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Blog Insight & Commentary

What Are Part-Time Hours in the U.S.?

Everything you need to know about full-time vs. part-time employment and how to know which one is for you.

Megan Hageman

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According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 17 percent of the workforce in the United States is considered part-time.

To put it simply, there is no clear-cut answer to how many hours a part-time employee works or what kind of benefits he/she is entitled to. The hiring company or employer typically defines these details, but there are a few rules of thumb.

The statistical definition of part-time hours: The Bureau of Labor Statistics counts all employees who work less than 35 hours per week as part-time employees. This implies that these employees can work a minimum of 1 hour a week all the way up to 34 hours per week.

The tax definition of part-time hours: The IRS, however, says that employees who work fewer than 30 hours per week over the course of a month are part-time. A full-time employee is anyone who works an average of at least 30 hours per week over the course of a month.

What rights do part-time employees have?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), part-time employees are entitled to pay-and-a-half for any additional hours worked over 40. This is relevant to all non-exempt employees whether they are classified as full- or part-time.

Reasons for part-time employment

Parents: For those who take care of children, especially primary caretakers, part-time work can afford them the flexibility to care for kids while also bringing home some income.

Read More: The 2019 Salary Satisfaction Report

Family caretakers: Even if you don’t care for children, you may need to care for a parent, spouse, or other family member. For those who need to devote a large share of time to taking care of family, working part-time hours can be a huge help.

Students: College and even high school students take on jobs for any number of hours per week to help cover costs, or to earn some extra cash while juggling coursework.

Retirees: People who have already retired from the workforce sometimes fill their newfound free time with part-time work.

Flexibility/multiple jobs: In some cases, people simply enjoy the flexibility of a part-time position and can be compensated sufficiently. Others work multiple jobs at the same time that add up to full-time hours/pay.

Pros of part-time employment

Even though most part-time work doesn’t provide benefits like health insurance or paid time off, there are a host of reasons people opt for part-time work.

Supplemental income: Working an additional job a couple hours per week is a great way to earn supplemental income. Working multiple part-time positions could even result in a higher combined income than an average full-time job.

Flexibility: According to the 2018 Global Talent Trends, about 51 percent of employees wish their employer provided flexible work hours. Part-time jobs give employees more of a voice as to what hours they work and how many, leaving room for a better work-life balance.

Passions: A side-hustle or part-time job can provide you with extra skills and knowledge in your preferred field while you still have a steady income. Or on the flip side, a part-time job can give you the freedom to pursue your passions outside of working hours while earning some cash at the same time.

Cons of part-time employment

Could sacrifice pay: Less work typically equals less pay. Unfortunately, women who work part-time hours don’t earn proportionately less for their hours worked. Part-time employees may also be less likely to earn promotions or raises than are their full-time counterparts.

Instability: With flexibility can also come instability. In some cases, part-time hours can fluctuate week-to-week creating an insufficient overall income. These employees may also fall into seasonal positions, with little to no work during the off-months.

Fewer benefits: Individual employers determine their company benefits, but employers are under no federal or state obligations to offer any kind of basic benefits to part-time employees. These employees do not have to receive health insurance, retirement plans, life insurance, or even paid time off.

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