Today, many workers work part time while balancing other money-making opportunities, like creative work or freelance gigs. Part-time employment typically consists of a minimum of 20 hours (but under 40 hours) of work per week. This convenient schedule is attractive to many, especially those who earn a decent profit in contract work on the side.
However, it's difficult to achieve stability without a full-time position. At many companies, only full-timers are eligible for employee benefits such as medical or dental insurance and a 401(k) plan. That leaves part-time workers to fend for themselves, spending valuable funds on low-quality medical and dental insurance or trying to set money aside for retirement. Thankfully, some large employers extend benefits to their part-time staff, an initiative that is becoming more conventional.
When are part-time employees eligible for benefits?
In some cases, employers will offer a part-time benefits package similar to those that full-time workers receive. These benefits can include health insurance, workers' compensation, parental leave, long-term and short-term disability, retirement, unemployment and vacation. Part-time employee eligibility for these benefits varies by category.
Health insurance part-time benefits
Whereas employers are required to offer benefits to full-time workers, it's not mandatory for them to offer medical and dental insurance to part-time workers. When they do, they must offer it according to Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or Obamacare) standards. Under the ACA, employees who work fewer than 30 hours per week are part-time workers. Your employer may adjust the part-time benefits they offer based on the ACA's minimum participation requirements. Generally, the only health insurance category unavailable to part-time workers under the ACA are flexible spending accounts.
Workers' compensation part-time benefits
If taxes are withheld from your paycheck as part of your company's payroll deduction operations, then even if you work part time, you're eligible for workers' compensation. Speak with a lawyer to determine whether your on-the-job injury qualifies you for this benefit.
Parental leave part-time benefits
If you work part time for a local, state or federal public employer, then under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave after your child is born. The FMLA also potentially covers you if you work part time for a private-sector company that employs at least 50 people (whether at your exact building or in other offices nearby) during at least 20 weeks of any calendar year. To receive parental leave benefits through the FMLA, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months for a total of at least 1,250 hours before your leave begins.
Disability part-time benefits
You can apply for Social Security short-term or long-term disability benefits if you earn no more than $1,260 per month through your part-time work. If you're blind, this cap increases to $2,110. These amounts change annually. After you apply for a disability benefits package, the Social Security Administration may look more closely at your case to determine whether it should keep administering benefits to you.
Retirement part-time benefits
If you work 1,000 hours over 12 months, then even if you're part time, you're eligible for the same employee retirement benefits that your employer offers full-time workers. You may be able to meet this yearly work amount if you work at least 20 hours per week with, at most, two weeks off during any calendar year.
Unemployment part-time benefits
Whether you qualify for unemployment benefits as a part-time worker varies by state. In Pennsylvania, for example, part-time workers who earn up to 30% of their full unemployment benefits rate from their work can still claim unemployment benefits, though the amount of money they receive will be lower. Should their part-time income exceed 30% of their full unemployment benefits rate, they forgo their benefits.
Vacation part-time benefits
Some employers offer vacation days to part-time employees. Unlike many other types of benefits, there are no federal provisions that require employers to offer vacation to part-time workers.
What are the jobs with the best benefits for part-time workers?
Certain companies are known for treating their part-time workers especially well. Here are 10 companies that offer jobs with the best benefits for part-time workers.
Chipotle offers part-time jobs with some of the best benefits around. Not only does Chipotle provide its part-time workers health, vision, dental and wellness coverage, it matches their 401(k) contributions after one year of employment and offers discounts to all workers. Additionally, full- and part-time employees are eligible for educational assistance through Guild Education. Through this program, workers can save up to 99% on college costs and earn up to 44 credit hours.
Many part-time Macy's employees are eligible for health and retirement benefits, flexible schedules, and on-the-job training. Employees also get discounts on all Macy's merchandise, but possibly the most unique benefit is the opportunity to be in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
At REI, part-time employees who work over 20 hours a week for over 12 months are eligible for competitive benefit packages where they can choose from various medical plans for themselves and their dependents. The company covers most of the costs for the medical plan and all the costs for its basic life and disability plans.
There are additional options like vision care, orthodontia and long-term care coverage as well. REI also offers employees discount programs (50% off REI gear and apparel, 30% off vendor merchandise, and 10% off sale items), Yay Days (one day off every six months for outdoor activities) and challenge grants (to put toward goals like climbing Mt. Everest).
Although hourly part-timers at Costco must wait longer than full-time employees for benefits eligibility (180 days instead of 90), the national wholesale retailer offers part-time jobs with some of the best benefits available, including a competitive package with health insurance and dental and vision care; a 401(k) plan with matching employer contribution; discounts on prescription medication; child care assistance; and life insurance. Employee premium portions or costs are withheld pretax.
Lowe's Home Improvement offers eligible part-time workers numerous benefits, including medical, dental, and vision insurance as well as life and disability insurance. The company also offers health and wellness programs, plus learning and development programs.
Staples' plan for part-time workers includes vision and dental benefits, life and dependent life, accidental death, short-term disability, and a 401(k) plan.
All Starbucks employees, or "partners," are entitled to their choice of multiple coverage levels for medical, dental, and vision plans; life insurance; disability; and accident coverage. They might also be eligible for comprehensive healthcare and dependent care coverage, discounted stock purchase options, 401(k) with match, educational savings, and a time-off program.
In a precedent-setting move for the fast-food industry, Starbucks has a partnership with Arizona State University that allows all eligible U.S. employees to earn a bachelor's degree through ASU's online program with full tuition reimbursement. Regardless of the benefits chosen, all partners receive an in-store discount and one free pound of coffee, K-cup pack or tea tin per week. The extent of Starbucks' part-time benefits places them among the jobs with the best benefits for part-timers.
Eligible part-time employees at Kaplan have access to a third-party company to help them enroll in health insurance, a supplemental hospital plan, life insurance, dental and vision rider options, disability insurance, and prescription discount cards. Part-timers and their immediate family also receive free or discounted Kaplan courses.
9. Coffee & Bagel Brands
Available for all positions, depending on eligibility, Coffee & Bagel Brands offers competitive benefit packages to choose from, including medical, dental and vision. After working at any of the company's franchises for three months, employees age 21 and older have access to a 401(k) program, for which the company will match 25 cents for every dollar contributed. And, of course, each employee receives a discount at all company-owned locations.
10. Cost Plus World Market
Cost Plus World Market offers a limited benefits plan for preventative care, health and wellness for eligible part-time employees.
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon and Marci Martin.