Best Practices in HR

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  January 29, 2017

The Truth About Part-Time Employees and Benefits

The truth is usually a lot easier to understand than we give it credit for.

Part-time employees can take a few hats off the heads of your full-time staff, work on new projects that don’t require 40 hours a week to do, and even help create a pro-vacation environment by taking on the work of others who are out of the office.

Part-time reality

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a part-time employee as someone who works 1-34 hours a week, though most employers in the United States consider part-time employees to have 20 hours a week on average.

As of December 2016, part-time employees made up 18.3% of the workforce (calculated as total hours worked, whether the hours were from a single job or more than one job). While some initial stereotypes of part-time workers include retail employees, part-time employees are in every role of the company, including the C-Suite.

Hiring a part-time employee at any level in your company is a big deal. While they may not be committing full-time hours, the decision process and the way to get your candidate to say yes to the job is strikingly similar to the way candidates accept full-time roles, and benefits could make or break the job offer.

Making sure your prospective (and current) part-time employees know what benefits are guaranteed and what additional benefits your company provides them is a great way to compete and hire the best talent.

Guaranteed benefits

Listing and discussing guaranteed benefits is key to creating a level playing field. While some requirements can vary by state, the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to all full- and part-time employees. This includes standards for:

Reiterating these standards to new part-time folks will help make them feel more like one of the team. It also gives them the understanding that they start off their job in the same place that full-time employees are, equally protected.

Voluntary benefits

While a higher level of benefits should always be provided to your full-time staff, that doesn’t mean that part-time employees should be left out.

One of the easiest benefits to include is a retirement plan.

In the past, employers were quick to write retirement plans that would exclude part-time workers for reasons like lack of interest on the part-time employee’s part and administrative costs. According to a 2014 study on retirement readiness from Transamerica Institute, 79% of companies provide a 401(k) option to their full-time staff, while only 49% offer the same retirement plan options to their part-time employees.

More than just differentiating from competition and providing a great benefit, if you choose not to include your part-time employees in your company retirement plan, it could lead to issues with the IRS.

An IRS Bulletin document focused on part-time employees and benefits in 2006 declared that unless your retirement plan contains clauses that directly exclude part-time employees, you’re risking your company retirement plan to disqualification.

But why exclude part-time staff? Part-time employees are generally eligible for retirement plans if they work 1,000 hours a year, or 20 hours a week, according to the Department of Labor. That number isn’t hard to hit in the United States, so consider including your entire workforce instead of cherry-picking staffers.

Another major benefit to think about is health care for your part-time employees. However, with the future of the Affordable Care Act unknown, it’s best to continue following the law as it exists today. Be sure to understand if your business is required to provide a group healthcare plan for your employees.

If you’re looking to create a unique experience for your employees, full- or part-time, consider taking a few pages out of the book of Starbucks.

While Starbucks continues to reinvent themselves, they include their staff as part of the ongoing growth of the company. Among their fully customizable benefits package is free products like coffee and tea to take home, and the widely reported college education program with Arizona State University Online.

The creative partnerships Starbucks makes with other companies and the way the company publicizes their new benefits for employees attracts dozens of folks to apply for them, and while we know we may not all have budgets that are Starbucks level, we definitely can appreciate the attention and recruiting capabilities it’s given the company.

Start small with these low-cost benefits often overlooked.

Part-time employees are still employees

Just because a role is geared to a part-time employee, it doesn’t mean that their employment with your company should be treated any less real than your full-time staff.

“When we are talking about treating part-time employees equally, we are not just talking about wages. They should feel like they are a part of the team at all times.”, writes David Galic, a member of the team at ShiftPlanning, a software company that makes scheduling employees easier. “If you offer your full-time employees free lunch and beverages, be sure to do the same for part-time workers. And if you are having a company Christmas party, be sure to invite everyone, part-timers included.”

Can you imagine not being allowed to take part in a company party, eat lunch at a meeting, or enjoy a cup of coffee because you’re not listed as a full-time employee?

A story I personally like to tell my team at Kin is this one:

I once worked for an entertainment company where some of my time was as an intern and some listed as a part-time employee, though the hours always floated around (or above) 40 a week.

I spent over three years with the company and in various departments so I felt like I had a great handle on how the company worked and what we could improve on.

The HR team emailed out an employee survey at the end of the year to get feedback from folks across the company. When I clicked on the link, I kept getting an error screen. I was eager to provide feedback at a company I loved, and when I reached out to my HR representative, I found out that because of my employment status with the company (intern to a part-time employee), I wasn’t eligible to participate.

I spent 3 years working for a company that told me that I wasn’t valid because I wasn’t classified as a full-time employee.

The Truth

The truth about part-time employees and benefits is a lot easier to understand than the attention needed towards the laws and policies.

Your staff, full- or part-time, is human. They want to feel valued, like a part of the team, and never below another employee simply because they aren’t in the office as often as others.

You can create a workplace where part-time employees feel equally a part of your team with benefits and inclusion.

The post The Truth About Part-Time Employees and Benefits appeared first on Kin.

Source: KIN