Whether you’re currently a part-time employee or considering a part-time job offer, you may be wondering just how many hours is part-time? You know it’s less than 40 hours, but beyond that, you’re not quite sure what being part-time entails.
What happens if you work more hours than your usual schedule? When does overtime kick in? And what about benefits?
Well, don’t fret! We’re here to help you sort it out and understand how many hours part-time work is and what a part-time employee can expect.
What is Considered Part-Time?
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not define how many hours a week part-time is. The FLSA specifically says that it’s up to the employer to decide what part-time means to the company.
Because there’s no standard definition, for many years, companies have used 35 hours a week as the line between part-time and full-time work. This is likely because the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) considered anyone working less than 35 hours a week a part-time employee. However, this was a number the BLS chose and was not based on a specific legal definition.
The Affordable Care Act does define part-time work: less than 30 hours a week. As a result, most companies schedule part-time employees for 20 to 29 hours per week. However, you could work fewer than 20 hours or more than 29 and still be considered a part-time employee.
According to the ACA, you are a full-time employee if you work an average of 30 hours per week for more than 120 days a year. If you work less than 30 hours a week on average, you’re a part-time employee. If one or even two weeks you work more than 30 hours, you are not automatically a full-time employee if your weekly average remains below 30 hours per week.
Do Part-Time Workers Get Benefits?
There are no federal laws that require part-timers to receive benefits (like sick leave, holidays, or vacation). That said, some states require employers to allow all employees—including part-time workers—to earn paid time off. For example, in California, all workers are eligible to earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick for every 30 hours they work.
Part-time employees may also be eligible for unpaid but protected leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). One of the eligibility requirements is that an employee has worked for their employer for at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months. That’s approximately 24 hours of work per week over 52 weeks.
Beyond those benefits, giving part-time workers anything else (retirement, paid vacation, profit sharing) is up to the employer.
What About Overtime?
As an hourly worker, you are not eligible for overtime pay until you’ve worked more than 40 hours in a workweek. So, even if your usual schedule is 20 hours each week, and one or two weeks you work 30 or even 35 hours, your employer is not required to pay you overtime, only your regular hourly salary.
When Part-Time Is Right for You
A part-time job can give you the flexibility a full-time role may lack, help you earn an income when full-time isn’t an option, and help you keep you enhance your skills by keeping you connected to the workforce.
When part-time is the right choice for you, go for it! But before you do, have a clear understanding of how your employer defines part-time, so there are no surprises when you get your schedule (or on your paycheck).
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