How many hours is "Part Time"?

5 min read

12 Oct, 2021

There's yet no official definition of part-time, so how many hours could be considered part-time? This varies from country to country - let's look at the evidence

According to Statista Research Department, approximately 25.13 million people in the US are working on a part-time basis; almost 20% fo the US workforce are employed on part-time contracts. This is a huge number which has slightly increased over the last 15 years as more people seek flexibility in their work.

Part time working hours

There are many benefits to working party time but the most important is freedom and flexibility in your life. Working part time can help you escape from the stress of a workplace with long hours and from the constant pressure, helping maintain both your mental and physical health as this is often sacrificed by people working in full-time jobs. Furthermore, for people who have children, working part time may be the only option.

The laws defining part-time labour vary from country to country, however. For example, the definition (e.g. hours per week), benefits offered (e.g. healthcare), acceptability and availability vary widely across the world. In the following we review these laws and what it means for workers.

How many hours per week is considered Part-Time?

While there’s yet no official definition of part-time, how many hours would be considered part-time?

In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics considers an employee as part-time if they “usually work less than 35 hours per week”.

That means anyone working between 1-34 hours is working part-time, and anyone working 35 hours or more is working full-time. These numbers are based on Current Population Survey (CPS) statistics, published by the BLS. Therefore, they are guidelines and are not official time limits for full-time or part-time working hours.

These definitions vary by country to country and state to state, however. For example, workers will be classified as part-time if they work less than:

Many of these definitions are guidelines, however, and often it is the company’s responsibility to define these limits to their employees. For example, a company may consider 30 hours of work or more as full time while another may follow the limit by BLS and consider 35 hours or more as full time.

Maximum Working Hours per week by Country

The workforce ensures that the economy is moving forward, however, the possible exposure to exploitation may reduce their productivity and, in the end, lower a company’s overall productivity. Therefore most countries implement laws to protect the workers rights.

By law, the maximum hours an employee may work per week, is as follows:

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In most of these places however, you are legally allowed to work for longer hours - but if you do, you must be paid at a higher rate. For example, in Texas, all work which exceeds 40 hours per week must be paid at 1.5 x the employees regular hourly rate.

“Can I request Part-Time hours”?

If you are currently employed, the easiest way to get a part-time job may be to ask your current manager to cut down your working hours. In many countries this request must be granted by law.

For example, the Netherlands recently announced the Flexible Working Hours Act in 2016 which gives employees the right to request for reduced hours in their job. The law states that the employer is obliged to accept this request, unless there is “a significant business reason” which justifies that they cannot accommodate this.

As a result, the Netherlands has the highest percentage of “part time workers” in the world. Other countries at the top of the list, such as Switzerland, Austria & Germany, have similar laws which make it easier to request part time work.

Part time working hours by country

In general, European countries tend to have more progressive laws in comparison those in North & South America, with respect to employer rights and working hours. This effect can be seen as all the countries with the least “hours worked per day” are all from Europe.

Average working hours by country

How many Hours per Week do you need to work to get Health Insurance?

In the US, according to healthcare.gov, any employee working 30 hours a week is a full-time employee and so they are entitled to health insurance at their place of work. The Affordable Care Act for companies dictates that any company with 50+ full-time employees should cover their workers. Most companies had foreseen the implementation of this legislation as the government was looking to expand the number of Americans with access to health insurance. However, this legislation is not welcome to most companies as they must cater to their workers’ health insurance and attract a fine if they fail to pay.

Some companies attempt to avoid this law and remain below its requirements, even though they understand its purpose. Instead of hiring more full-time employees, they go for the part-time employees and make them work for more than 20 hours but below 30 hours in a week. This way, they’ll get more work done for lesser pay and avoid the health insurance obligation.

For employees in the EU, access to health insurance is generally not a problem as most countries have a universal / nationalised health services. For European countries which do not offered nationalised health services, companies must abide by EU Human Rights legislation which states that they “must offer part‑time staff the same employment conditions as full-time workers, including pay, leave, notice periods and other rights and benefits linked to their employment”.

How to Find a Part-Time Job?

We covered this in a previous blog but it boils down to three options:

  1. Freelancing
  2. Asking your boss to go part time e.g. after 1 year of work
  3. Finding a 4 day work week job

Part time Jobs with Health Insurance

Unfortunately most part-time jobs in the US don’t offer health insurance, as they are not required by law to do this. Only jobs which are 30 hours or more per week are advised to offer health insurance. There are many 4 day work week jobs however which offer this benefit. Since the start of the COVID pandemic, more companies have started to offer jobs on a 4 day work week, with no loss in pay or benefits.

Therefore, you may wish to check out our software jobs with a 4 day work week to find “part time” jobs which offer health insurance.

TL;DR

  • Part time usually means a job which is contracted for less than 35 hours, but this varies from country to country
  • In the US, anything below 35 hours per week is considered part-time by law
  • In the US if you’d also like to be eligible for health insurance, you need to work at least 30 hours per week
  • Most part time jobs in the US don’t offer health insurance, but many 4 day work week jobs do
  • In many European countries (e.g. Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Germany) requests to drop your hours to part time often must be granted by law
  • The best way to find a part time job is:
    • Freelancing
    • Asking your boss to drop your hours
    • Finding a 4 day work week job

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