What Are The Differences Between Full-Time And Part-Time Hours?

Depending on the type of business you run, and the industry you activate in, you may need to consider hiring not only full-time employees but also part-time employees. In many cases, this can be a tough decision. Choosing the right path for you and your team can be challenging. It's not as simple as: well, it all depends on the number of hours that appear on timesheets. There are many more implications, and you need to consider them all, not only for the success of your organization but also so that you can always stay compliant.

Making a clear difference between part-time and full-time is key to understanding your employers' obligations regarding your employees' rights, like benefits, health insurance, vacation time, retirement plans, etc.

In this article, we will discover all there is to know about the difference between full-time and part-time hours, so you can ensure you won't be exposed to breaking the legislation and possible fines.


  1. Full-time hours
  2. Part-time hours
  3. Comparison table - part-time vs. full-time
  4. FAQs

1.    Full-time hours

How many hours is full-time?

We will first look at any definition in various laws in the US to understand how many hours a full-time employee is supposed to work.

Firstly, The US Department of Labor does not define full-time employment. On the other hand, the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and the Internal Revenue Service (the IRS) mention that a full-time employee is one "who works an average of either 

1. 30 hours or more per workweek or 

2. 130 hours during a month."

With these limits in mind, we must point out that US employers have a great say in how they individually define full-time employment, a definition that will vary from company to company. But an employer will need to consider other factors when deciding this aspect. Here they are:

a. The work is permanent, temporary, or seasonal

If the future employee occupies a permanent role with more than 30 hours per week, you will probably consider him a full-time worker.

If there is a case of a temporary or seasonal role, the key will be the type of contract you will have with the employee, in which case you need to make sure you are compliant with any local or federal laws regarding this matter.

b. Will the new hire receive benefits?

As a rule, full-time employees receive benefits such as paid time off, health insurance, or retirement plans, which cannot be applied usually to part-time employees. There are cases when you, as an employer, are supposed to offer part-time workers some benefits on a pro-rata basis.

In Pennsylvania, for example, part-time workers who obtain up to 30% of their total unemployment benefits rate from their work can still claim unemployment benefits. However, the amount of money they receive will be lower than one of a full-time employee.

c. Are you considered a small employer (SE) or an applicable large employer (ALE)?

The ALE is an employer with more than 50 employees, and under the Affordable Care Act, this type of employer has an obligation to offer certain healthcare benefits. On the other hand, a SE (with less than 50 employees) will be bound to respect other requirements.


Overtime is common in many industries, and it can lead up to many extra hours worked by a full-time employee.

As a general rule, we speak about overtime when an employee works more than 40 usual hours/week and must be compensated for these. The employee will be paid 1.5 times their usual hourly wage(there are some exceptions).

Be aware that if the employee volunteers to work overtime, the employer will not be responsible for paying him the extra fee.

The Fair Labor Standards Act will confirm for every employer when overtime is due.

Basically, there are two main categories of employees under the FLSA, and there is a difference regarding overtime:

  • Non-exempt employees: they are the ones who will be paid for overtime work. They usually perform repetitive work and are paid an hourly salary.
  • Exempt employees: will not receive overtime pay, they only have to receive a minimum salary of USD 684 per week.

How to calculate the overtime pay?

Let’s consider, for example, that an employee who is paid $55/hour, who completed the normal 40 hours/week, also worked 10 extra hours in the specified week.

•    The overtime pay rate would be $55 x 1.5 x 10 hours = $825.

•    The total weekly payment would be $55 x 40 + $825 = $3025.

Advantages and disadvantages of full-time employment

There are many aspects to consider when deciding to hire a full-time or a part-time worker. Let's go through the full-time employment ones first:


  • Financial stability regarding your employees - when your staff is employed full-time, you can plan in advance how much you will spend each month on salary, benefits, and even bonuses. The benefits in question are sick leave, maternity leave, health insurance, retirement plan, paid time off, and education assistance.
  • Dependability - you have at all times the specialists you need for each challenging task, there, available to do their work.
  • Loyalty and dedication - Offering your employees stability at the job, with full-time employment, meaning they will become invested in the organization, motivated, and loyal.


  • Issues if the business is not successful - When having a contract based on full-time hours, but the business is not going very well, you, as the employer, will still need to honor the contract terms.
  • Some people may become entitled of bored - A full-time position can also generate this case, and the employer needs to find new ways to stimulate and motivate full-time workers.
  • Issues with work-like balance - A full-time employee can become highly attached to work and the company. Therefore you, as the employer, should find ways to prevent this situation.

2.    Part-time hours

How many hours is part-time?

We will check again if there are legal definitions for this term as a point of start.  There are none, so this is again a case when the employer will take up this task. As a general rule of thumb, a part-time worker will perform less than 32/30 hours per week on average. They have more flexible schedules than full-time workers.

We will "work" with this upper limit of 32 or 30 hours per week, but keep in mind that there is no lower limit. The number of hours will depend on each company, industry, or the agreement the 2 parties decide to have.

Here are the varieties of part-time work schedules you can use depending on the needs of your organization:

  • Freelancing - a freelancer is part of your team just temporarily. Usually, they have to complete a particular task/project and have clear limitations regarding hours and financial terms.
  • Split schedule - this type of schedule where your employee's work hours are divided into two or more parts, with unpaid time off in between. It may work if your employees need to, for example, go to the doctor with their children.
  • Alternate schedule - this type of schedule allows a variation from the employee's usual hours in starting and leaving times but does not change the total number of hours worked in a week.
  • On-call - usually found in the emergency service industry. Such a worker may not actually do any work at all but needs to be on duty for a specific time period.
  • Remote - probably the easiest schedule to use. Regardless of the employee's location, everyone does their job.

There are specific sectors/industries where part-time jobs are suitable. Let's see the most common ones:

  • hospitality
  • health and care services
  • computer programming
  • data entry
  • graphic and web design
  • accounting
  • retail
  • house-sitting/caretaking.

A very important characteristic of part-time roles is that, in most cases, part-time workers are not entitled to workplace benefits.


We need to go back to the distinction made by The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) between non-exempt and exempt employees, and the conclusion is straightforward.

If a part-time employee works extra hours beyond 40 hours and is non-exempt, they will be entitled to overtime pay.

If the employer wants to offer more, he can do it and implement extra pay for overtime that does not exceed 40 hours through internal regulations.

Advantages and disadvantages of part-time employment

Find below a list of advantages and disadvantages you need to consider before using part-time employment:


  • Lower costs - since normally part-time workers do not receive any benefits, you will save money.
  • Flexibility on both sides - depending on the nature of your business, you may need just part-time workers for specific tasks, which comes in handy. For the employee, on the other hand, working part-time can mean flexibility for another job or for a great work-life balance.
  • Takes the pressure off your full-time staff - you can hand over some of the tasks that cause pressure on your staff to the part-time workers, which can lead to better productivity.


  • Lack of commitment - it's not universal, but some part-time employees tend not to be dedicated to a company where they spend small amounts of time.
  • Unpredictable monthly costs - depending on the specific projects and the type of contract, the monthly costs with part-time employees will vary. Make sure you track their hours correctly.

Regardless of your employment type, ensure you follow the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Established in 1938, the FLSA describes workers' rights and employers' responsibilities.

There are many provisions to be respected, but here are the most important ones:

  • The minimum wage - every employer needs to offer the federal minimum wage - of $7.25 per hour.
  • Overtime - don't forget that you need to consider also overtime when calculating the cost for an employee(full or part-time)
  • Keeping track of worked hours - FLSA also requires employees to keep track of the workers their employees work, even if we speak about work from the office or remotely.

Tip: If you are interested in how to deal with overtime as employer, read our guide on the topic.

Difference between part-time and full-time employment – comparison table 

The table below covers the main differences between part-time and full-time in terms of hours worked, benefits, insurance, and laws.

Part-Time EmployeeFull-Time Employee
Number of worked hoursLess than 30 hours per weekMore than 30 hours per week
Will the employee receive benefits?Usually, NO. Still, in some cases, the employer can decide to offer some(or some local laws will impose this).YES
Will the employee receive health insurance?Usually, NO. In some cases, there may exist such an obligation for the employer.For employers with more than 50 employees, YES. Under 50, it has to be individually checked.
Will the employer follow local laws?YESYES


FAQs Full time vs Part time hours

1.    What is the difference between a full-time employee and a part-time employee?

All in all, employers decide how many hours they consider full-time and how many part-time. The fundamental difference is that part-time workers usually do not receive any benefits or very limited ones.

2.    How many hours is a full-time employee supposed to work?

At least 30 hours/week or at least 130 hours/month.

State/local laws may have more specific provisions.

3.    Is working 32 hours considered full-time?

In this case, the Affordable Care Act considers a 32-hour workweek full-time workload. But every employer can decide for their organization.

4.    Can a part-time worker become a full-time employee?

Depending on every industry, sector, or company, an initial part-time employee can become a full-time employee. Make sure you have an internal policy to avoid exposing your organization to possible fines and lack of compliance.


Many jobs from many sectors do not require hiring part-time employees. Many companies are not designed to accommodate such a type of employee, which is fine. 

Now you have all the information you need to make the right decision. Start small: with just one part-time worker and see if this situation is the right fit for you and your organization.