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Q&A: How many hours can I assign to a part-time employee? Is there a limit?

Answer from Laura, SHRM-CP:

There’s no specific limit to the number of hours you can assign to a part-time employee, as it’s up to you to decide how many hours employees need to work in a week to be considered full-time. I recommend abiding by the standards you’ve set. So, for example, if you define full-time as working 35 or more hours per week, then you’d want to make sure you were assigning part-time employees fewer than 35 hours in a week.

If you are regularly assigning a part-time employee a full-time schedule—and full-time employees receive additional benefits, such as paid time off—you should consider reclassifying the employee to avoid claims of unfair treatment or discrimination. Also note that for certain laws (including the ACA) and for purposes of insurance or retirement plans, benefits will kick in when an employee hits a certain number of hours per week, regardless of whether you internally call them part-time or full-time.

Laura has 7 years of HR experience, spanning public- and private-sector work in the education, transit, and insurance industries. After completing a B.A. in Asian Studies from Knox College, she received her M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from University of New Haven along with graduate-level certificates in Human Resources Management and Psychology of Conflict Management. Laura enjoys fencing, baking, cross-stitching, and spending time with her husband and two cats.

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