The hours you work can vary when you have a part-time job, as there isn’t one standard that determines how many hours per day or week constitutes a part-time position. Whether your role is considered part time or full time can depend on how many hours per week you’re expected to work, and how an employer designates employment status.
In this guide, you’ll learn how businesses and organizations define part-time jobs, and how it could impact part-time employees.
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 Job Work Schedules
Part-time work schedules vary. When you’re hired for a part-time position, the hours and days you’ll be expected to work may be specified in advance (often through the job posting), or your schedule may be flexible and be set on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis as determined by your employer.
For example, here are some possible job postings that refer to schedules:
- “We can be very flexible with the days and scheduled hours of a part-time employee.”
- “You’ll have the option to choose from part-time and full-time roles with early morning, day, and night shifts.”
- “Schedule is Monday through Thursday, with 10-hour shifts and full-time and part-time positions available.”
How To Find Out How Many Hours a Week You’ll Work
Before agreeing to part-time work, it’s important to understand what is required of the role and if it fits you. Below are some ways to figure out how many hours you’ll be working when you’re hired for a part-time position.
- Review the job posting: Carefully read the job description before you apply for a position. You may be able to tell how flexible the job is, and how many hours and days you are expected to work per week.
- Know your availability: You may be asked when you can work (days/hours) on a job application, so know your availability before you apply. Many employers are flexible and will work around the schedules of students, parents, retirees, and people with other time constraints and commitments.
- Ask during a job interview: If a schedule isn’t mentioned in advance, it’s acceptable to inquire about the work schedule during a job interview if the interviewer doesn’t ask you about your availability first. Have a list of when you’re available (and when you won’t be) to share. Flexibility is always a plus because it makes it easier for the employer to schedule coverage.
Part-Time Employee Benefits and Perks
In some cases, part-time workers may be eligible for company benefits. Some benefits are statutory and provided by law, while others are offered to part-time employees by employers.
Benefits that a part-time employee receives may vary from what full-time employees qualify for, but many companies are generous with the benefits they offer to all employees. For example, grocery store chain Publix has a lengthy list of benefits available to all eligible associates. These include a stock ownership plan, group health, dental, and vision plans, tuition assistance, and opportunities for advancement. There are additional benefits offered to eligible full-time associates, including vacation pay and paid holidays.
Employers aren’t legally required to provide health insurance for part-time employees, even if they provide coverage for full-time employees. Part-time employees may be eligible to purchase health insurance via a health insurance marketplace, or through industry-specific groups and organizations.
Mandated Employee Benefits
Some benefits are provided by law, regardless of your employment status. Benefits may be mandated by federal, state, or local law, and vary from state to state. For example, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to offer health insurance to those individuals who work a minimum of 30 hours per week.
Family and Medical Leave
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides eligible employees who worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately before they took leave with unpaid, job-protected leave. That works out to about 24 hours per week, so part-time workers who also meet the other requirements (company size and duration of employment) may qualify for unpaid leave from work.
Some states also have family leave programs. In New York State, for example, employees who work a regular schedule of fewer than 20 hours per week are eligible to take paid family leave after working 175 days, which do not need to be consecutive. Employees who work a regular schedule of 20 or more hours per week are eligible after 26 consecutive weeks of employment.
Unemployment benefits are administered on the state level, and eligibility for partial unemployment depends on the state you work in. It also depends on whether or not you qualify for unemployment compensation based on your employment history.
Use CareerOneStop’s Unemployment Benefits tool to learn about eligibility, benefit amounts, and how to apply in your state.
Workers’ Compensation and Disability Insurance
Workers defined as injured or experiencing a serious medical illness may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation coverage through federally administered programs. Each state also has its own guidelines for workers’ compensation eligibility for employees who have been injured or become ill because of work. In most states, all employees are eligible for benefits.
There are also federal and state programs that provide benefits for disabled workers. Some states require employers to provide disability coverage, and others do not. Employers who offer coverage may provide short-term coverage, long-term coverage, or both.
Check with your employer, State Workers’ Compensation Department, USA.gov’s Benefits and Insurance for People With Disabilities, or your state department of labor to learn about workers’ comp and disability coverage in your location.