How Many Hours Can Part-Time Employees Work Without Benefits?

There is no federal definition of part-time work, which leaves the threshold to the employer. Here’s how to handle benefits for part-time employees.


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do part-time employees get benefits?

The life of a part-time employee lends itself to a certain type of freedom. Working part-time means fewer hours and more flexibility, but also a level of ambiguity under federal definitions. Each employer has a different idea of what constitutes part-time work, depending on a variety of factors within their specific organization.

There is a rough consensus that working under 30 hours a week qualifies as working part-time; however, there is still no universally agreed upon standard, nor federally defined guideline to follow. With the current workforce adapting to more non-traditional employment practices, along with the Affordable Care Act, there is a lot of confusion about part-time employees, and what that means for employers.

Part-time employees

According to the United States Department of Labor, “The FLSA does not define full-time employment or part-time employment. This is a matter generally to be determined by the employer.” There are several different types of employees which employers can choose to hire. Having a variety of each type may allow your business to minimize things like employee benefit costs, while maximizing the efficiency of your business.

Depending on your line of work as an employee, part-time employment may be the ideal option to allow yourself more time to devote to other areas. For example, working part-time can afford you more time with your child and save the expense of outside childcare. It is also a great option for students earning their post-graduate degrees, or those dreamy beer brewers who need a few extra hours to perfect that ginger-cranberry sour they’ve been working on in the attic.

While we may typically assume part-time work is limited to restaurant industries, student jobs, and the like, there are several large companies that offer a plethora of part-time opportunities. We know that the number of hours worked is the main difference between part- and full-time work, but where exactly is the threshold?

How many hours does one have to work to be considered “part-time”?

The Affordable Care Act requires at least 95% of employees who work 30 hours a week to be insured.

While there is no definitive answer, it’s necessarily defined as anything less than a full-time employee. Generally speaking, we think of full-time positions as around 30-40 hours per week. In some cases, part-time employers may be working 20 hours a week, in other fields perhaps it’s just less than 30 hours.

To be considered “part-time” one simply needs an agreement with an employer which contractually defines the individual as such. This arrangement should strictly define exactly what “part-time” means within that specific organization so that both parties can be transparent about expectations.

For example, the average part-time employee at Starbucks will work anywhere from 12-30 hours per week depending on the employee, with the average usually falling around 25 hours weekly. Of course, this number depends on scheduling and availability of both parties.

Do part-time employees get benefits?

In the same way that employers generally are not required to offer benefits to their full-time employees, part-time employees are not automatically granted benefits either. While the majority of employers opt to provide benefits to their full-time employees as a competitive measure, this is not always the case with part-time employees.

According to a 2018 employee benefits report, however, over the last four years, health care coverage for part-time employees has increased by 10%. In the same way that companies are more competitive with their benefit programs for full-time employees, companies are adopting these same models to their part-time employees as well.

At Starbucks, for example, if a part-time employee maintains at least 20 hours per week over a three-month basis he or she qualifies for a full benefits package. If your company’s definition of part-time errs on the high side, you may also be in luck, because the Affordable Care Act requires at least 95% of employees who work 30 hours a week to be insured.

Part-time positions have a lot of appeal in terms of flexibility and the open definition of their role. As long as weekly expectations are strictly and clearly defined by employers and agreed to by employees, both the number of hours and the benefits are really up to both parties to bargain. In today’s expanding market making sure the potential benefit packages and hour expectations are overtly defined is key to agreeing to a “part-time” working partnership.


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