Full Time and Part Time, What are the Legal Differences?
Last updated: 2021-05-25 (originally published on 2019-09-06) — by Sylvia Polydor
As a business owner, it is imperative to understand the difference between full time and part time employment in order to comply with the associated laws.
The number of weekly work hours is the most relevant aspect to categorise this.
In many jurisdictions, there isn’t an official definition of a part-time worker, other than that a part-time worker works fewer hours than full-time. In fact, it is up to employers to define the exact number of hours a full-time employee is required to work on a weekly basis in their company.
For fairness and transparency, the difference should be outlined in the Employee Handbook and/or Policies as employee status affects other employment conditions (i.e. pay, vacation, benefits, etc.).
Additionally, if the company staff includes part-time employees, an employer should draft a Flexible Working Policy where they state specific flexible working arrangements.
Generally speaking, full-time employees receive health benefits and salaried pay. Part-time employees are usually billed hourly and are not legally entitled to standard benefits.
However, the list of differences and legal requirements is much more detailed.
Laws and regulations on full-time and part-time employment differ from one country to another. For instance, if you are running a company in Singapore and wish to hire an employee who is not covered by the Employment Act of Singapore, you are required to draft an Employment Contract (Senior Executive), which is not always the case in other cities and countries.
Below you will find some of the general definitions of full-time and part-time employment regarding the number of work hours, benefits, and payment methods.
It is up to employers to define the exact number of hours a full-time employee is required to work every week. But, the following examples in different countries shows that in most jurisdictions a 35-40 hours a week would be considered a full-time employment.
In the United Kingdom, a full-time worker usually works at least 35 hours a week. Furthermore, the rights of part-time workers are legally protected by the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000.
In Australia, the Fair Work Act 2009 classifies employment into full-time and part-time based on the number of hours an employee works a week. Full-time entails 38 work hours while part-time is anything less.
In the United States, traditionally, 40 hours a week has been considered as “full-time” employment. But the U.S. Department of Labor does not state that full time workers are obliged to complete a 40-hour week and there are many current instances in which the hours required to be considered full-time have been lowered. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines full-time as 35 or more hours a week, but this is just for statistical purposes and is not law. In addition, pursuant to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a full-time employee is, for a calendar month, an employee employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week, or 130 hours of service per month.
Another distinction between part-time and full-time employees is that they may be paid differently, salaried vs. hourly. Some full-time employees may be salaried while employees working part-time are paid on an hourly basis.
Payment of overtime can also be different depending on the type of employment agreement.
In the United Kingdom for instance, legally, the employer must provide equal pay for equal work. The hourly rate for part-time and full-time workers doing the same work should be the same. However, employees working part-time may not be entitled to the same overtime rate as a full-time worker. This wouldn’t kick in until they have worked the same number of hours that a full-time employee would be required to work before getting the overtime rate.
Full time employees typically receive more benefits than part-time employees. For instance, full-time employees may be entitled to the the following exclusive benefits:
- Medical insurance
- Dental and optical plan
- Retirement benefits
- Paid time off (including holidays, vacation days, and sick leave)
Additional benefits can be included and they vary depending on the employer in question and the specific list of benefits they are willing to enlist within the Employment Contract.
In the United Kingdom, part-time employees have the right to all the benefits and the protection that full-time workers get in an equal proportion to the number of hours that they work (pro rata basis). That is unless the difference in treatment can be justified on objective grounds. This relates to benefits such as: annual leave, maternity pay and leave, parental leave, training, opportunities for promotion, pension schemes and travel allowance. Thus, mandatory benefits to provide to part-time employees may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Notice of Termination
Neither full time or part time employees can be made redundant without notice. Employers must provide written notice of the day of termination of the employment within a specified period of time. This usually depends on the amount of time the employee has been working for the company.
In Australia for instance, according to the previously mentioned Fair Work Act 2009, an employment contract can be terminated if:
- An employer does not require employees’ job to be performed due to changes in operational requirements.
- An employer becomes bankrupt.
- The employee has not performed their work in accordance with the defined job requirements.
If the employer does not dismiss the employee in accordance with the legal requirements, they risk receiving employee claim for unfair dismissal.
Considering, an employer is required to:
- Give Notice of Termination of Employment
- Pay outstanding wages for hours an employee has worked
- Pay accumulated annual leave
- Cover redundancy pay
- Pay accrued leave (if applicable)
This article does not constitute legal advice.
The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.