The distinction between part time vs full time employees affects how you hire, schedule, and compensate your workforce.

With various definitions of part-time and full-time employment floating around, employers need to understand the difference between the 2 employee types to avoid engagement and legal problems.

Here’s how they differ:

What is full time work?

Full time work generally means working 30-40 hours a week, while part time work means working less than 30 hours a week.

In fact, there’s no legal definition for what is considered full-time or part-time work. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the major labor law in the US, only limits the workweek to 40 hours and employees working over 40 hours are compensated for overtime. The IRS defines a full-time employee as someone working at least 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month.

It’s actually up to the employer to define full-time and part-time employees. Full time work can include 40, 35, or 30 hours, depending on

What is part time work?

Part time work means working fewer hours compared to full time work. Typically, a part-time employee works for 10-30 hours each week.

The number of working hours of a part-time worker isn’t fixed. A barista may work 10 hours this week and 30 hours the following week.

Part time vs full time work

Part-time and full-time work differs in various aspects: work schedule, hours, income, benefits, etc.

Work schedule

The work schedules of full-time employees include more working hours. Most are fixed, with specific work days and specific start-end times.

Part-time work schedules are more flexible. Part-time employees may work different days and hours within the week. They can easily cover irregular hours such as night shifts or split shifts.

Working hours

Full-time employees generally work 30-40 hours per week. If they work over 40 hours, those additional hours are considered overtime.

Part-time employees often work under 30 hours per week. The hours may vary depending on how the employer schedules their employees.

Income

Full-time employees generally earn more because they work more hours and are eligible for different types of compensation. However, some part-time workers can earn equally or more, depending on the amount and value of their work.

Part-time workers are paid by the hour. They’re often required to clock in and clock out to record their worked hours, and submit timesheets to get paid.

Full-time workers often receive monthly salaries. In some cases, they’re also paid by the hours worked and they’re called “non-exempt”. Non-exempt employees are paid for overtime hours, while exempt employees are paid the same amount of salary even when they work overtime.

Full-time and part-time are both taxed the same way. You’re required to withhold payroll taxes, pay for unemployment taxes and workers’ compensation benefits.

Benefits

Full-time jobs generally appear more secure because employees receive many benefits: pension, insurance, flexible PTO, etc. If an employer wants to terminate a full-time employee who didn’t violate any company policies, they must provide a notice months before the event and maybe compensation.

Most of the time, part-time jobs aren’t as secure as full-time positions because employees don’t get important benefits and the work schedule is erratic. The working hours vary each week and so does the pay. However, some workplaces still offer benefits for part-time workers such as PTO, insurance, or employee discounts.

Pros and cons of having part-time employees

Pros

Affordability

Unlike full-time workers who are paid a fixed amount no matter how many hours they worked, you only have to pay part-time employees based on their worked hours. Full-time employees also get more benefits, meaning it’s more expensive to hire them.

Flexibility

It’s easy to schedule part-time workers depending on the demand of your business. You can schedule extra people on busy days and fewer on slow days.

Cons

Lower commitment

Part-time employees are mostly students, parents, or people with other life commitments. They’ve got school, children, or other jobs to care for.

Juggling multiple responsibilities and spending less time at work, part-time employees are less committed to the workplace. You may have to deal with turnover and attendance problems such as tardiness or no call no show more often.

To minimize unwanted situations, you should try to enrich the workplace culture and improve employee engagement.

Lack of experience

Most part-time positions don’t require prior experience, so part-time employees may produce inconsistent work or struggle in difficult situations.

Part-time workers also spend less time at work, so they have less exposure to the ebb and flow of the business. This means you have to do more training and supervision to maintain the desired quality of work.

Pros and cons of having full-time employees

Pros

Higher commitment

Full-time employees often devote their time and energy to 1 job. They spend more time on the job and get attractive benefits. That’s why they’re more committed to the workplace and are more reliable for important responsibilities within the business.

More experience

Full-time workers often have prior experience in the job. They invest more time into their work. With fewer distractions from other responsibilities, they’re more focused. So, full-time employees can deal better with situations that require experience and produce a more consistent quality of work.

Cons

Higher costs

Full-time employees are eligible for several benefits: insurance, pension, overtime pay, bonuses, etc. These benefits can get expensive.

Full-time workers aren’t easy to replace because the position requires more commitment and experience. Finding someone else can be expensive, so you need to invest more in retention programs to retain current people.

Higher risk of burnout

Full-time employees spend most of their day at work. Their work schedules are less flexible. The work responsibilities of a full-time position are heavier.

All of the above reasons may lead to feeling overwhelmed and burned out. Employers need to invest more in bettering the workplace culture and employee wellbeing.

FAQs

What can happen if you misclassify part time and full time employees?

If you misclassify a full-time employee as a part-time employee and don’t offer full-time benefits, you may face fees or penalties.

Small employers vs large employers

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the number of part-time and full-time employees determines whether you’re a small employer (SE) or an applicable large employer (ALE). An ALE has 50 or more full-time employees or equivalents.

SE and ALE have different obligations. You can read more about ACA tax provisions for small employers here and for large employers here. If you’re not sure what obligations you need to fulfill, it’s best to seek counsel from experts.

Takeaway

Understanding the difference between part-time vs full-time employees helps you stay compliant and provide suitable compensation for your workforce.

Whether you decide to hire a part-time or a full-time worker next, invest your efforts into building a better workplace. That way you can attract and retain the best people.

Read more about part-time workers.

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