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What is a Part-Time Employee?

A part-time employee is often described as a person hired by a company to work less than 30 hours per week. Yet, this definition changes depending on the country as well as employment laws and employer policies. Technically, even a 39 hour work week can be considered part-time since full time is usually specified as 40 hours weekly. Many part-time employees work between 20 and 35 hours per week. There are many misconceptions about the definition of a part-time employee.

Temporary workers (temps) are not the same as part-time employees. They may be hired to work on a brief project or to fill in for a regular employee on vacation, whereas a part-time employee's position is permanent. Just like a full-time employee, however, a part-time worker may be let go for unsatisfactory performance or other reasons; so can a temp, for that matter. A temporary employee may work for various employers within the course of a week or month, while a part-time worker is hired by one employer for a steady position. Some part-time workers may have more than one steady job.

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For instance, a parent of school-aged children may work outside the home for one employer during part of the mornings and/or afternoons. After picking up the children at the end of the school day and spending some time with them, he or she may have another job for a different employer working from home via a computer. Such arrangements aren't always easy to establish, but being a part-time employee with two jobs rather than a full-time worker with one position is becoming more commonplace. When the economy is on a downswing, full-time employment is more difficult to find. Paying for child daycare takes a large portion of a family's income as well.

It's important to note that while some people do work as a part-time employee from home via computer, many others are independent contractors. An independent contractor is not an employee, even though he or she may work part-time rather than full-time hours. Independent contractors always pay their own taxes and are never considered to be an employee of the company or companies for which they work. Part-time employees aren't usually salaried, but are generally paid by the hour. In many companies, a part-time employee doesn't have the same, or often any, benefits, such as sick or vacation pay and medical insurance.

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