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

Mona Bushnell
Staff Writer
business.com Staff
Updated Jan 23, 2023

Learn the pros and cons of different worker categories.

Many organizations resisted remote work for years, believing many roles couldn’t translate to a work-from-home model. However, once the now-infamous COVID-19 coronavirus hit, everyone realized the possibilities. Seemingly overnight, thousands of workers transitioned from onsite to full-time remote work as businesses created remote work plans. This shift raises a new question: What, exactly, is needed from the workforce?

Today’s employers are weighing the pros and cons of remote vs. in-office work as well as part-time vs. full-time employees in the hiring process. After all, many jobs that were thought to require an in-office presence don’t, so perhaps some old lines between part-time and full-time also need reevaluating. This is especially relevant for small businesses that struggle to attract and retain top talent.

If you’re preparing to hire new employees while keeping your bottom line in check, 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 vs. part-time employment.

Definition of full-time vs. part-time work

Let’s start with what constitutes a full-time vs. 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 United States Department of Labor (DOL), “The Fair Labor Standards Act does not define full-time employment or part-time employment. This is a matter generally to be determined by the employer.”

Did you know?Did you know? It’s essential to check local, state and federal regulations regarding your employees’ status to comply with employee benefits management regulations.

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 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 accurate in practice, the perception persists.
  • More work hours per person, such as 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.

TipTip: If you’re deciding between hiring a full-time worker or contractor, consider your business needs and the level of time, flexibility and control a position requires.

What are the cons of hiring full-time employees?

There are some disadvantages to hiring full-time employees:

  • Full-time employees incur ongoing costs, even when business is slow: Since you pay full-time employees a salary or they work a relatively consistent number of hours per week, your costs remain the same even when revenues are down. This affects your cash flow management in those down months. 
  • Benefits for full-timers are expensive: Most full-time employees receive employee benefits, such as health insurance and paid time off. Many companies are required by law to provide benefits to full-timers.
  • Full-time employees may have a lower level of expertise: 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 instead of a more experienced (and more expensive per hour, but still cheaper overall) part-time worker.

What are the pros of hiring part-time employees?

More time on the clock doesn’t always equal more efficiency. Hiring part-time employees has distinct advantages, including the following:

  • You’ll spend less money on part-time employees: It’s less expensive to pay for fewer work hours, and a lean but efficient workforce is essential for businesses living close to the balance sheet. While hiring workers for less time may seem inefficient, that’s not always the case. Many studies indicate that workers spend a lot of time not working while getting paid at work. If you set measurable business goals for part-time employees, you may be surprised what one efficient part-timer can accomplish.
  • Hiring part-timers helps you get specialized talent: Another significant advantage to hiring a part-time employee is that it may help you get a higher-caliber professional than your small business could afford at full-time hours. For example, if you can only afford to spend $35,000 a year on a salary when hiring a social media manager and want a full-timer, you’ll have to hire someone with minimal experience. However, if you take that same $35,000 and use it to hire someone highly experienced for part-time hours, they may accomplish more in 10 or 15 hours a week than a recent college graduate can in 40 hours or more.
  • Hiring part-timers lets you adjust for seasonality: If your business is seasonal, part-time employees allow you to maintain cash flow during slow times and ramp up when demand increases.

Did you know?Did you know? Part-time workers are likely to be exempt from the workers’ compensation insurance requirement.

What are the cons of hiring part-time employees?

On the other hand, part-time employees create some challenges:

  • Part-time employees have limited availability: Part-time employees are not available to you 40 hours per week, they may or may not receive benefits from you and they may have other clients paying them. If you have a big project that requires all hands on deck or a sudden uptick in demand, you may not be able to count on these part-time employees to give you more hours or go above and beyond.
  • Part-time employees may not be as loyal: Some employers feel that part-time workers are more likely to jump ship if the 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 mitigate this issue by offering benefits to part-time employees, although this increases costs.
  • There may be scheduling challenges with part-timers: Additionally, creating employee work schedules for part-timers on their own or alongside full-time employees can be a logistical hurdle for businesses that aren’t adept at flexible scheduling. Human resources departments may be reluctant to add a new worker classification to their management routines, and managers may struggle to adapt to employees who aren’t available all day.

TipTip: If you’re creating a benefits package, check out our reviews of the best health insurance and employee benefits providers and our overview of the best business employee retirement plans.

What is job sharing?

Job sharing is a work arrangement that splits one full-time job into two part-time jobs. Job sharing can be advantageous for small businesses in early growth stages or companies with trouble attracting excellent full-time employees. Many highly skilled professionals are only available for part-time hours, including: 

According to the DOL, job sharing can boost morale and productivity while attracting high-caliber new employees and retaining your current team. However, both workers in the job-share arrangement must have the skills and work ethic to get the job done as efficiently as one person. 

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

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

Whether it’s best to hire a full-time or part-time employee depends on your business. If you’re unsure how many hours per week a job takes to complete, you might be better off starting with temporary or part-time staff because 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 genuinely 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 their work hours.

Jennifer Dublino contributed to the reporting and writing of this article.

Image Credit: fizkes / Getty Images
Mona Bushnell
business.com Staff
business.comb.
I'm a Staff Writer for business.com and Business News Daily.