Part-time workers fill employment gaps


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines working part-time as working less than 35 hours per week. By that definition, more than 25 million Americans are part-time employees.

Part-time employees may be parents wanting to be at home with young children, retirees supplementing their income, students going to school, workers holding a second job to earn extra money, and previously unemployed people who figure something is better than nothing.

supervisor helping trainee

You might want to take advantage of this pool of labor to help you meet staffing needs during peak periods for your business, as well as times when many of your staff want time off – for example, Thanksgiving through New Year’s and summer vacations.

Some of the advantages of hiring part-time employees include:

In the United States, they are not usually entitled to benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off and retirement pensions.

  • You are not paying their salaries during slow times, when their help is not needed.
  • It is easier to terminate a part-time employee, so you can try them out and decide how many hours you want to use them or whether to keep them at all.
  • Part-time employees are often more flexible than full-timers as to what days and times they can work.
  • Some managers report that part-time workers have more energy and are more productive, presumably because they don’t work as many hours.

On the other hand, there are some potential drawbacks you should weigh when considering hiring part-time workers. These include:

  • Part-time employees usually require a greater investment in training per hour of output since they work fewer hours. This is mainly an issue for positions that have a steep learning curve and require a large investment in onboarding and training.
  • Part-time workers typically do not get as immersed in the work culture as full-time personnel, so they may not identify with the company as much or feel as much a part of the team. Of course, this can be a plus in a culture that includes a lot of backbiting and low morale!
  • Just as it is easier for employers to let part-time employees go, these employees often find it easier to move on to greener pastures.

Think broadly when considering hiring part-time workers. Your staffing gaps can be filled by temps, contract workers, on-call employees, regular employees who job-share, or permanent part-time positions (sometimes with benefits pro-rated to the number of hours worked per week).

A source for finding extra help quickly is a temporary staffing agency.

When you hire temps from such an agency, they are not employees of your company. They are employees of the staffing agency, which means you can end the relationship at any time. You typically pay the agency a fee of around 15 to 30 percent on top of what you are paying the employee.

Finally, there are some legal considerations to keep in mind when hiring part-time help. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs overtime pay, minimum wages, child labor and recordkeeping, part-time employees are treated the same as full-time employees.

Part-time employees are fully covered by OSHA’s policies on safety, health, work-related injuries and fatalities. And part-time employees who work more than 1,000 hours per year may be eligible for retirement benefits under ERISA.