If you’re hiring and managing employees, it’s essential to know the advantages and disadvantages of part-time vs. full-time workers. 

Each employment type differs regarding state and federal regulations, salary expectations, scheduling, and more. Check out our outline below and discover exactly what kind of team member fits your business best.

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Employer looking for candidates for part-time vs. full-time positions

What is the difference between part-time and full-time employment?

The key difference between part-time and hourly employment: how many hours employees work.

According to many employment laws and agencies like the IRS, the definition of full-time status is a 30-40 hour workweek. Part-time employees, however, often work schedules of less than 30 hours per week and not more than 40 hours under typical circumstances.

How many hours a week?

Full-time hourly workers are: team members who “average at least 30 hours of service per week, or 130 hours of service per month,” according to the IRS.

Part-time hourly workers are: anyone who falls below this 30 hours per week/130 hours per month minimum.

It’s important to note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers non-required guidance that anyone working at or more than 35 hours per week should be considered full-time.

However, state laws can differ from federal laws in some cases. For example, Pennsylvania considers employees full-time at 40 hours. Anything below the regular full-time hours is considered part-time status.

What is the typical schedule for a full-time vs. part-time job?

The most common full-time work schedule: a standard set of hours between Monday and Friday, typically around 9 AM to 5 PM.

In industries like retail and manufacturing, schedules can differ based on store hours or shift work. However, employees in full-time positions often work a consistent schedule in which hours don’t change on a daily basis.

Part-time hours tend to be more flexible. They depend more specifically on employee availability and current workload. Part-time employees may have flexible schedules with fewer hours that can change day-to-day or week-to-week, like working 15 hours one week and 20 hours the next. Some states, such as New York, have predictive scheduling laws that protect workers from shift schedules that are too inconsistent.

Employers hiring for part-time vs. full-time roles

How are part-time employees and full-time employees paid?

Part-time employees: paid based on their hours worked.

They either physically clock in or submit a digital timesheet that outlines how much they’ve worked in a given week or month. The employer calculates payment accordingly.

Full-time workers: can be either exempt or non-exempt.

Exempt employees receive a flat monthly salary, regardless of their work hours. Non-exempt employees receive an hourly wage and overtime pay for any hours worked above a 40-hour weekly threshold. The Fair Labor Standards Act (or FLSA) provides guidelines for these two payment types. 

Labor laws for part-time vs. full-time work

Labor laws to be familiar with: the FLSA and ACA acts.

Beyond various state statutes, the primary federal law governing part-time vs. full-time work is the FLSA. These rulings:

  • Require employers to classify exempt and non-exempt employees at the time of hiring
  • Define overtime pay, child labor restrictions, and wage discrimination penalties
  • Establish the federal minimum wage for hourly work at $7.25/hour

Another law connected to full-time and part-time distinctions is the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which requires specific employee benefits based on the employer’s size and whether or not the employee in question is considered full-time or part-time. The ACA uses the 30-hour weekly average definition for full-time employment established by the IRS.

Overtime laws for part-time and full-time employees

Overtime rules summary: does not apply to exempt employees and requires payment at 1.5 times the regular wage.

These regulations are relevant for non-exempt (hourly) full-time workers and any part-time staff who exceed the 40-hour threshold in a given week.

The FLSA requires payment of at least 1.5 times the regular wage for any hours worked beyond 40 in a given week. However, it’s essential to remember that overtime pay laws differ by state. Some states even implement daily overtime laws that require extra pay for more than a certain number of hours worked in a given day.

What benefits do full-time workers and part-time workers receive?

Benefits for full-time and part-time workers summary: Generally, healthcare must be provided to full-time employees at companies with more than 50 full-time employees.

What benefits full-time and part-time staff are eligible to receive depends at least partially on the employer’s size. The ACA defines small businesses with less than 50 full-time workers as Small Employers (SE), which are not required to purchase health insurance for their employees. 

However, the ACA also established the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) to make employer-based insurance more affordable and provide tax credits for SEs who choose to offer coverage to their staff.

Businesses with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees are considered Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) and must provide healthcare to their full-time employees. However, the law does not require part-time employees to receive benefits like health insurance.

It’s important to note that businesses can choose to offer benefits to their employees regardless of the business size or how many hours they work. Full-time staff members are more likely to receive more comprehensive compensation packages, including retirement plans, paid time off like vacation and sick leave, and more. But some human resources offices have also recognized the value of offering these perks to part-time employees. Competitive benefits make employment more appealing and they help attract better talent too.

A part-time employee makes coffee on her scheduled shift

Pros and cons of part-time vs. full-time

When deciding between full-time vs. part-time for hiring new staff, there is no simple “best choice” for business owners and HR managers. Instead, each option has different advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation.

Pros and cons of part-time

Part-time work tends to come with fewer strings attached — but it generally means accepting a lower-paying job with fewer benefits. The advantages and disadvantages of this choice, for both employers and employees, play out accordingly.

Pros

  • Schedules often come with higher flexibility
  • Because of fewer hours, employees have more time for families and hobbies
  • Great opportunities to try out new types of work and learn new skills
  • Generally faster to hire a bank of part-time employees
  • More affordable than hiring full-time staff

Cons of part-time work

  • Employees in part-time roles have significantly less job security
  • Job roles tend to be more temporary, making it challenging to build a successful career
  • Benefits are less common
  • A more flexible schedule can also be stressful, especially when hours are not guaranteed
  • Workers in these roles are often less reliable, more likely to quit on short notice, and less likely to be engaged in the company’s core goals and values

Pros and cons of full-time

Full-time work requires more commitment and investment for both employees and employers. The resulting benefits, though, can be fruitful for both sides, depending on the situation.

Pros

  • Strong candidates tend to prefer full-time work and the higher compensation packages offered
  • Greater bandwidth and hours, especially when overtime becomes a part of the equation
  • Long-term hires with longer tenures offer greater commitment and reliability

Cons 

  • Longer hours can lead to burnout, thanks to the added expectations of the jobs
  • Work-life balance can be harder to maintain
  • A lack of loyalty or a bad hire is more costly
  • More expensive payroll and benefits

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Hubstaff for part-time and full-time employees

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Hubstaff’s calendar view displaying employee shift schedules

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