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Should You Hire Full-Time or Part-Time Employees?

Mona Bushnell
Mona Bushnell

Learn the pros and cons of hiring full-time employees versus part-time employees.

  • Employees working 30 hours or less per month are considered part-time workers, while those working more than 30 hours are full-time workers.
  • Hiring part-time workers may be more cost-effective for small businesses that don't yet know how long it should take to accomplish certain job duties or that require highly skilled employees.
  • Small businesses that have fewer than 50 employees are not required to offer health insurance to full-time employees.

For years, many organizations and companies resisted allowing their employees to work remotely, believing it was impossible for many roles to translate to a remote model. However, once the now-infamous COVID-19 coronavirus hit, everyone got a big wake-up call to what's possible. Seemingly overnight, thousands of workers transitioned from onsite employees to full-time remote workers, raising a new question: What, exactly, do we need from our workforce?

Now, questions not only of remote versus in-office workers are being raised, but also of part-time versus full-time employees. After all, many jobs that were thought to require an in-office presence don't, so perhaps some of the old lines between part time and full time need reevaluating as well. This is especially relevant for small businesses that struggle to attract and retain talent.

If you're preparing to hire new employees whilst keeping your bottom line in check, you'd do well to consider which roles require a full-time employee and which jobs might be best filled as part-time positions. Here's everything you need to know about full-time versus part-time employment.

Definition of full-time vs. part-time work

Let's start with what constitutes a full-time versus a part-time employee. There is some leeway on this from company to company, but part-timers are typically employees who work fewer than 30 hours per week, while full-timers work more than 30 hours per week, usually between 35 and 50 hours weekly.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not define full-time employment or part-time employment. This is a matter generally to be determined by the employer."

What are the pros of hiring full-time employees?

Full-time employees are the standard in many industries. Some benefits of employing full-time staff are ease of scheduling meetings, perception of loyalty, and more work hours per person.

  • Ease of scheduling: It can be easier to schedule meetings when you know all your staff is working the exact same hours. Of course, if you have full-time employees who are remote or in various time zones, this may not be the case.

  • Perception of loyalty: Employers often view full-time employees as more committed to the company and less likely to job-hop than contractors or part-time workers. While this may or may not be true in practice, the perception persists.

  • More work hours per person (i.e., fewer employees): The primary reason people hire full-time employees is time and ease. Every job requires a set number of hours to complete, and many employers would rather employ one full-time person than two part-time people.

What are the cons of hiring full-time employees?

The short answer is that it's expensive to hire full-time workers. By design, a single full-time employee costs more than a single part-time employee. Even if you do not offer the full-time employee benefits (which many companies are required to do by law, further increasing the costs), 40 hours a week costs more than 20 hours a week.

Additionally, when you have to pay for 40 hours per week of someone's time, you may have to settle for a slightly less experienced full-timer, as opposed to a more experienced (and more expensive per hour, but still cheaper overall) part-time worker.

What are the pros of hiring part-time employees?

The benefit of hiring part-time employees is twofold. Firstly, it's less expensive to pay for fewer hours of work, and a lean but efficient workforce is essential for those living close to the balance sheet. Second, paying for fewer hours of work overall may make it affordable to hire more experienced professionals.

While it may seem inefficient to hire workers for less time, that's not always the case. Plenty of studies indicate that workers spend a large amount of time not working while getting paid at work. If you set measurable goals for your part-time employees, you may be surprised what one efficient part-timer can accomplish.

Another major advantage to hiring a part-time employee is that it may allow you to get a higher-caliber professional than your small business would be able to afford at full-time hours. For example, if you can only afford to spend $35,000 a year on a salary for a new social media marketer and want a full-timer, you'll have to hire someone with very little experience. However, if you take that same $35,000 and use it to hire someone highly experienced for part-time hours, they may be able to accomplish more in 10 or 15 hours a week than a recent college graduate can in 40 hours or more.

More time on the clock doesn't always equal more efficiency.

What are the cons of hiring part-time employees?

Part-time employees are not available to you 40 hours per week, they may or may not be getting benefits from you, and they may have other clients paying them. Because of these factors, some employers feel that part-time workers are more likely to jump ship if waters get rough. They are viewed as less dependent on income than full-time workers whose salaries (and often health insurance and retirement accounts) are tied to their jobs. However, many companies do offer benefits to part-time employees, which may mitigate this issue (though it would increase costs).

Additionally, scheduling part-time employees either on their own or alongside full-time employees can be a logistical hurdle for businesses that aren't adept at flexible scheduling yet. Human resources departments may be reluctant to add a new type of worker to their management routines, and managers may struggle to adapt to having employees who aren't available all day long, but only during certain shifts.

What is job sharing?

Job sharing is the splitting of one full-time job into two part-time jobs. Job sharing can be advantageous for small businesses that are in early growth stages or having difficulty attracting excellent full-time employees. Many highly skilled professionals are only available for part-time hours, such as some parents, people with disabilities, and people who are seeking greater work-life balance or pursuing other part-time goals, like higher education or starting a business.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "The benefits of job sharing are said to include increased morale and productivity. Job sharing can also be an attractive way to recruit new employees and retain current ones. In order for a job sharing arrangement to be successful, however, both individuals must be able to handle the position as efficiently as one person."

Another benefit is that when a job is shared, if one employee (or one half of the job) doesn't work out, gets sick or simply leaves for a better offer, the job is not entirely unstaffed.

Part-time vs. full-time employees – which is better for my business?

The short answer is that it depends on your business. If you're not sure how many hours per week a job takes to complete, you might be better off starting with temporary or part-time staff, since they work fewer hours and cost less money. Once you have an idea of the output for the part-time positions in your company, it should be easier to gauge whether you truly need someone for 40 hours or more per week.

Many business owners assume that hiring full-time positions means paying for costly benefits like health insurance, but that's only true for businesses that employ 50 or more people. If your business is smaller than that, you have no legal obligation to provide health insurance to any of your employees, regardless of the hours they work.

Mona Bushnell
Mona Bushnell,
business.com Writer
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I'm a Staff Writer for business.com and Business News Daily.