Do Part-Time Employees Get PTO and Other Benefits?

Andrew Buck's avatar Andrew Buck September 26, 2023

If you’re starting a business, or running a team and trying to figure out the HR side of your role, you may find yourself wondering whether part-time employees are supposed to get paid time off (PTO), sick leave, and all the other benefits that full-time employees get.

In this post, we’re going to clear everything up. We’ll let you know what’s required of you, as an employer, in regards to your part-time employees, before letting you know what kind of benefits part-timers should get. Then we’ll finish up by giving some tips on managing PTO for part-time employees.

If you’ve got part-time employees under you, make sure you read this to understand your obligations and how to get the most from your team.

Further Reading: Each PTO Payout Law by State in the US

Defining a Part-Time Employee

The first thing you need to know is what constitutes a part-time employee.

Some say part-time to mean any employee that works less than a regular 40 hour week. But it’s not as clear as this, and different sources tend to have different definitions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part-time employees are those who work between 1 and 34 hours in a week. While the IRS defines part-time as working less than 30 hours per week. 

The US Department of Labor doesn’t actually define what the difference is between full-time and part-time. Legally, it’s up to the employer to state what “part-time” means in their business.

For one business, part-time may be anything under 40 hours a week. Another may put the part-time limit at 30 hours per week (as an example, Amazon defines part-time as between 20-29 hours per week).

Some countries around the world may approach part-time vs full-time differently, but most major countries do it the same way the US does – UK, Canada and New Zealand for example all put it on the employer to state how many hours constitutes full-time work.

Do Part-Time Employees Get PTO?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not address part-time employment. So in terms of the law, anything you’re required to offer to employees applies to both full-time and part-time workers.

But there’s a twist – there’s no federal or state requirement for paid time off anyway, whether you work full-time or part-time.

So the short answer is that part-time employees are not required to get PTO – but neither are full-timers. It’s fully up to the employer whether they offer paid vacation days to full-time employees only or both full-timers and part-timers.

In other areas of the world, the law differs from country to country, but in most countries if full-time employees get PTO, part-time employees get PTO as well.

Per the law in UK, Australia and New Zealand, for example, annual leave is required for all employees, full or part-time. In the UK, employees’ PTO (aka holiday pay) is relative to their number of working days, not full-time or part-time status. In most other countries, holiday pay, annual leave, vacation time or PTO all works similarly.

Do Part-Time Employees Get Sick Leave?

Again, there’s no legal requirement to provide paid sick leave to employees, so in terms of federal law, neither part-time nor full-time employees are required to get sick leave.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies no matter whether an employee is part-time or full-time (again this isn’t defined by the law). However FMLA leave is not required to be paid – only unpaid sick leave is required to be offered to eligible employees (up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid sick leave for certain medical situations).

There are a number of states that mandate sick leave as part of state law, however. These are the following:

Of these states, all but Nevada apply sick leave laws to both full-time and part-time employees, though with no legal definition of part-time or full-time, it’s up to the employer to define this.

Again, local laws around the world regarding sick days may differ, but the majority apply to full-time and part-time employees the same.

Are Part-Time Employees Entitled to Other Benefits? (Health Insurance, Retirement, Etc)

As there’s no legal definition between part-time and full-time, there’s also no difference between the benefits you need to offer part-time employees.

If there’s no legal requirement to specific benefits, then the employer is free to stipulate whether certain benefits are earned by full-timers only, or all employees.

Full-time or part-time status is not a protected characteristic, so it’s not considered discrimination to say that part-timers don’t earn certain benefits (unlike withholding benefits based on characteristics such as age, gender, race or disability, which is very illegal).

If you don’t offer certain benefits (e.g. healthcare or 401k) to part-time employees, it’s best to clearly state this in your employee handbook, along with the definition of part-time and full-time, to avoid any issues coming up later.

Are Part-Time Employees Eligible for Unemployment?

There are laws related to unemployment benefits, which are generally available whether someone was a part-time or full-time employee. There are minimum requirements for wages earned or time worked to be eligible for unemployment (which varies by state law), so a part-time employee may fall short of this threshold, depending on how many hours they work.

Check with the US Department of Labor for more information.

Should Part-Time Employees Get Paid Time Off (and Other Benefits)?

The question with PTO and similar benefits is not always what you have to offer, but what you should offer.

The law may say there’s a minimum threshold for the benefits you’re required to provide your employees, but that doesn’t mean you should automatically provide the bare minimum. Offering a competitive benefits package above what the competition provides (and above the legal minimum) works out better for both the employee and the company long-term.

Generous benefits packages incentivize employees to stick with the company longer, providing more stability and reducing the cost of constantly having to hire new employees.

Employees will also be happier and more motivated, which translates to better performance in their job.

You may not think part-time employees need paid time off because they work fewer hours and have more time to rest and refresh. But what they do in your company often doesn’t tell the whole story. 

Part-time employees often study, or work a second job, or take care of family members outside of the time they’re working. So, without the opportunity to take PTO, they can be just as big a risk of burning out as full-time employees.

Part-timers may get fewer benefits than full-time employees, which makes sense as they don’t work as much. But they should still get benefits and be treated as the vital members of your team that they are.

Read More: All You Need to Know About Your Employee Benefits Package

Managing PTO for Part-Time Employees

You need to be aware of some differences in the way you manage PTO for part-time employees, assuming you offer this benefit.

First, you’ll generally provide fewer PTO days to part-time employees. For example, if full-timers get 12 days of PTO per year, part-timers might get 6, or 8 (depending on how many hours a part-time employee works in your business).

Due to the variable hours part-time employees generally work, it’s more common for part-timers to accrue PTO over time, rather than receive a lump-sum annual leave quota per year.

So if full-time employees get 13 days of PTO per year, you might say that part-time employees earn 0.25 vacation days for every 5 days worked.

At a full-time schedule, this works out the same, to 13 days over a whole year. But if an employee only works 3 days per week, they’ll earn 7.8 days of PTO over the year.

It can of course get even murkier if part-timers work different shift lengths and get paid by the hour. So be sure you put some thought into how to manage this efficiently and fairly.

Check out this post to see how PTO works for hourly employees

How Flamingo Helps

You’ll also need a PTO tool to track vacation days, sick leave, and other types of leave. Flamingo is the best way to track PTO in your business, whether you have only full-timers or a mix of full-time and part-time employees. It automates all the data entry and leg work with managing leave, taking a huge headache and a ton of work off your table.

Flamingo is flexible enough to suit all types of businesses, so it’s perfect if you have part-timers and need to adjust these employees’ leave quota or accrual rate.

Try Flamingo for free if you’re looking for an easier way to track PTO.

Andrew Buck's avatar

Andrew Buck

Andrew is the content manager at Flamingo. He has managed teams in multiple industries, for both physical and remote businesses, and has experience dealing with the ins and outs of HR and leave management on a daily basis.

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