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Filling the gaps: Pros and cons of hiring part-time employees


We’ve come a long way from the days when a person spent an entire career at one company, working full time, 9-to-5, five days a week. Today’s employees want more options, and working part-time is one of them.

So, what exactly qualifies as part-time work? The answer varies depending on the company. There’s no federal law that sets the number of hours an employee must work to be considered part-time or full-time. However, many companies classify part-time workers as those who work fewer than 30-35 hours per week.

Offering part-time work options is an effective way to attract top talent, while keeping your company nimble and ready to staff up or down according to your needs. But, blending part-time workers with your full-time workforce takes some finesse. Before rolling out a part-time option, consider these pros and cons to determine whether it makes sense for your business.

Pros of hiring part-time employees

1. Greater flexibility

Part-time employees allow you to staff exactly according to your company’s needs, and weather ups and downs with ease. For organizations in volatile industries, it doesn’t always make sense to ramp up your roster of full-time employees during busy times, if during downturns they won’t have enough to do. Or worse yet, you have to lay off those same employees.

If you hire temporary part-time employees to help carry the workload, you avoid that hassle, while giving your full-time employees an extra level of support. Part-time workers can also fill in for employees taking sick or maternity leave, and long-term part-time employees can work schedules not covered by full-time employees. For example, if your company has retail customers or offers after-hours technical support, part-time staff could help with night and weekend hours, so you don’t have gaps in staffing.

2. Cost-effective solution

Part-time employees offer a significant cost savings over full-time employees, especially with the skyrocketing cost of providing health care benefits.

With full-time employees, you’re on the hook for providing a full-time salary, benefits, sick leave and retirement programs. You’ll also need to factor in workers’ compensation, should an on-the-job injury occur, or unemployment insurance, if you have to lay off employees.

That’s not the case with most part-time employees, who typically don’t qualify for benefits.

3. Seasonal support

Frequently, situations arise when you need specialized expertise for a very specific amount of time. Let’s say your company needs more cashiers to check out customers during the peak of the holiday shopping season, or accountants to handle your company’s books during tax time. When you hire part-time employees, you can bring on staff with the expertise you need, when you need it. When the project or busy season ends, you can part ways.

4. Expanded pool of candidates

When you consider part-time employees, you’re opening the door to a talent pool you probably would have overlooked otherwise (think moms re-entering the workforce, or retiring workers who are not quite ready to leave it).

Not all exceptionally skilled and talented individuals are seeking full-time employment, so you cast a wider net in your recruiting efforts when you consider part-time candidates. What’s more, you may even increase employee retention by offering part-time options to your existing workforce.

Cons of hiring part-time employees

1. Less invested in your company

There’s always the risk that part-time workers won’t be as committed or loyal to your company. Part-time employees may feel they don’t owe your company loyalty because they don’t receive benefits, or because they don’t feel as valued as their full-time coworkers. Many don’t have that deep connection with a company that full-timers do. Unlike full-time employees, part-time employees have less time to invest in learning the ins and outs of the organization, and may lack valuable institutional knowledge.

2. Lack of face time

Part-time workers just aren’t around as much as full-time employees. Because of that, it’s hard for other employees to get to know them and work with them as a team. Full-time employees might not feel comfortable around part-timers. They may feel like they don’t interact with them as often, or even know what they’re working on.

3. Workload differences may cause resentment

It’s natural for part-time workers to work fewer hours, but workload differences can still cause resentment. Full-time employees may feel they work harder than part-timers, and contribute more to the company. And, while full-time workers probably should expect to have more responsibility than their part-time counterparts, it can still be disheartening for an overwhelmed full-timer to see their part-time co-worker take long lunches or skip out early.

4. Potential for inconsistent work

Part-time workers don’t work the full workday, so they may have to clock out before they see a project through to completion, or waste time playing catch up when they clock in. Because they work less, and likely aren’t as familiar with the company’s policies and mission, the quality of their work can suffer (as well as their productivity).

Managing the cons

Fortunately, if you’re gravitating toward adding part-time employees to your workforce, you can easily manage the cons.

Let’s start with commitment and connection. The qualities that employees seek in an employer are changing. They’re not necessarily interested in building a tenured career with any one company. Instead, more and more professionals desire a deeper connection to the work itself. They want work that expands their skillset and challenges them.

If you focus on giving them work that’s exciting and engaging, your employees will reward you with commitment and connection. If your company can afford it, offering some level of benefits – such as paid time off, health insurance, or retirement programs – can help strengthen the bond between part-time employees and your organization.

To smooth over issues involving face time and workload differences, clearly communicate your expectations for full-time and part-time employees, and guide both sets of workers on how to work as a team. Create regular opportunities for full-time and part-time employees to interact with each other and stay abreast of what everyone’s working on.

Make sure to schedule meetings or social events at times convenient for both part-time and full-time workers. And, to avoid inconsistent work, develop strategies to ease handing off tasks to other employees, and invest in additional training to shore up part-timers’ institutional knowledge.

The future is flexible

The world of work continues to evolve at a rapid pace, with both companies and workers desiring more flexibility in terms of who does the work, and how it gets done. If you want to be on the right side of that evolution, hiring a mix of part-time and full-time employees is a smart solution, and one most companies can achieve with a little extra effort.

To learn more about the legal considerations of hiring part-time employees compared to full-time employees, download our free e-book, Employment Law: Are you putting your business at risk?