Part-Time Work

​An arrangement in which employees work reduced hours on a regular basis. Part-time employees normally work less than 35 hours in a week, including those who work less than a full day all week or only some days per week.

Examples include organisations employing part-time employees to provide coverage of duties during peak periods or when work needs to be done only at particular times. Increasingly, employers are offering women the opportunity to return to work on a part-time basis to allow them to see to childcare arrangements or allowing older employees to work on a part-time basis leading up to retirement.

Part-time employees exclude temporary staff who work normal hours, casual workers on ad hoc assignments (e.g. workers who work on weekends only or during peak periods), as well as those on a compressed work schedule or staggered time schedule.

These are some common examples of part-time arrangements:

1. Work shorter days

Under this arrangement, employees work a full workweek but shorter days, e.g. half day.

The management and employees have to agree on the new hours based on the organisation's peak hours, employee's selected hours, or a combination of both, etc. In addition, both parties should decide on the start and end times of each work day as well as the duration of lunch breaks.

Due to the shorter working hours, part-time employees may sometimes have shorter lunch breaks. In other cases, employees may have revised rest hours and work during lunch breaks to ensure a continuation of operations.

2. Work fewer days weekly

Under this arrangement, employees work fewer days per week than a full-time staff, although they may cover the same work hours on each day (as a full-time staff).

If there is only one part-time employee, he or she would usually work on the company's peak days. Most organisations would have two or more part-time employees. In such cases, companies can pair employees up so that both employees can work alternate days, e.g.

 

To avoid misunderstandings, the management should clarify issues related to specific day(s) of work e.g. public holidays. In most practices, specific benefits are often only related to days of work, i.e. if a public holiday falls on a day the employee does not work, he or she is not awarded a day off. Likewise, if it falls on a day of work, he or she is entitled to the public holiday.

3. Work during weekends (to cover high-volume periods)

This arrangement is usually adopted by companies that operate all seven days a week or companies with peak periods during weekends, e.g. food and beverage outlets, retail outlets, etc.

The main concern for both employers and employees is usually remuneration:

A) Weekends = Higher hourly wage than week days
B) Weekends = Same hourly wage than week days

When deciding between options A and B, organisations also need to consider issues such as dissatisfaction from co-workers versus the need for manpower during weekends, and justify their decision based on organisational needs.

4. Combination

It is also common for organisations to adopt a combination of the above approaches to suit the organisations' and employees' needs.

The first step to implementing part-time work is to review the 4-step model to ensure an effective and sustainable programme.

  • For employees

    A self-assessment may be useful for an employee to consider the various aspects involved in ensuring a successful part-time arrangement. A sample self-assessment questionnaire can be found here.

  • For employers

    There are many industries where both part-time work and staggered time are especially relevant. However, in some cases where both arrangements are acceptable, a part-time arrangement usually yields more benefit – especially in industries where operations occur at a fixed time, or when customer flow is peak over a certain period of time.

    One example is the manufacturing industry where machines run at specific times and it is often not feasible for employees to work on a staggered time schedule. In such cases, companies may choose to retain employees (e.g. older employees who are considering retirement) by choosing a part-time strategy instead. Some companies may allow part-time employees to work five shorter days covering lunch breaks or peak periods. This also allows companies to economise during off peak hours.

    Another example is the retail sector where weekends are often peak periods with highest customer traffic. More salespeople would be needed to meet customers' demands. However, the potential pool of employees willing to work on weekends is usually small and often demands higher remuneration. Such industries could consider offering a part-time arrangement in which employees work only on weekends.

    Attached is a Sample Checklist on Factors to Consider before implementing a Part-Time Arrangement.

    It is important for senior management to take note of legal requirements and regulations set forth by the government for part-time employment before embarking on the prospective arrangements with employees.

    Refer to the Ministry of Manpower's website for more details on employment regulations.

If the barriers to part-time work cannot be resolved, the organisation/employee may consider other types of flexible work arrangements.

Pilot Study/Trial period

Organisations are encouraged to have a pilot study or a trial period before embarking on the part-time arrangement. This is especially important if it plans to design a strategy which involves a significant number of employees.

Organisations should consider the number of employees to be involved in the pilot study. At this stage, employees selected are often those with experience. The duration of the trial period also needs to be determined.

Introducing Part-time Guidelines and Procedures

Before implementation, the management should meet with the HR team to draft guidelines for part-time employees and their immediate supervisors. Amongst the factors to consider would be non-negotiable elements such as maintaining productivity. Feedback should also be sought and concerns expressed by employees should be addressed in the guidelines.

The following tips for managing part-time practices may help:
  • Clarify terms and conditions of part-time employment
  • Establish rights and processes for reverting to full-time work
  • Ensure regular part-time workers are not seen as 'second class' employees
  • Introduce options that promote integration for part-time employees, including access to staff development and training, career structures, communication and consultation mechanisms
  • Address any grievances that may arise​

The next step after implementation is to evaluate the entire programme. Two key issues to consider throughout this process are:

  • whether the identified business aims/goals are satisfied​, and​
  • whether the employee needs are met​

A part-time arrangement should be supported if there are no adverse effects to the way the organisation functions. Performance feedback should be sought from part-time workers’ immediate supervisors and co-workers, where appropriate, in assessing performance and productivity.

To assess the programme’s cost effectiveness, another cost-benefit analysis may be conducted. It is not uncommon for the cost of hiring to increase, especially in the case where two part-time employees are hired for one full-time position. In the long run, the potential monetary and qualitative benefits often outweigh the initial costs. The qualitative benefits should also not be discounted – increased loyalty, increased productivity and the multiplier effect of increased experience.