has shifted, with some employers requiring fewer hours and others more.
As with part-time jobs, the Fair Labor Standards Act doesn’t define full-time employment. The act does, however, provide for overtime pay for covered employees who work more than 40 hours in one workweek.
An individual who is part of the gig economy is considered an independent contractor or self-employed individual who can work for a couple of hours a week or full time, depending on the industry and personal preferences. If you’re not on an employer’s payroll, you can set your own schedule.
Part-Time Should Actually Offer Freedom
Part-time work is the kind of work that leaves you time for other pursuits. It could be 10, 15, or even 20 hours a week, but it shouldn’t be 29 hours with a schedule that changes every week. Calling this ‘part-time’ at the same time that working a single 10-hour shift and having six free days to do with what you will are simply lumping too many circumstances together into one umbrella term.
By this definition, we believe that 30 hours a week, and under certain conditions, 25-29 hours a week, constitutes a full-time job. The commitment needed to get the requisite rest, handle one’s home duties, and still be at work, ready to be productive for 25-30 hours a week is a full-time commitment.
The grey area between part-time and full-time should be put to the test by asking whether someone could reasonably get a second part-time job and thrive in both of them. If that isn’t possible, it is likely that the first job was really much closer to ‘full-time’ in its impact on the worker’s life.
“Can I request Part-Time hours”?
If you are currently employed, the easiest way to get a part-time job may be to ask your current manager to cut down your working hours. In many countries this request must be granted by law.
For example, the Netherlands recently announced the Flexible Working Hours Act in 2016 which gives employees the right to request for reduced hours in their job. The law states that the employer is obliged to accept this request, unless there is “a significant business reason” which justifies that they cannot accommodate this.
As a result, the Netherlands has the highest percentage of “part time workers” in the world. Other countries at the top of the list, such as Switzerland, Austria & Germany, have similar laws which make it easier to request part time work.
In general, European countries tend to have more progressive laws in comparison those in North & South America, with respect to employer rights and working hours. This effect can be seen as all the countries with the least “hours worked per day” are all from Europe.