Part-Time vs. Full-Time Employment: Laws, Trends, and Benefits

Part Time vs Full Time Employment: Laws, Trends, and Benefits

Navigating the complexities of hours worked for compliance and efficiency
Part Time vs Full Time Employment

When differentiating full- and part-time employees, the most obvious discrepancy is the number of hours they work. However, digging beyond the surface, one will discover that deciphering the terms is not easy. In fact, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), often recognized as the leading authority on American labor, does not offer a conclusive definition of the terms. This lack of a formal definition makes assigning boundaries for full- and part-time work quite subjective. 

This article will aim to define both employment roles, examine the common thresholds that divide part- and full-time employment, identify the federal laws that dictate each role, and propose a solution to help ensure your company remains compliant with all local and federal labor laws.  

Defining Full- and Part-Time Employment

In the U.S., a full-time employee is typically defined as someone who works approximately 40 hours each week.  

As mentioned, the FLSA does not define full- or part-time employment, and formal definitions vary across jurisdictions. We’ve included a few here for informational purposes. 

The IRS and Bureau of Labor Statistics consider full-time employment to be between 30-40 hours per week. For the purposes of employer-shared responsibility provisions, the IRS defines a full-time employee as working at least 30 hours per week on average or 130 hours per month for a calendar month. defines a full-time employee as someone who works an average of at least 30 hours per week for more than 120 days in a year. Part-time employees are noted as workers who average less than 30 hours of work per week. 

Tip: Use a time clock to accurately track work hours. This ensures workers are correctly categorized as full- or part-time employees based on their weekly hours.

The shift toward remote and hybrid work continues to be a prominent trend. As of August 2023, 12.2% of employees work fully remote schedules, and 28.2% work hybrid models. 

And, employees who work remotely are seemingly working fewer hours. In December 2023, 22 million Americans, or 13.9% of all employees, worked part-time schedules – the largest share of workers to sway toward part-time work since February 2020 and one of the largest shares in the last two decades. That number continued to climb, with part-time work peaking at 17.4% in May 2024. 

Here is a chart documenting labor statistics from the current U.S. population survey, courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statisitics. 

Pros of Part- and Full-Time Employment

So, if working part and full time is a matter of hours worked, why is it so important to differentiate between the two? Great question. Let’s first take a look at the pros and cons surrounding both. 

Full-Time Pros for Employees

Stability, Benefits, Experience, and Career Advancement: Full-time employees generally feel more stable, as they tend to bring home higher wages than their part-time cohorts, granting them the financial freedom necessary to support their families. Full-time employees are also often eligible for benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. Finally, those holding full-time positions for extended periods of time tend to experience a greater degree of professional growth than those who do not. Working full time allows employees to build resumes, granting them the experience necessary to advance their careers over time. 

Job Security, Consistency, and Social Interaction: Full-time positions offer workers job security, ensuring they’ll have a wage they can rely upon day in and day out. Many full-time jobs offer consistent schedules, granting employees structure and routine. Because of their proximity and time together, full-time workers tend to connect with colleagues’ personalities, learning their life stories and meeting their families, creating a sense of community.

Full-time Pros for Employers

Increased Productivity, Focus, and Knowledge: Full-time employees tend to be more knowledgeable than part-time workers, who may not spend as much time honing their crafts. This generally leads to greater productivity and fewer errors. Full-time employees are also more immersed in their occupations and typically have better focus and continuity on their projects, given the time they spend on their assignments. Over time, full-time workers accrue knowledge that can only be learned through time and experience, traits that simply aren’t as available to those working fewer hours. 

Decreased Turnover, Recruitment Costs, and Training Time: Hiring and onboarding employees can be an expensive endeavor. Having a stable staff reduces the need for both. To that point, fewer new hires leads to less training time. Additionally, employees who work longer hours for greater durations tend to require less instruction and pick up on new practices more quickly. Finally, full-time employees tend to be cheerleaders for their companies, leading to a greater investment in the organization’s success. 

Part-Time Pros for Employees

Flexibility, Work-Life Balance, and Boosted Income: Part-time work offers employees flexibility in terms of scheduling, allowing workers to balance commitments, such as school, child care, or a second job. Additionally, part-time schedules allow employees more time to pursue hobbies or extracurricular activities. Finally, part-time work may serve as a supplement to a greater revenue stream, granting the individual a thicker financial cushion. 

Reduced Stress, Temporary Experience, and Less Driving: Studies show that full-time workers tend to feel more worn out than part-time workers. This is likely because part-time workers have more time to exercise, sleep, and enjoy entertainment. Some employees may opt for a part-time position to help them gain more experience in a given field, which may be leveraged if and when a full-time position becomes available. An employee working fewer days will, in theory, have to drive to the office, meaning there is less wear and tear on the employee’s vehicle. This not only saves on gas and maintenance but may decrease auto insurance premiums, especially for those whose plans are mileage-dependent. 

Part-Time Pros for Employers

Lower Salaries, Fewer Benefits, and Less Overtime Pay: Part-time employees generally receive lower salaries as they work fewer hours and have less experience. Additionally, they often do not receive the same level of benefits (health care, retirement plans, PTO, etc.) as full-time employees, resulting in lower overall employment costs. Finally, part-time employees may help a company reduce its overtime burden as managers may opt to call upon a part-time worker in place of a full-time employee who may be approaching the overtime threshold. 

Greater Flexibility, Improved Productivity, and Trial Experience: Part-time workers may help fill holes in shifts or cover for full-time employees who are absent, offering greater flexibility over shorter periods. Additionally, part-time employees’ shifts are shorter, meaning their attentiveness and focus may be sharper and their energy levels higher. Finally, managers may recruit part-time employees to gain a closer look into their work ethics and attitudes. If managers are pleased with what they see, they may consider hiring part-time workers as full-timers. 

Cons of Part- and Full-Time Employment

While working both full- and part-time schedules may be beneficial for some, there are some cons as well. A few of them are listed below. 

Cons of Full-Time Employment for Employees

Limited Work-Life Balance, Less Flexibility, and Potential Burnout: The work-life approach for full-time employees is generally less balanced than part-time employees, as much of their time (approximately 2,080 hours a year) is spent working. Because full-time employees are typically expected to spend eight (or more) hours at work each day – often reporting and leaving at the same times – there tends to be less flexibility in their schedules. Finally, the repeated responsibility of performing day in and day out, for a large portion of each day, may lead to burnout or have a negative impact on an individual’s mental and physical well-being. 

Health Impacts, Dependency, and Lack of Job Satisfaction: Studies show that full-time employment can have a detrimental impact on an employee’s health, leading to a sedentary lifestyle. After working full days, many full-time employees just want to relax when they get home. Additionally, relying solely on one employer may create some vulnerability for an employee and his or her family. If that employer falters, the employee may suffer financially. Finally, employees who fall into the monotony of repeated tasks may fall out of love with their jobs. 

Cons of Full-Time Employment for Employers

Expensive Employees, Recruitment, Greater Onboarding Time: Full-time employees often receive benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid leave, which can significantly increase the overall cost of employment. Additionally, finding and hiring qualified full-time employees can be a lengthy and resource-intensive process compared to hiring part-time or temporary staff. Finally, when you do find the right fit, the onboarding process tends to be time-consuming, and, as we all know, time is money. 

Severance, Stress, and Burnout: If and when a full-time employee is terminated, the process can be costly, leading to potential severance packages, a large time investment, and potential legal disputes. Additionally, full-time employees may be under more stress to perform at work and, with limited hours available off the clock, at home. Finally, full-time employees may tire over time, leading to burnout, which may have a detrimental impact on their physical and mental health. 

Cons of Part-Time Employment for Employees 

Reduced Income, Lack of Benefits, and an Inconsistent Schedule: Part-time work typically comes with lower pay due to fewer hours worked, which can throttle an employee’s desire to meet his or her financial goals. Additionally, part-time employees oftentimes do not receive health, retirement, or time off benefits, placing themselves at risk of a financial emergency. Finally, part-time workers may be called upon sparingly or when full-time employees are absent, limiting their availability and resulting in an inconsistent schedule.

Job Insecurity, Lack of Career Advancement, and Less Social Interaction: Part-time employees may be excusable if and when economic conditions worsen, threatening the security of their positions. Additionally, management may be more apt to promote full-time employees rather than part-time workers, which could lead to minimal professional development. Finally, because they’re not working as frequently as their full-time counterparts, part-time employees may not experience the same social connections in the workplace. 

Cons of Part-Time Employment for Employers 

Higher Turnover, Less Loyalty, and Inconsistencies: Part-time employees may view one position as merely a stepping stone, which could lead to higher turnover and greater recruiting and onboarding costs for an organization. This lack of loyalty may lead to less knowledge and experience in the position, ultimately leading to diminished engagement, productivity, and profitability. Finally, employees who work fewer hours may commit more mistakes, as they lack the knowledge and experience a full-time employee may boast. 

Lack of Reliability, Unbalanced Schedules, and Limited Engagement: Part-time workers might have scheduling conflicts due to other commitments, like school, child care, or second jobs. This can make it challenging to create a consistent schedule and ensure adequate coverage during peak times. These secondary commitments may cause conflicts in an individual’s schedule, preventing a part-time employee from working if and when he or she is needed. Part-time workers may not be available to see projects through to completion, needing to hand off tasks or requiring colleagues to catch them up on progress. While this limited engagement may simply due to scheduling, it’s still a hurdle for employers to overcome. 

Rules and Regulations Pertaining to Part- and Full-Time Work

The rules and regulations allowing and preventing the scope of both part- and full-time work are more general in nature. Still, employers are obligated to obey certain laws and regulations when operating a business. 

While the FLSA doesn’t define the parameters of part- and full-time work, it does set minimum wage, overtime pay, child labor limitations, recordkeeping requirements, etc. Each of these must be followed or else an employer may be punishable by law. 

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave for qualified medical reasons, childbirth, or to care for a family member. While eligibility requirements apply, this can impact both full- and part-time workers. 

For a part-time worker to receive FMLA benefits, the employee must work for a covered employer. According to the FMLA Fact Sheet, a covered employer is:

  • A private-sector employer with a staff of 50 or more who have worked at least 20 workweeks during the current or previous calendar year;
  • A public agency;
  • A public or private elementary or secondary school;
  • The employee must have worked for the current employer for at least 12 months;
  • The company employs 50 or more people within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite; and
  • The employee has worked 1,250 hours or more over the past 12 months, per the FLSA.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) regulates employer-sponsored retirement and health benefit plans. Employers are not required to offer benefits to part-time employees, but if they do, the benefits must comply with ERISA guidelines. Generally, part-time employees may be eligible if they work at least 1,000 hours per year, which is about 20 hours per week.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees to provide health insurance to all employees working 30 or more hours per week. Employees working fewer than 30 hours per week are not guaranteed health insurance under the ACA.

Equal Employment Opportunity Laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and age. These protections apply to both full-time and part-time employees.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects employees' health information and ensures confidentiality to all employees, regardless of their employment status.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) coverage provides eligible employees and their families the option to continue health insurance coverage after certain qualifying events. This applies to employees who have health insurance through their employer, regardless of their employment roles.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) exists to ensure safe and healthy working conditions by setting and enforcing standards and providing training and assistance. These protections apply to all employees.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) governs the employment eligibility verification process for all employees, requiring employers to verify the identity and employment authorization of both full-time and part-time employees using Form I-9.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects the rights of employees to organize, join unions, and engage in collective bargaining. These rights apply to both full- and part-time employees.

The FLSA requires employers to classify workers as exempt or nonexempt. Those classified as independent contractors are exempt from FLSA coverage, which relieves them of labor protections, such as minimum wage guarantees and entitlement to overtime pay.

Misclassifying employees as exempt under the FLSA can lead to serious fines and even criminal prosecution. The Department of Labor will levy a fine of up to $1,000 for each FLSA violation. If found in violation a second time, an employer may be imprisoned. 

If an employer does not pay an employee the wages or benefits required by the nature of the employment, the employee may have a cause of action for a misclassification lawsuit. For example:

  • California Attorney General Jerry Brown won a $13 million judgment against two companies that misclassified 300 janitors.
  • The Illinois Department of Labor was awarded $328,500 in penalties when a home improvement company misclassified 18 of its workers.

Minnesota announced it will be increasing its penalties for companies that misclassify employees as independent contractors effective July 1. If an employer wrongfully identifies an employee as an independent contractor, the entity may be fined up to $10,000 for each individual wrongly classified. Employers may also be levied a $1,000 fee for any delay or failure to cooperate in an investigation. 

In addition, employees may be eligible for compensatory damages, which may include the value of supplemental pay, including minimum wage, overtime, shift differentials, paid time off, insurance stipends, and more.

Tracking Time for Part- and Full-Time Employees

Regardless of the number of hours an employee works, tracking time is an effective way to optimize productivity at work. An advanced employee time tracking system, such as OnTheClock, can boost employee efficiency in various ways, leading to a more productive and harmonious workplace. A few of OnTheClock’s benefits are listed below. 

Accurate Time Tracking

Full-Time Employees: OnTheClock ensures precise recording of work hours, helping to track overtime and comply with labor laws.

Part-Time Employees: OnTheClock facilitates accurate tracking of varying schedules, ensuring all hours worked are recorded and paid correctly.

Efficient Payroll Processing

Full-Time Employees: OnTheClock simplifies payroll calculations, including regular and overtime hours, leading to timely and accurate payments.

Part-Time Employees: OnTheClock handles complex pay structures, such as different hourly rates or irregular hours, streamlining the payroll process.

Scheduling Flexibility

Full-Time Employees: Allows for the creation and management of consistent work schedules, reducing scheduling conflicts and ensuring adequate coverage.

Part-Time Employees: Enables easy management of fluctuating schedules, accommodating employees’ availability and personal commitments.

Enhanced Communication

Full-Time Employees: OnTheClock’s chat feature allows managers and employees to communicate about schedules, time-off requests, and other work-related matters. Conversations are recorded and only available to existing employees.

Part-Time Employees: OnTheClock ensures part-time staff are informed about their schedules, shift changes, and company announcements.

PTO and Leave Management

Full-Time Employees: OnTheClock tracks accrued PTO, vacation days, and sick leave, making it easy for employees to request and manage their time off.

Part-Time Employees: OnTheClock allows part-time employees to request time off and track any benefits they are entitled to, ensuring clarity and fairness.

Real-Time Monitoring

Full-Time Employees: OnTheClock enables real-time tracking of work hours, ensuring employees are working their scheduled hours and managers can address any discrepancies promptly.

Part-Time Employees: OnTheClock helps monitor and manage part-time work hours to prevent unauthorized overtime and ensure compliance with employment agreements.

Reporting and Analytics

Full-Time Employees: OnTheClock provides detailed reports on hours worked, overtime, and productivity, helping managers make informed decisions.

Part-Time Employees: OnTheClock offers insights into part-time labor costs, scheduling efficiency, and employee performance, aiding in workforce management.

24/7 Access

Full-Time Employees: OnTheClock allows employees to clock in/out, view schedules, and request time off from their mobile devices, enhancing convenience and accessibility.

Part-Time Employees: OnTheClock enables part-time staff to manage their work schedules and time tracking on the go, assisting them as they aim to balance their work-life needs.

Compliance and Legal Protection

Full-Time Employees: OnTheClock helps ensure compliance with labor laws and regulations regarding work hours, overtime, and breaks.

Part-Time Employees: OnTheClock provides a record of hours worked and ensures adherence to labor laws applicable to part-time workers, protecting both the business and employees.


Understanding the distinctions between full- and part-time employment is important for both employers and employees to ensure compliance with labor laws and optimize workplace productivity and satisfaction. While the number of hours worked is the most apparent difference, deeper insights reveal a range of benefits and challenges associated with each employment type. Employers must navigate complex legal regulations and thoughtfully consider the pros and cons to maintain a harmonious and efficient workplace.

By implementing advanced time tracking systems, like OnTheClock, companies can effectively manage their workforce, ensuring accurate record-keeping, fair compensation, and compliance with labor laws. This proactive approach not only safeguards against legal repercussions but also fosters a supportive work environment that caters to the diverse needs of both full- and part-time employees.

Try OnTheClock free for 30 days to discover the benefits time tracking affords your business. For more information, visit

OnTheClock Employee Time Tracking

Written by

Herb Woerpel

Herb Woerpel is a copywriter with OnTheClock. He has 17-plus years of professional journalism experience working for community and national media outlets.

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