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FAQs: Part-time Employee Rights

Many businesses rely on part-time employees to complement full-time staff, add flexibility in managing the workload and provide a way for individuals to balance work and other commitments. With more than 25 million Americans working part time, it’s likely most businesses have part-time employees on their payroll. It’s important to understand the rules you need to follow when employing part-timers. Here are questions that often arise around part-time employees:

What is a part-time employee?

A part-time employee is an individual who works fewer hours per week than the number of hours an employer considers a full-time employee. Generally, this is defined as 35 hours per week for full-time (by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and generally around 20 hours per week for part-time, but no law specifies these hours — they can be set by you, the employer. In recent years, companies have designated 30-hours a week as full time. It’s important to note that however you define full and part time, these definitions should be clearly communicated to employees. Putting this in writing in an employee handbook is an effective method.

What regulations do I need to follow with part-time workers?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) makes no distinction between part-time and full-time employees. This means a part-time employee is still subject to regulations on minimum wage, child labor and record keeping.

Why make a distinction between full- and part-time?

The distinction is important as customarily, part-time employees do not receive paid time off, benefits or an opportunity to participate in employer sponsored retirement plans.

Are part-time employees entitled to meal and rest breaks?

Regulations vary by state. Generally, employees are required to have meal break every 4 hours, but check your state’s rules.

Do I need to pay part-time workers the minimum wage?

Generally, yes. That is $7.25 per hour, or, for service employees who receive tips, $2.13 per hour as long as tip totals make up the difference. (For more information, consult our guide to minimum wage by state.)

Do part-time employees receive vacation?


Part-time employees are not entitled to receive paid time off, but some employers offer it as an additional benefit. However, there is no legal requirement to offer PTO to part-time employees. Some companies pro-rate PTO for part-time workers. For example, offering half the number of days off that a full-time employee would receive. Whatever you decide, the policy needs to be clearly communicated to employees.

Do I need to withhold taxes on a part-time employee’s wages?

Yes. Payroll taxes, including state, federal, local and FICA taxes, need to be withheld from wages.

Are part-time employees covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act?

It depends. If the employee has been employed by your company for at least 12 months, worked a total of 1250 hours before taking leave, and your company has 50 or more employees, he or she meets the requirements for FMLA leave. However, some states have laws that provide time off for family or medical problems, similar to FMLA, for part-timers, so check your local regulations.

Are part-time workers covered under workers’ compensation laws?

Generally, yes. Individuals who are defined as employees of a company are eligible for workers’ coverage in the event of an injury on the job.

Are part-time eligible for overtime pay?

Overtime pay is determined by whether your employee is classified as exempt or non-exempt. A non-exempt employee is generally entitled to overtime any time they work more than 40 hours in one week. Also, if you have an employee whose salary is based on a certain number of hours, they are entitled to pay for any additional hours they work. For example, if you have an employee who earns a salary based on 35 hours a week, and you ask them to work an additional five hours, they should receive an hourly rate based on their salary for those hours. If they are required to work hours beyond 40, they are entitled to receive their hourly rate times 1.5.

Is there different new-hire paperwork for part-time employees?

Generally, part-time employees need to complete the same onboarding paperwork, including federally-required tax and eligibility verification forms, as full-time employees.

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