How Many Hours Is Part Time Within the Context of Part-Time, Seasonal and Temporary Workers?

December 4, 2023
How Many Hours Is Part Time?

Do you need to provide the same benefits to your part-time and seasonal workers that you provide to your full-time workers? This article will discuss how many hours is part time and when providing benefits is required and when it is optional.

Understanding part-time employment

There is no single, universally accepted answer to the question, “How many hours is part time?” The closest consensus is that part-time hours are fewer than full-time hours. Beyond that, there is no specific cut-off point between full- and part-time positions that applies to every company. The Fair Labor Standards Act doesn't address part-time employment, leaving that to be decided by the employer. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) defines full-time hours, and that legal definition determines who must be offered health insurance.

Typical working hours

A full-time position is often defined as 35 to 40 hours per week. Forty hours has legal significance: Non-exempt employees who work more than 40 hours in any week must be paid overtime, under federal law. Except for purposes of the ACA, employers have discretion in determining what part-time work is in their companies. A part-time job is sometimes only 20 hours per week or fewer. Part-time jobs generally involve up to 30 hours per week. For jobs between 30 and 35 hours, there is less of a consensus. Some employers consider those to be full-time positions and others consider them part-time.

What does the ACA consider part-time?

The ACA defines full-time work as an average of 30 hours or more per week or at least 130 hours in that month. So a part-time position would be one in which the employee worked an average of 29 or fewer hours per week or 129 hours or fewer per month. This matters because under the ACA, employers are required to provide health insurance only to their full-time workers. Note, however, that the ACA doesn’t apply to most small companies.

Benefits for part-time employees

Many businesses choose to offer benefits to full-time employees that they don’t provide to their part-time workers. For example, they may offer health insurance only to their full-time staff members. Companies with fewer than 50 full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees are not subject to the ACA. So, for those companies, it’s up to the employer to decide which employees are eligible for a company-provided health plan. Benefits such as unemployment insurance and time off may be required for part-time workers under local, state or federal laws.

Employers and HR professionals need to define how many hours are considered part time in their companies. That should be included in the employee handbook. They also need to decide whether part-time workers receive fewer benefits. Employees and job seekers should be aware if a position is classified as part-time or full-time. They should also understand how that classification dictates the benefits they receive.

While employers are not required to provide benefits to part-time employees, there are several advantages to doing so. Providing benefits, especially health insurance, helps employers attract good job candidates. Existing employees will also be more likely to stay. Employee turnover is expensive, and increasing employee satisfaction by offering benefits can help reduce the costs of replacing good employees. Employees with health insurance may need to take less time off for illness compared to uninsured employees. They may also be more productive.

Employers should weigh the advantages of providing employee benefits to part-timers against the added costs of doing so.

Interns and seasonal employees

Interns and seasonal employees may work full-time or part-time hours, but they only work for limited periods of time. How does this affect their eligibility for benefits? It may depend on both the hours worked and how many days they work for the company per year. To see if you are required to provide health insurance under the ACA, answer these questions:

1. Does the ACA apply to you? If you have fewer than 50 full-time or FTE employees, you are not subject to the ACA rules. Therefore, you are not required to provide health insurance to any employees under federal law.

2. Do you pay your interns? If your interns are unpaid, you are not required to provide health insurance for them under the ACA.

3. If your paid interns and temporary workers work full-time hours and you’re a large employer subject to the ACA, do you have to offer health insurance to them? The answer is sometimes. You’ll need to perform calculations using what’s called the “look-back measurement method” to see if these employees are considered full-time under the ACA’s rules.

You can provide benefits for your interns and seasonal employees even if you're not legally required to. Some reasons why you might want to do so include:

  • To build good will with interns who may later return to become full-time employees.
  • To provide good publicity for your company or organization.
  • To motivate seasonal employees to return year after year.
  • To show appreciation for their work.

Outside of health insurance, there are other types of benefits you can offer to reward your interns and seasonal workforce for their many hours of work. Benefits that affect work-life balance are especially appreciated. For example:

  • Providing on-site childcare.
  • Catering lunch.
  • Being a pet-friendly workplace.
  • Providing educational opportunities.

Transitioning to full-time employment

If you only provide benefits to full-time employees, what happens when a worker changes from a part-time employee to a full-time employee? When should they start receiving full-time benefits?

This is generally up to the employer’s discretion. Usually, a recently promoted employee’s benefits begin just as if the employee were a new hire. The first day in their new role is the equivalent of a new full-time hire’s first day. If there’s a waiting period for some benefits, that period should also begin on the first day. If you’re subject to the ACA, the waiting period for providing health insurance can’t be longer than 90 days.

Benefits for part-timers and others

Today’s job-seekers and employees put a high priority on working for companies that provide attractive benefits packages. TriNet can help you get big-league benefits for your small and medium-sized company. Furthermore, we can help you navigate through federal, state and local regulations to keep you compliant with all applicable laws.

Speak with a TriNet representative today to discover more about how to provide attractive and affordable benefits for your workforce.

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