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When Part Time Doesn't Work

by Amy Beekley  |  5912 views  |  6 comments  |        Rate this now! 

With the results of a recent Pew Research study declaring that mothers prefer part-time work, mothers around theworld proclaimed, “Of course!” What woman juggling work, childrearing, andeverything else would not like to work a few less hours each week? However, part-time hours can cause a host of problems for the women who work them and in some instances part-time work simply does not work. The disadvantages of part-time work include:

  1. Part-time work = Part-time pay: Beyond the obvious math here, part-time employees doing the same job within the same industry make around $3 less per hour than their full-time counterparts according to researchers at the Economic Policy Institute.
  2. Benefits are cost prohibitive: Health and retirement benefits available to full-time employees are often unavailable to part-time employees. When equal benefits are purchased, an individual misses out on the discounts made available to large employers.
  3. Part-time does not result in less than 40 hours worked: Most employees working a part-time schedule have experienced the reality that time spent away from the office during standard business hours is not sacred to all bosses and coworkers. Crises and questions arise whether you are on vacation or home with your kids. Part-time employees who pick up that emergent phone call or checktheir work email daily will quickly findthemselves working several unbilled hours each week.

For those who are able to attain a part-time work schedule, a family friendly company is most likely to support resolutions to the time and money problems created by a part-time schedule. The more employees working any type of flexible arrangement, the more likely a corporation is to pay all employees on a common payscale. Similarly, family friendly employers may be more likely to offer prorated benefits to part-time employees passing along their corporate discount.

Finally, coworkers with similar family priorities may be less likely to call you at home, but you will need to personally define and communicate how much ork you are willing to do on your time away from the office. Do not feel bad letting oworkers know that you only work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, leaving you unavailable the remainder of the week. But then make yourself unavailable on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or your coworkers will quickly learn that “unavailable” does not mean “unreachable.”

For those who feel that part-time is simply an impossibility, the best remedy is to seek work at a family friendly company with an acceptance of scheduling flexibility. Alternatives to a part-time arrangement may include a compressed work week or nontraditional hours. Compressed work weeks for full-time employees entail maintenance of a 40 hour work week, however, the majority of those hours are worked within fewer days. For example, an employee could work four 10-hour days to maintain full-time status while gaining one extra day away from work during the week. Similarly, non-traditional work hours can aid an employee in taking back a portion of the day. By working 6:00 am to 3:00 pm, a mother can work while her childrenare in school and be home by the time they arrive home.
With the growing acceptance of flexible scheduling arrangements by corporations everywhere, the feasibility of part-time work schedules is growing as is the availability of alternative work schedules that can leave a mom feeling like she has more of her day left for herself and her family.

About the Author

Amy is the founder of Flexible Workforce advocating greater flexibility in the workplace. Visit

Read more by Amy Beekley

6 comments so far...

  • Part-time work didn't agree with me. I was earning half the money but my commuting cost and time were the same.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Roxanne Ravenel JobSearchCoach on 10th June 2008

  • I disagree, especially with the comment that it is "smarter" to find a full time job that is flexible. When I worked full time, I got called a lot during off hours. Now that I work part time, I get called sometimes during off hours. If I'm called, I bill it if it is billable. If not, I do not. Same as when I was working full time. As for benefits? Lost in this debate are those of us who get benefits through a spouse, and do not need full benefits from two employers. I LOVE trading benefits for a higher hourly wage - and it is about 40% higher per hour now that I am part time. Sure, it doesn't work for everyone, but that's an argument to make part time work better, not to abandon the idea.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by jlauren on 10th October 2007

  • Part time also doesn't work if you actually want your career to progress. I loved my part time gig for several years, but found that after a while I wasn't being considered for challenging assignments or promotions. I ended up having to go back full time. See the "I'm going back IN!!!" posting on my blog ( about that difficult decision.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Amy@UWM on 12th September 2007

  • Hi Amy
    Thanks for a great article. Having worked "part time" since my kids were born, I agree that at times its not all it's cracked up to be. While the pay scale, benefits, etc... worked out. My biggest issue was that I wasn't fully part of either world of the SAHM or the working moms groups. And yet, I tried to do both which is stressful. I also agree that many hours at home were spent on the phone and blackberry but I felt that was small price to pay to see my kids more often. I'm curious about your organization. I'm a huge advocate for greater flexibility in the workplace.


    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Megan on 10th September 2007

  • Good points and I think it needed to be brought to the light. I yearn for the days when a flexible schedule is the norm and not the special circumstance. I think one of the biggest parts of this is the retirement benefits/401k. Unless you invest on your own, most count on the employer to offer the benefit and if you are part-time, more times than not, this is not part of the package.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Becki325 on 14th August 2007

  • Thank you, that was an interesting article. Part-time never really worked for me either. I seemed to put as much energy into my work as if I were working full-time but I received less pay and no benefits. It was almost not worth the effort. It is a smarter move to create a full-time schedule that is flexible.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Lisa R.(dirtydiapersyndrome) on 10th August 2007