How many hours is part-time?

The number of hours you work can vary when you’re working part-time jobs. There isn’t one system or standard across organizations that defines what part-time work must look like. As a result, you could work just a few hours per week, or several, and be considered part-time.

Whether you’re considered part-time or full-time will depend on how your employer defines each; and how many hours you’re asked to work. Here we cover what defines part-time hours, part-time benefit eligibility, and how to determine what your part-time schedule will be.

How many hours is part-time?

As stated, there is no set number of hours that represents a part-time work schedule. In most instances, a schedule that falls below what the organization defines as full-time work is part-time work. Because of this there are several ways the law and employers define part-time work.

Company policy definitions

Based on their full-time work policy, companies often create a part-time work policy that defines part-time hours. This is important to define, since the number of hours an employee works dictates their eligibility for benefits.

Legal definitions

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for statistical purposes, workers who work less than 35 hours weekly are considered part-time.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) indicates that 30 hours or more weekly or over 130 hours monthly is full-time.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) uses the IRS 30-hour threshold to define full-time employees that are eligible for benefits under the Act.

Part-time vs. full-time jobs

The definition of full-time work can vary between companies, similar to how the definition of part-time work can vary. In some organizations, a full-time employee is one who works a minimum of 30 hours, and in others, an employee who works over 40 hours. In most organizations, however, a full-time employee works a minimum of 40 hours per week on average, which is the traditional number of full-time hours for a work week.

Required benefits for employees working part-time hours

Employers are generally not required to offer benefits to part-time employees, with a few exceptions. Some benefits are mandated by state and local laws for part-time employees, so it’s important to know the laws in your area.

Many organizations are generous and choose to provide benefits to part-time and full-time employees. For example, Publix, the grocery store chain, and Lowes, the hardware store, offer benefits to part-time employees.

The level of benefits part-time employees receive might vary compared to full-time employees. Part-time employees might need to pay more in premiums for certain benefits or might only receive half of the paid time off as a full-time employee would.

Affordable Care Act and health insurance

Federal law requires affordable health coverage to be offered for all employees that work a minimum of 30 hours per week under the Affordable Care Act.

The Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act also requires covered leave for qualifying employees that worked 1,250 hours during the immediate 12 months preceding their leave. That comes to be approximately 24 hours per week, so if a part-time worker works at least 24 hours per week to meet the 1,250 hours threshold, they’d be eligible for unpaid leave under the Act.

Unemployment benefits

Each state administers unemployment benefits, and part-time employees are eligible for unemployment benefits in some states. Other criteria must be met to qualify for unemployment compensation, as well.

Worker’s compensation and disability insurance

Most states require all workers, including part-time employees, to be eligible for worker’s compensation pay for serious medical injury or illness related to being on the job. Some states also mandate disability insurance and benefits for those considered disabled.

Overtime pay

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines full-time employment. Employers are required to pay overtime pay to hourly employees who work more than 40 hours in a single workweek. This would also hold true for some part-time employees who happen to work overtime in a given week.

Part-time hours and schedules

Part-time hours and schedules can vary greatly between organizations and even within organizations. An organization could have 10 part-time employees that all work different schedules and a different number of hours, for example. Or the company could have a predetermined number of hours that all part-time employees work, and the same goes for part-time work schedules.

It’s also possible for an employee to move from part-time to full-time or full-time to part-time hours after being employed with an organization. If you’re moving to part-time, then you and your supervisor will determine what your new hours and schedule will be moving forward and the official timing of the transition.

Determining how many hours you’ll work

Ideally, when you’re hired for a part-time position, you will know how many part-time hours and the schedule you’ll work before work commences. In some cases, this will already be available in the job description, though it should definitely be discussed during the interview process. It could be that you have a set schedule from week to week or a flexible schedule that varies based on either your needs or the company’s needs. When working to determine your hours as a new hire:

  • Review the job description. The job description will often give you an idea of the number of hours and schedule you’ll work for a company. Make sure you’re ok with what you’re seeing and have questions ready for clarification.
  • Know your willingness and availability. Be clear on your availability and how willing you are to adjust your availability to meet the organization’s needs. Be upfront and clear about this, as you don’t want to get into a situation you’re unhappy with after you begin working for the organization and vice versa.
  • Ask the hiring manager during your interview. Work with the hiring manager to clarify what part-time means for the position and organization. And once you get to the final round of interviews, get it in writing so all are on the same page regarding your schedule upon starting.

As you can see, there’s no clear-cut answer to the question: “How many hours is part-time, exactly?” What’s important is your interest part-time work, your ability to find an organization willing to work with your requirements, or your willingness to work with theirs.