Defining Part-Time vs. Full-Time Workers

Building your company’s workforce requires you to be strategic about structuring employee schedules. Part-time and full-time employees are entitled to different benefits that employers need to understand before creating a hiring plan. Here is a breakdown of the distinctions between part-time and full-time employee classifications and what they mean for your company.


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Part-time vs. full-time employee classification

The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies anyone who works more than 35 hours a week at a company as a full-time employee and anyone who works less than 35 hours per week as a part-time employee. Each company has its own policy too and some consider full-time at 40 hours a week, while others may assign full-time status at 32 hours or less. 

There are a few key places where the law describes the maximum number of hours a part-time employee can work before they are legally entitled to full-time benefits: the Affordable Care Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to the ACA, employees who work for a business that employs 50 or more people and average 30 hours a week or 130 hours a month are entitled to an affordable employer-sponsored healthcare plan. The FLSA states that any non-exempt employees who work more than 40 hours per week are full-time and entitled to overtime pay above 40 hours.

Read more: Full-Time Equivalent (FTE): What does this mean?  



How does overtime exemption influence employment classification?

The concept of overtime and exemption status is directly related to whether an employee is full-time or part-time. Under the FLSA, exempt employees are always salaried and do not have a legal right to overtime pay for hours they work beyond a standard workweek. For an employee to be exempt, you must pay them at least $455 weekly or $23,660 yearly regardless of how many hours they put in at work. Exempt employees can technically be full-time or part-time, but generally work a full-time schedule.

Non-exempt employees are eligible for time-and-a-half pay for every hour they work over 40 hours per week, regardless of the employer’s definition of full-time. 

Related: How to Convert Contractors to Full Time Employees



Insurance for part-time vs full-time employees

Qualifying employers are mandated by law to offer health insurance to employees who meet the hourly average requirement. Many states also require employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance and unemployment insurance to all employees, whether they are full-time or part-time. 

In addition to covering required insurance for full-time employees, many employers also offer other types of insurance like vision, dental and short-term disability insurance. Some companies give part-time employees access to benefits to improve their compensation package.

Read more: The Difference Between Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employee


Benefits for part-time vs full-time employees

Some benefits such as FMLA leave are regulated by law, while others are up to your discretion. Employees who work more than 1,250 hours per year, an average of 24 hours per week, are eligible for FMLA leave, meaning that many part-time employees do not qualify for this benefit. States have their own laws about the minimum number of hours someone must work to qualify for other types of paid sick leave.

Other benefits like paid time off, sick leave, additional parental leave and professional development stipends can be given out based on your unique company policy. You can choose to offer these benefits exclusively to full-time employees or to part-time employees as well. Many people expect to receive extra benefits as a full-time employee, so a strong benefits package is essential to attract dedicated full-time staff.


Pros and cons of full and part-time employees

When deciding whether to hire a part-time or full-time employee, consider your company’s unique goals and priorities. Part-time employees are appropriate for companies that need to use flexible shift-based schedules to respond to changing consumer demand or business owners who need a limited amount of support for specific tasks. However, they may be detrimental to companies who need dedicated employees who produce consistent work. Full-time employees are able to commit to one workplace and make your company a top priority, but may also be too expensive for a growing company to maintain.

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