Part-time jobs exist across a wide range of industries and companies, giving employers and workers an alternative to full-time, permanent employment. However, part-time jobs may not be appropriate or sufficient in every situation. Businesses use a combination of part- and full-time jobs to meet their personnel and staffing requirements without spending excessively on payroll.
There is no standard definition of what constitutes part-time employment, but most employers consider part-time employees to be those who work less than 40 hours per week. Some companies restrict a part-time worker's hours to 30 per week. Nearly all part-time employees receive hourly pay. They work in shifts that range from a few hours to a full day's work, but may not work five days per week. Part-time employment often consists of evening and weekend hours to augment full-time workers who fill weekday shifts.
For employers, part-time jobs are a means of increasing a workforce without extending benefits or salaried pay to every employee. Part-time workers can work fewer hours when there is less work to do and increased hours during a busy season or as business increases over time.
For workers, a part-time job offers flexible scheduling. It may also be a way of earning additional money as a second job, with hours that complement a full-time job. Part-time work is also useful for young people, who can gain experience before applying for a more competitive full-time job that requires more responsibility and commitment.
Workers with part-time jobs face problems that are unique to their employment status. Most part-time workers don't earn benefits, such as health insurance or eligibility for an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan. They also may lack steady hours, with employers who can reduce hours--and subsequently pay--when business is slow. Businesses that employ part-time workers must balance their schedules and devote time and money to training more employees than a smaller, full-time workforce would require.
There is no legal distinction between full- and part-time employment. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governs workers' rights in the same way regardless of how many hours an employee typically works. This means that employers can't deny rights based on an employee's status, and all workers fall under the same protection that controls workplace safety standards. Some states regulate the hours that young people can work, restricting them to part-time hours and placing hourly limits on school days or a maximum weekly total based on age.
Full time and part time are not the only two employment options available to workers. Instead, they represent the two major types of employees who work for a specific employer on a regular basis. Freelance or self-employed workers, along with independent contractors and business owners, may have full- or part-time hours, but do not qualify as employees when it comes to reporting income and paying taxes. Workers need to know their status in order to pay the appropriate income taxes, but part- and full-time employees fall into the same employment category.